Pro-immigration-reform evangelicals: Senate bill is not 'amnesty'
Leaders of the group Evangelical Immigration Table speak outside the U.S. Capitol.
April 17th, 2013
03:28 PM ET

Pro-immigration-reform evangelicals: Senate bill is not 'amnesty'

By Dan Merica, CNN
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Washington (CNN) - A leader of an evangelical Christian organization pushing for immigration reform said that while the group needs to read the whole bill filed Wednesday in the U.S. Senate before fully endorsing it, the legislation doesn’t constitute amnesty “in any dictionary in the English language.”

A bipartisan group of senators formally filed the immigration legislation early Wednesday calling for border security as the cornerstone of reform. The bill also would prevent undocumented immigrants from reaching full legal resident status until after the government takes steps to keep unauthorized workers from getting jobs in the United States, according to a summary released before the bill was filed.

Afterward, at an event kicking off a lobbying day for more than 300 evangelical pastors on Capitol Hill, Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and a leader of Evangelical Immigration Table,  said that anyone who says the bill provides amnesty needs “a course in remedial English.”

“From what we understand, the bill that dropped this morning has accountability for those who are here in an undocumented status,” Land said. “It provides an earned pathway to full legal status and then to citizenship for those who want it. That is not amnesty in any dictionary in the English language.”

Some other groups have labeled as amnesty any measure that would give people who are in the country illegally the opportunity to become U.S. citizens.Evangelical Immigration Table leaders cautioned that they haven’t read the entire proposal.

“We are not heralding anything we haven’t read,” said the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, senior pastor of the multicultural Lamb's Church in New York City. “What we are heralding is the principles we outlined close to two years ago.”

The group was founded in 2011 and has made a concerted effort in the past four months to make immigration reform a reality this year. After the November elections it released open letters to Congress and the White House calling for them to respect “the God-given dignity of every person” and establish a “path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and wish to become permanent residents.”

Representatives from the group met with President Barack Obama in March.

At Wednesday's event, local pastors, many of whom said they have been personally affected by ministering to people in the country illegally, said they are in Washington to speak out for those who aren’t able to speak for themselves.

“The challenges simply walk in our doors and manifest themselves before us, person by person, every single week,” said Bill Hybels, senior pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois. “This caused us to turn to the scriptures which clearly taught us to welcome the stranger."

Since its inception, the group has said immigration is a spiritual and moral issue. That call was reiterated by the local pastors on Wednesday.

“First and foremost, for us, this is a biblical issue,” said Kenton Beshore, senior pastor a Mariners Church in Irvine, California. “We have to be people to teach God's words and also deal with the implications in real life.”

Following the event kickoff outside the Capitol, evangelical leaders held a morning worship service at the Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill and met with representatives from different congressional offices.

The goal – which the group called Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action for Immigration Reform – was to present a “unified evangelical voice [to] echo through the halls of Congress proclaiming a biblical vision for immigration reform that respects the rule of law, reunites families and upholds human dignity.”

Representatives from the group said they will continue this work until immigration reform that meets their standards has been signed into law.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Immigration • Politics

soundoff (217 Responses)
  1. allens

    the politicians want the latino vote and the church needs more dorors, sorry members. both groups could care less about the damage it does to our country. not a patriot in the bunch

    April 18, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • want2believe

      Ohhh hey guys, we got a true patriot above. One who willfully ignores that in order to address our illegal immigrant problem, we need to give some incentive towards a path towards citizenship because otherwise we'll just never find them all and they'll continue living under the radar. I consider having unknown aliens in our country far more dangerous, but hey not everyone can be as patriotic as you allens.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • Patriot!

      Last bastion of a scoundrel.

      April 18, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
  2. Oh Boy

    NOTHING that is connected politically with an evangelical is trustworthy or even reliable for the Country. This is because of all they want to do is FORCE all to they way of thinking. Compromise, compassion and mercy is beyond most evangelicals outside of their religion and their ways. ALl religious groups tied to politicas should lose their tax free status ASAP.

    April 18, 2013 at 8:31 am |
  3. brad

    Like I care what a religiouse orginazation has to say. If they want to get involved in politics then we need to be taxing them. Go back to your imaginary stories.

    April 18, 2013 at 8:27 am |
  4. clarity

    Complex issue no doubt. I don't imagine anyone likes the idea of illegal immigration. I don't like the idea of ministers as lobbyists. But Edwin's response to Hollee572 below hits on an important issue related to this concept – the U.S. agricultural system's "needs". Since NAFTA, this is a machine that we in the U.S. built. We flooded Mexico with cheaper corn, other produce and put the farmers out of work there. Our farms flourished as a result and so since then we continually need more and more cheap labor to work the farms here – and so the farmers there that have been put out of work come across and work our fields and orchards.

    April 18, 2013 at 7:54 am |
  5. joe

    Christians, please remove yourselves from politics. Thank you.

    April 18, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • Reality Check

      Non-Christians also remove yourselves from politics.

      April 18, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • Science

      Tax the sh-it out of them if they want in politcs ?

      April 18, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • pterotum

      Straight ticket voters please remove yourselves from politics.

      April 18, 2013 at 8:20 am |
  6. Steven

    Well hallelujah, we have the only opinion that apparently matters in this country, that of the evangelical Christians! I guess it doesn't matter what the rest of us think, as long as the churchgoers give it their blessing, we're good to go.

    Here's a suggestion: let logic dictate the situation. There's no way this country is going to deport 10+ million immigrants. Not even the hardest-core "Deport 'em all!" advocate is going to watch families being torn apart, young children who are citizens ripped from the arms of their illegal-immigrant parents. So let's do the practical thing. If you're here illegally, have no criminal record here or your country of origin, and pay a special life-long tax specifically levied against folks in your situation, you can stay. In the meantime, secure the border as tightly as possible. It's not a perfect solution, but it may be the only doable one.

    April 18, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • sassypants

      This is where I believe that a minister should be able to distinguish between governing/lawmaking vs. ministry. His job is to minister.. period. If at the end of the day the rest of us law abiding, taxpaying, hard working citizens are unable to feed our families because bleeding hearts have allowed thieves to take over and tyrannize the rest of us out of our jobs and homes then I say he has it wrong. Eventually, Mr. Hybel and his empire will be on the streets and these wolves will be sitting in his place. "I have never seen the children of the righteous begging for bread!" We will be if you don't stop the BS.

      April 18, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • Joe

      Wrong, I would be PERFECTLY OK deporting them, their anchor babies, and whoever else....!

      April 18, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  7. Big Man

    Americans were fooled once with the Immigr. Act of 1965. Look at the toll it took on our nation since. To see who is working in the shadows and responsible for this, and Current legislation read Prof. Kevin Macdonald academic paper Jewish Influence on US Immigration Policy. Shocking!

    April 18, 2013 at 7:18 am |
  8. kerthialfad

    In discussions about amnesty, these folks get to stay in the country from day one, for a crime for which the punishment is deportation. No deportation equals amnesty, in my book. The line is outside the US. If tiu in, you're not in line, you're in. You're here!

    April 18, 2013 at 7:08 am |
  9. Karin

    I am sick of this..I believe in Legal Immigration not Illegal. If these Religous leaders want this they can pay for their Healthcare,education,food stamps,welfare etc. We have over 90 million people out of work.Either they don't want to work or can't find work. We need to get Americans off welfare, No more free money to stay home. Romney was right we are at the tipping point of the people that pay taxes and the people that don't...Do you think the Illegals will keep picking tomatoes for cheap labor once they are Legal? Nope they too will jump on the Welfare train too

    April 18, 2013 at 6:57 am |
    • Reality Check

      Where did you get your number of 90 million? I could only track down 22.4 million by adding together the unemployed, underemployed marginally employed and discouraged workers.

      April 18, 2013 at 8:11 am |
  10. JDalco

    Illegals need to be deported NOW! no questions, no discussions. They broke our laws coming here while millions try to do it legally. They can not be allowed to stay. Support legal immigration, deport illegals now.

    April 18, 2013 at 6:23 am |
    • Зъл търмък

      There is a difference, one is trying lifetime long and never succeed and another take the chance and made it!

      April 18, 2013 at 7:55 am |
  11. samson j.


    CNN screwed the news up soo bad today that they shutdown all comments on most articles except the most innocuous stories.

    Seriously, check it out, pretty funny.

    Once again CNN is the pinnacle of fair unbiased news and freedom of speech, except when they look bad and do everything they can to cover it up

    April 18, 2013 at 5:00 am |
    • Pat

      So you are objecting to CNN having freedom of speech? Do you want to get rid of the First Amendment?

      April 18, 2013 at 6:25 am |
    • albert

      @Pat, Oh Please, there is a difference between freedom of speech and irresponsible journalism.

      April 18, 2013 at 7:00 am |
    • Pat

      Albert- Sampson wants to do away with the freedom of the press.

      April 18, 2013 at 7:12 am |
    • paraduxx

      the comment server is overwhelmed. you're not onto anything dick tracy...

      April 18, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  12. samson j.


    CNN screwed the news up soo bad today that they shutdown all comments on most articles except the most innocuous stories.

    Seriously, check it out, pretty funny.

    Once again CNN is the pinnacle of fair unbiased news and freedom of speech, except when they look bad and do everything they can to cover it up.

    April 18, 2013 at 4:58 am |
  13. Joe Notingham

    If you think that the current 12million are the last to come across you are stupid. We will be stuck with them as citizens then the next 12 million will be coming across. It will not end. until you secure the boarder....and we won't.

    April 18, 2013 at 4:35 am |
    • Alvin Cavanaugh

      We have been trying to secure the Mexican border for decades, its not a matter of "we won't", its a matter of we can't.

      April 18, 2013 at 5:43 am |
    • Earthling147

      Every non Native American is an immigrant or the descendant of immigrants. As far as I can remember, we never were granted legal status by them. How are today's immigrants different?

      By the way, it's "border". A "boarder" is the guy who rents the spare bedroom.

      April 18, 2013 at 5:45 am |
    • Odds

      We secured the border sufficiently to stop the number from increasing. Look at the facts. The estimated population of illegals is lower now than at its peak and has bounced around within a range for several years. In other words, the border is secure enough when combined with current policy to prevent a net increase in the illegal population. So you can stop crying about border security. There is no way to make the border 100% secure. If you're keeping the population from growing, mission accomplished as far as border security for the purposes of illegal immigration is concerned.

      April 18, 2013 at 5:57 am |
    • Oh Boy

      Most illegals that I know are extremely good honest and hard working people. Better to let the mexicans in than the islamists who want to destroy the USA.

      April 18, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • paraduxx

      LOL that point always results in silence...hypocrisy likes to keep itself hidden

      April 18, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  14. HillClimber

    If any bill fails to remove the illegal aliens from American soil then that bill allows amnesty. That is the long of it, that is the short of it, and that is the way it is. The issue is now and always has been Citizenship. Either you are an American Citizen, or you are not an American Citizen. If you are, you belong here. If you are not, you don't belong here. Time to get illegal aliens off my land, off my roads, out of my schools, and out of my pocket.

    April 18, 2013 at 4:30 am |
    • drew

      The fines for hiring illegals should be much higher

      April 18, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • paraduxx

      they are hired specifically because they are illegal...you waste your time unless you address your remarks in that direction. every market exists because there is a consumer.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  15. Winston5

    Right wing fissure -racking in 3, 2, 1...(I LOVE politics)

    April 18, 2013 at 3:46 am |
  16. skipvanpelt

    i couldn't care less what a bunch of hypocritical, right wing evangelicals think.

    April 18, 2013 at 3:45 am |
    • Oh Boy

      Amen to that. These people should leave politics and go back to their churches and leave the country alone.

      April 18, 2013 at 8:35 am |
  17. Mike Speakman

    There should be no route to citizenship for illegal immigrants other than returning to their native country and applying legally for it and then waiting their turn. The fines for crossing the border or not renewing paperwork should be much higher and should be applied to all illegal immigrants from now on. The synopses of the bill that I have read don't go far enough on border security. Stopping 90% in those high risk areas is not a secure border and illegals will find new areas to cross. This bill is nothing more than the spring board for the next massive wave of illegal immigration.

    April 18, 2013 at 3:15 am |
  18. Paul Brosam Jr

    Let's let all of the American people read the full text of the bill and let them decide if it is amnesty or not. This is the major problem that this country has. It does not want to be "transparent"with the American people. The American people entrust their elected representatives to do what is best for them. The problem is, there are too many representatives influenced by lobbyists and external money sources who "buy" our representatives votes. This is why things in this country are as they are. Honesty needs to be placed above financial gain, which in most cases is not. I believe that it is to the point where the American people need to cast direct votes on issues such as these, rather than rely upon our representatives. These issues have profound effects upon our society and we cannot allow our representatives to be swayed in their votes, based upon external motivators.

    April 18, 2013 at 2:44 am |
    • Jerry

      Any bill which would allow lawbreakers (illegal aliens) to escape punishment (deportation, permanent ban) for their crimes IS an "amnesty". That's just so plainly simple that even a Democrat should be able to understand it.

      April 18, 2013 at 3:02 am |
    • Actually

      The reason that Americans were denied that ability to directly vote is that so many of them will vote to negate the Constitution, especially when fear has been chummed up. That is specifically why the Founding Father denied you democracy in favor of a republic.

      The tyranny of an ignorant majority must be avoided. If you think politicians are easily swayed, the average Joe is much easier to manipulate. Look how much was lost due to fear after 9/11.

      April 18, 2013 at 3:04 am |
  19. Crazyidea

    OOOO, you could make a sequel to the book of "Revelations" where the evangelical support for this deal leads to an intensive biometric identification system that develops into the "Mark of the Beast" and plunges the world into the apocalypse. Wouldn't that be ironic? Mel Gibson should totally make that movie.

    April 18, 2013 at 2:17 am |
  20. brian

    This article just demonstrates that Bible thumpers are good at playing word games. Basically, that's all they do.

    April 18, 2013 at 1:32 am |
    • Edwin

      No, it demonstrates that this group actually practice compassion in their religious work.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:02 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.