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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. Jim

    Yes, it is amnesty. And why does everyone talk about a "path to citizenship"? I don't think most Americans know much about immigration and emigration. Many who are legal aliens here (my wife included) don't necessarily want citizenship, just to be a legal alien resident. Obama and even now the Republicans want these people to become citizens for their votes.

    April 18, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • JDS

      I cannot believe how many IGNORANT people can just post hate! like most of you!

      April 18, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • BobPitt

      Just like your wife, I am a green card holder (my wife is American) I already have dual citizenship with Canada and Chile, I rather not take American citizenship, because I may loose the other ones.. These way we are free to legally live in all three countries..

      April 18, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Saraswati

      @JDS,

      I'm an immigrant married to an immigrant and while I have great support for legal immigration and sympathy for those who feel they need to migrate illegally, this is amnesty and it will encourage further illegal immigration. That's just the reality. It's what happened last time and what will happen again.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:36 am |
  2. tony

    Uh Oh,

    Tax exemption funding at work for politics again. Deport these people.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  3. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    A massave explosion rocks south Texas town but authorities were unable to put out the fire because their assault weapons jammed.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  4. SouthernCelt

    Religious People: Jesus said Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. Don't like that? OK, how about Legal logic: the very first thing these immigrants did when they got here is break our law and show complete disdain for it. Do we want immigrants like that? Everyone in the US is the descendant of an immigrant. They came here, respected the law (for the most part 🙂 ), worked hard, educated their kids, and helped build a country. Can you say the same about this most recent wave?

    April 18, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • JDS

      you are probably part of an immigrant ancestors and you are talking stuff like this? shame on you SUPPORT THE IMMIGRATION REFORM

      April 18, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  5. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Deport assault weapons!

    April 18, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Rex

      But I agree with you about the assault weapons. Who needs to hunt with a machine gun???

      April 18, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Remember your comments... when the zombies overrun your position

      April 18, 2013 at 10:35 am |
  6. coyoteliberty

    Sounds like maybe they need to get a better dictionary to me.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • BobPitt

      You already changed the dictionary from Oxford to Merriam-Webster (your own half cooked English version)

      April 18, 2013 at 10:09 am |
  7. L

    This whole blog makes me sick. This is America. People are allowed to be religious or not. What people believe is there own right and is not "backwards" or whatever put downs you want to say. Just because someone doesn't follow your point of view – it does not make it wrong. Same bull crap in our political system.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      you could exercise your right to not read or participate on this blog, but yet you have not...

      April 18, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  8. meg

    Not long ago prosters were pulling down the American Flag. then running up the flag of mexico. Then telling us to change our laws. (Which are not enforced as some elected people do not like that law) It is now time for the laws of theis country to be enforced.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      or..since we stole them from them, we can give Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and southern Cailfornia back to them...

      April 18, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • L

      "Evil": Every nation in this world "stole" something from someone. That was a stupid comment.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • SouthernCelt

      I haven't seen anyone arrested for Sedition and Treason yet. Maybe it is time to broaden the requirements for those crimes.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • bobmob

      100%true .

      April 18, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      @L – no sh1t, really?

      April 18, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  9. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    who cares what this archaic religious group thinks?

    April 18, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  10. Sick of Religious Bigotry

    Why should I ever give a rat's posterior about a bunch of fanatically religious nutjobs or what they think? Put them in a box and let them rant amongst themselves. If one gets out, whap him with a baton and put him back. They are simply bigots using the guise of religion.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • Bob

      Wow, what a bitter person you are. Sorry for whatever happened to you to make you this way.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • Joe

      I thought God said thou shalt not lie? Wow, the pro-Amnesty movement is pulling out all stops to get the public to accept giving illegal invaders AMNESTY! Absolutely SHAMEFUL!!!!!

      April 18, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • Oh Boy

      Religious nutbags belong back where they were before Bush W gave them the free reign of the Congress in exchange for votes.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:35 am |
  11. Walter

    Pro immigration evangelicals say the bill isn't amnesty? Stop the presses.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Joe

      PLEASE, this is AMNESTY all day everyday, Illegals should be deported not given AMNESTY!

      April 18, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  12. hubert39

    Same old story.. Evangelicals vs Catholics. Evangelicals vs Jews. Evangelicals vs Muslims. Evangelicals vs anybody who won't kiss their behinds.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • Oh Boy

      A large part of the problem is that Bush let the God Damned evangelicals into politics and government in exchange for votes. These people are no more than the American version of the Taliban. Bad News for the Nation.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  13. MICHAEL WHITE

    It's amnesty if it does not require illegal aliens to return to their native countries first to complete processing first. What this legislation is doing is giving illegal aliens an unfair advantage over those doing the process right. Think of how they feel.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:09 am |
  14. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    There's NOT one illegal Mexican in America. The damn Southwest belongs to them in the first place We should either learn to speak Spanish or simply leave.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • Rex

      Um, no. It was part of Mexico for less than 40 years (1810-1849), and has been part of the USA for over 160 years. As for non-Mexicans and non-Latinos learning Spanish if they want to live in the Southwest...yeah, good luck with that.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  15. Lorem Ipsum

    Have you seen that painting on display at the Cincinnati Museum of Art of Christ on the cross with a "Pro Union-Pro Choice" tattoo on his stomach below the sword wound? Who painted that? What did they mean? Do you think Jesus was pro choice? I never heard or read in the bible where he was pro union, but he was a carpenter so that kinda makes sense. He did throw money changers from the temple, so that is kind of against management.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • Oh Boy

      If you read the christian bible and seek out Jesus words, you will not find a word about gays or abortion or even contraceptives. That was all made up by others. He clearly did say to Love God and Treat Others Well. This is largely ignored by conservatives, fundamentalists and evangelicals. Spewing hatred in the name of Jesus is not serving him or God.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  16. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Put an assault rifle up congress's f-ing anus!

    April 18, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • paraduxx

      LMAO..that is pure poetry

      April 18, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • Oh Boy

      Priceless...

      April 18, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  17. ed dugan

    Who cares what a bunch of religious wackos thinks or feels? Those people are here illegally. End of story. Get rid of them as fast as you can. They breed like rabbits so the sooner the better.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  18. S

    Anything that allows immigrants who came here ILLEGALLY to legally remain here IS AMNESTY whether or not its called amnesty! It is a slap in the face to ALL LEGAL immigrants!

    April 18, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • ed dugan

      You are right! If they are here illegally they should ALL be sent back and prevented from ever returning;Break the law, stay away forever.Those people corrupt our culture, breed like rabbits and will soon take over. If hispanics did not have the vote I wonder what the senators would do then?

      April 18, 2013 at 8:57 am |
  19. dragonfire0477

    Sorry, but the Evangelicals are the source of a great deal of the 'backwards movement' in this nation. Why would we care what they think about anything?

    April 18, 2013 at 8:53 am |
  20. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    I've no faith in a Congress of chickenshits. They run from the likes of the NRA, but will not shrink from putting a burden on the workers – people who do necessary jobs that no one else will do and are exploited by evangelical pastors and others like them.

    April 18, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • bobmob

      you voted for them, now stop bi%^^_+)* all you people blame blame and blame do something positive to you country most likely you live in a closet.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:13 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.