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
[twitter-follow screen_name='DanMericaCNN']

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. Bigger question..

    God in Quran says, (Islamic scripture)

    “Does the human being not see that we created him from a tiny drop, then he turns into an ardent enemy?” [36:77]

    “He raises a question to us – while forgetting his initial creation – "Who can resurrect the bones after they had rotted?" [36:78

    ‘Say, "The One who initiated them in the first place will resurrect them. He is fully aware of every creation." [36:79]

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    ‘They said, "You have to be Jewish or Christian, to be guided." Say, "We follow the religion of Abraham – monotheism – he never was an idol worshiper." [2:135]

    “Proclaim, He is the One and only GOD. The Absolute GOD. Never did He beget. Nor was He begotten. None equals Him." [112:1]

    “The Messiah, son of Mary is no more than a messenger like the messengers before him, and his mother was a saint. Both of them used to eat the food. Note how we explain the revelations for them, and note how they still deviate!” [5:75]

    “It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is.” [19:35]

    “No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]

    “They do not value God as He should be valued. God is the Most Powerful, the Almighty.”[22:74]

    “If you obey the majority of people on earth, they will divert you from the path of God. They follow only conjecture; they only guess.” [Quran 6:116]

    “There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in God has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. God is Hearer, Omniscient.” [2:256]

    “O people, here is a parable that you must ponder carefully: the idols you set up beside God can never create a fly, even if they banded together to do so. Furthermore, if the fly steals anything from them, they cannot recover it; weak is the pursuer and the pursued.” [22:73]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to clear your misconception by going to whyIslam org website.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • thekid

      Islam teaches that Jesus was a Muslim and that Christians polluted and twisted His teachings. At the time that Islam was created,the world did not have the wealth of extra-biblical historical writings which support the Bible as a reliable representation of what Jesus taught and did and, more to the point, establish that the Koranic understanding of Jesus is completely without basis. Now, there is no excuse for believing in the patently erroneous understanding of Jesus set forth in the Koran.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
  2. Robert

    He's correct. This is more bad law from an incompetent congress. Every time we let people in, we're giving away more and more of our nation, and now they want to open the floodgates. These people will vote to allow even more illegal immigrants into our country, and that means that the votes of those of us who live here now will mean less and less. These illegal immigrants have already demonstrated that they are lawless by being here illegally. We do not want lawless people to gain political power by giving them the right to vote.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • TC

      Don't the American citizens who hire them in droves already vote?

      Have you READ this bill?

      April 18, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
  3. Dr Veruju

    It is not only an amnesty, it is a kick in the teeth for US citizenship.
    It has been crafted with total disregard for the 20 plus million unemployed US citizens and places people who have no business even being in the country in transcendence over over those 20 plus million unemployed US citizens. But it is even worse, the foreigners it supposedly benefits are the complete responsibility of foreign governments who get let off the hook.
    It is morally corrupt and I oppose it with every fiber of my being.

    April 18, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • xyz

      Ok Dr. Every fiber of your being? Seriously? A little melodramatic, no?

      April 18, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • TC

      Don't see a lot of American Citizens looking for work in the fields, doing dishes, and working for less than minimum wage at other menial jobs.

      April 18, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
  4. thekid

    The person who says that this is not amnesty needs a remedial course in English. Amnesty is the forgiveness of a crime. The illegal aliens have committed the crime of crossing the border. Amnesty just means that we are not going to put them in prison for the crime. Obama (and his predecessors) is/are already giving them amnesty by refusing to enforce the law. The evangelicals of the article want to give the illegal aliens more than amnesty - they want to reward them for their crime. The reward is that they a position superior to those who applied for legal immigration. Unfortunately, embracing Orwellian language is typical of those embracing Leftist politics. Jesus is the Truth: Shame on these evangelicals for polluting the name of Christianity with their lies.

    April 18, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • TC

      Aren't the criminals actually the Americans who lure them here with jobs? If they couldn't work, they would not come.

      April 18, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  5. Mack Williams

    Why does this interest them? I always thought they were concerned only with the borders of Heaven and Hell!

    April 18, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  6. Al

    First of all let's start with the notion that if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck it's a duck, not a swan. Once upon a time in the United States there was a law that was put in place to protect the people that are in the United States LEGALLY either by birth or by filing the proper paperwork to be allowed into the country and eventually if one were to behave to become naturalized citizens. Now back to the duck, if allowing those that are in the country to stay either because of a pardon for breaking the laws of the United States or because some other reason, that is AMNESTY and as much as this White House wants to make the people feel good about breaking the law, they are still law breakers and are being pardon. Yes this was done once before by Reagan, but today the country is broke and people are out of work, and the jobs that are there don't pay as much as there are many Mexicans that will work for much less, wonder why, oh yes so they can be providers and not welfare rats. So this duck is now going to be allowed to stay, but the full protection of the boarder will have to wait for another 10 years as this is not as important as welcoming law breakers into the country and granting them voter rights to buy elections.

    April 18, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  7. meifumado

    Please keep religion away from lawmakers.

    April 18, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • Ron

      Yeah...lawmakers don't have religion and we don't need them to find it.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  8. spudnik56

    Evangelical...another word for retarded...

    April 18, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • tokencode

      Don't insult retarded people like that.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:57 am |
  9. Jknows

    what about the people who came to this country by following the immigration processes' current rules, filling out the tons of forms and spending the $1000s of dollars in fees in order to attain legal immigration status? Do they get a fast track to U.S. citizenship since they followed the law or are they pushed to the back of the line and have to wait six years to get citizenship as usual while illegals get a free ride ahead of them? It seems the more you follow the rules in this country the more you get screwed. Why would anyone want to follow the laws of this land, all you gain is higher taxes, more expensive insurance premiums.

    April 18, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Ironage

      You have a 100% valid point. But as usual it will be ignored and brushed under the carpet. Those that follow the rules, that abide by the laws and who wait, often for decades are and will be forgotten.

      If you are going to reform the immigration laws then start with those who abide by the law and do what is required to enter this great country legally. These are the most deserving.

      Its my opinion that the huge waiting lists of legal applicants should be dealt with first and as a priority. The arcane laws effecting this group should be amended first and then and only then should those who jumped the line be dealt with.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:35 am |
  10. Mr. Bo

    These are the same people who said they would continue to shield illegals and assist them

    April 18, 2013 at 11:19 am |
  11. papaw nick

    The writer of the article should have named who was speaking for which group and name the groups. I think it extremly funny to read about what Jesus would do. Writers show how little they know about the Bible as they cherry pick verses. Christians are admodished to obey the laws of where they live as citizens because that is a big indicator of their Christianity. I would support all illegal immigrants leaving the USA and giving them the opportunity to apply for entrance and a road to citizenship. That is not what politicans want because if they have to go back, the votes of those here leaglly will be lost. Isn't it funny no one is screaming seperation of church and state when it works for their agenda.

    April 18, 2013 at 11:18 am |
  12. John

    "The group needs to read the whole bill”
    Opening their mouths before having all the facts! Idiots

    April 18, 2013 at 10:53 am |
  13. albie

    who cares what these random folks think - I did not elect one of them

    April 18, 2013 at 10:48 am |
  14. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    @JDS "I cannot believe how many IGNORANT people can just post hate! like most of you!" You obviously need to reset your expectations if you continue to participate on these blogs...Also some valium may help you out...

    April 18, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  15. Say What?

    JUST wrong, it is 'amnesty' and whats worse is in the bill, it requires them to pay back taxes. IF you are smart, HOW can they pay taxes when the government doesnt know how much they made in the first place. IF the Gov't knew, they would have been paying taxes in the first place! This bill is wrong and needs to be voted down!

    April 18, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • RJW

      How exactly is it amnesty? I'm guessing you are one of those irrational people who think that anything short of deporting all of them isn't acceptable.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:04 am |
  16. BRC

    My issue with this article is the govenermnet's reaction to the evangelical group's input. They listened, they interacted, the met with them and allowed they involved. The governemnet should have said pipe down nobody asked you. Every single individual in the Ethics and Religious Liberty Coalition has a say in the government, and had the right to voice their personal opinion about immigration. They are citizens here, it directly effects them. But the group, as a whole, does not have a say. Immigration is a legal and civil issue. if you personally tie spiritualiry into it that's your call, but objectively it has nothing to do with it.
    "Representatives from the group said they will continue this work until immigration reform that meets their standards has been signed into law." The groups standards are purely those of a representative religious body, and have no place in the governance of our nation.

    April 18, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Salty Bob

      Keep God out of government and we will all be better off. As for those illegals here already, find them full background check them if their not crimminals make them citezens and move on with the securing of the border and the deportaion of the few bad apples. As for the childern that were brought here or born here as far as I am concerned their Americans move on again. You dont need god or devils to know what the right thing to do is just DO IT.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  17. Evangelicals have the HIGHEST RATE OF DIVORCE

    Aren't they the ones yammering and whining and sniveling CONSTANTLY about gays "redefining" marriage? Yet THEY are the ones trying to redefine the "TILL DEATH DO US PART" portion of marriage!


    Maybe it'd be better for these deluded nutwhacks to stick to their delusions and leave POLITICS alone.

    April 18, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  18. bannister

    So these Evangelicals sent a letter to the White House asking them to respect "The God-given dignity of every person”

    Well, last time I counted, there are almost 7 BILLION people in the world. Every single one of them has "God-given dignity" so who do we turn away? Do we let them ALL in? America already has the most generous immigration policy in the world – we let in 2 Million people ever year, more than all the other nations of the world COMBINED. How many do these Evangelicals want? 3 Million? 5 Million?

    These religious leaders need to understand something: In addition to our religious duties Americans also have a CIVIC duty. We are required to keep our streets safe, our neighborhoods clean and our society orderly. When thousands of illegals descend into an area, the safety, cleanliness and orderliness of our society is compromised. Obviously, these Evangelicals have not had MS-13 gangs dealing drugs on their corner on pumping loud Reggaeton music outside their window at all hours of the night.

    Sorry, but I'm a spiritual person too – and for these Evangelicals (or Catholics or Jews) to tell Americans they have a "moral duty" to allow illegal immigrants to stay is downright blasphemous.

    April 18, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Joe the Plumber

      Throughout the recession, we allowed 100,000 LEGAL immigrants to enter the country, mostly for non-employment reasons, while the news media kept lamenting high unemployment. In 2009 100-700,000 jobs were being lost each month, but work permits and green cards were continually being given to immigrants to compete with Americans for jobs. Whatever happened to "government for the people"? Which "people" would that be? Since the recession started we imported millions of people to take American jobs. The media keeps telling us that job growth doesn't keep up with population growth, but they never say that population growth is the result of excessive LEGAL immigration. We need to reduce legal immigration for the benefit of American workers, taxpayers, and the environment.

      If aliens are forgiven for their trespassing and illegal working, and allowed to live and work in this country legally, that's amnesty!

      April 18, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • WASP

      @ joe the dumpster: "If aliens are forgiven for their trespassing and illegal working, and allowed to live and work in this country legally, that's amnesty!"

      please show what JOBS exactly these "illegal" people are taking away from you? last time i checked most work for money below what you get paid, work harder for what they do make, and tend to work on the low end of either customer service or agriculture based industries..............so unless you are willing to go out and pick fruit for a living STFU.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Joe the Plumber

      100-150,000 LEGAL immigrants were imported by the White House, through DHS and DOS, each month throughout the recession and continues today. If legal immigration were cut in half in 2009, the unemployment rate would be 5%, which is considered full employment by economists.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Joe the Plumber

      Immigrants work harder and for less? You haven't looked very hard. This is a myth. If you think economic growth must depend on cheap labor, then you forgot what caused the Civil War. Economic growth should depend on improved management, technology, etc, not population growth. Only about 6% of the cost of agricultural products is from wages. Mandatory higher wages, would attract more Americans and result in negligible inflation. Here are some jobs that you apparently assume are dominated by immigrants, which could be taken by Americans if immigration was cut and the border secured.
      ◦Maids and housekeepers: 55 percent native-born
      ◦Taxi drivers and chauffeurs: 58 percent native-born
      ◦Butchers and meat processors: 63 percent native-born
      ◦Grounds maintenance workers: 65 percent native-born
      ◦Construction laborers: 65 percent native-born
      ◦Porters, bellhops, and concierges: 71 percent native-born
      ◦Janitors: 75 percent native-born

      April 18, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • Joe the Plumber

      Many immigrants will work for less. But In high-immigrant occupations the average wages and salary for natives is one-fourth lower than in occupations that are less than 20 percent immigrant. If immigrants were kept out of these jobs, employers would have to give a fair wage to Americans. Why should we be the welfare state of the world, just to be kind to others?

      April 18, 2013 at 11:04 am |
  19. NMEast

    Why should anyone, who has disregarded the laws of this country; thumbed their noses at the application process already in place, be given citizenship at any time? The idea of allowing these people, even, supposedly, after paying fines, taxes, etc., which can be waived per this bill, is amnesty, plain and simple.

    April 18, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • blueridgecynic

      Simply put: if persons who have broken the law are not charged and tried, it is amnesty.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  20. benji

    Jesus would welcome anybody and not worry about their "papers". Today's Christians do more to hurt the cause of Christ then the devil ever could. Jesus gave out free healthcare, food, advice. He welcomed the poor, downtrodden. He showed love for everyone and offered peace and salvation to anybody, not just people of a particular party. Jesus didn't target one sin, but ALL sins. Yet look at today's Christians: They are mean spirited, hateful, racist, bigoted and then pervert the Word of the Lord in order to justify their behavior. Totally shameful.

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

      If we could manage healthcare miracles for nothing – no tax money – I would say go for it. The same with food – miracle supplied the loaves and fishes, per your bible. Advice is always free. Mine would be "go back to your home country and apply LEGALLY". There, that's free. Jesus wasn't trying to keep a country together. Jesus also told you to abide by the laws of the government. These people aren't.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      So you're saying all christians should be ignored? I AGREE. And could we also feed them to the lions?

      April 18, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Mara

      so I guess all the parts about 'thou shalt not steal', 'thou shalt not covet' thou shalt not lie', 'render unto Ceasar', 'obey every governor or king', etc etc etc aren't part of Christian belief anymore.

      Benji, you're a cafeteria christian picking and choosing what parts you like and what parts are irrelevant. No different from those who hate the gays, oppress women, and beat their kids because their Bible says they should.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • GW Hamer

      "Render unto Caesar what is Caesars". I believe Christ reply was to a question about taxes or the status of a tax collector however I also believe it explains Christ standing of our church and government. As christens we too have "laws", it seems our understanding of those laws and there meanings should be understood first. Pray about it. I am not agreeing nor disagreeing with you.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:51 am |
1 2 3 4 5
About this blog

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.