In announcing his decision to protect nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, President Obama turned to Scripture, calling on Americans to protect the strangers in their land.
Yet the president’s decision to bypass Congress and act on his own threatens to fracture a broad, and rare, coalition of religious groups that had come together to push for a solution to improving the nation’s immigration system.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said the president’s move could tear apart that coalition and halt the momentum it established for passing a plan through Congress.
Moore said it’s been a difficult road to get so many groups on the same page. Can they stay together after the president’s action?
“It certainly didn’t help,” Moore said. “What we have united around is the idea of fixing a broken system with an earned path toward legal status or citizenship, not a blanket amnesty of any kind. This situation doesn’t fix that problem.”
For the past couple of years, legislators and immigration advocacy groups have tried to bring together a broad cross-section of interest groups to support a sweeping rewrite to the nation’s immigration laws. High-tech business leaders worked with farmers and ranchers. Sheriffs and police chiefs talked with minority groups. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce negotiated with top labor unions. And moderate and conservative religious groups spoke with one voice.
“Immigration reform created an incredible, unified coalition of people that don’t normally work together,” said the Rev. Tony Suarez, a Norfolk, Va., pastor and vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
That coalition helped win enough conservative support to pass a broad immigration bill through the Senate last year, when 14 Republicans joined Democrats in a rare moment of bipartisanship in this Congress. That momentum even seemed to carry over into the House of Representatives, where Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had some members gauge his caucus’ support for passing their own version of an immigration bill. Though the Senate bill died in the House, some advocates hoped the new Republican Congress would look to move legislation before the 2016 elections.
SOURCE: Alan Gomez