Religious Right Groups Join Immigration Debate

After staying out of last year’s contentious immigration debate that drove a wedge among the GOP, mainstays of the Religious Right have now joined the debate saying they will support legalization of those already in this country – but only in exchange for doing away with the guarantee of birthright citizenship granted under the 14th Amendment. As CBN reported on Friday, Manuel Miranda, one of the chief activists organizing the Right in support of Bush’s extreme judicial nominees, has now put together a coalition of Religious Right leaders to influence immigration policymaking. In an attempt to supplant the anti-immigrant rhetoric that dominated discussions last year which analysts agree resulted in damaging the image of the GOP among Latino voters and decreased support for GOP candidates, Miranda claims “This new coalition is bigger and broader than the Secure Border Coalition that dominated the debate on the right in the last go round.”

Headline members include Paul Weyrich, one of the founders of “movement conservatism,” Donald Wildmon of American Family Association, Gary Bauer, American Conservative Union President David Keene, and Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition.

Today The Washington Times gives some details of the “grand compromise” sought by Families First on Immigration.  

In letters sent today and obtained by The Washington Times, Families First on Immigration urges President Bush and leaders of the new Democratic Congress to adopt a grand compromise on the divisive issue that includes strong border security, an amnesty for illegals already here who are relatives of citizens and an end to birthright citizenship. …

[In addition,] Families First tells Mr. Bush — who was supported by most of the members of the new coalition — to abandon his proposal for a guest-worker program until the rest of the issues such as birthright citizenship and border security are resolved.

While legalization of undocumented immigrants is anathema to the anti-immigrant activists of last year, the group has taken up one unusual item of the anti-immigrant Right’s agenda: the effort to eradicate so-called “anchor babies.” Under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, anyone born in the United States is a citizen. The Right has proposed skirting this constitutional mandate through a dicey regulatory change.

In another indication that the religious right is often at odds with the economic right, the coalition also wants President Bush and others to drop their strong support for guest workers. While allowing for some legalization, Families First on Immigration is borrowing the “enforcement first” stand of right-wing House members such as former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Arizona), who was defeated in November’s mid-term election.

The new coalition’s position would lend support to presidential candidate Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), who has billed himself as the “full scale conservative” in the race but supported the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, much to the dismay of many on the far Right.

The group hopes to draw support from fellow religious conservatives in Congress such as Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican.

Mr. Brownback caused deep consternation in conservative circles last year when he enthusiastically embraced the Senate immigration bill, which was reviled by most conservatives because it would grant citizenship rights to most illegals. A member of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Brownback argued that it was his Christian duty to support a bill that would help illegal aliens who came here in search of a new home away from the tyranny and squalor from which they came.

Support from Families First on Immigration would bolster Brownback’s already-strong credibility on the Right.