Tomorrow, the National Evangelical Association will seek to rally support for comprehensive immigration reform by placing a full-page ad Roll Call that calls for reform that “establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents.” Among those reportedly slated to sign on to this effort are Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel and Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention.
But before the ad has run, Liberty Counsel issued its own lengthy statement calling on “Evangelical Leaders [to] Unite on Just Assimilation Immigration Policy” that is calls on anti-immigration activists to stop labeling any effort to grant a pathway to citizenship immigrants already in the country as “amnesty” and “to stop politicizing this debate needlessly and to honestly acknowledge the difference” – it is signed by the likes of Staver, Land, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, Ken Blackwell, and Lou Engle:
Our national security and domestic tranquility depends on secure borders. We must first secure our borders before we can implement a broader just assimilation immigration policy. Secure borders are not closed borders. Violent criminals and drug traffickers take advantage of open borders. Such criminals are a threat to everyone in every community, including Latinos who are disproportionately victimized by them.
After securing our borders, we should allow the millions of undocumented and otherwise law-abiding persons living in our midst to come out of the shadows. The pathway for earned legal citizenship or temporary residency should involve a program of legalization for undocumented persons in the United States, subject to appropriate penalties, waiting periods, background checks, evidence of moral character, a commitment to full participation in American society through an understanding of the English language, the rights and duties of citizens and the structure of America’s government, and the embrace of American values.
We must return to a rational immigration policy that acknowledges that we are both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. It is our obligation to provide a just solution to those people who are currently undocumented under the present policy. That solution is neither amnesty nor mass deportation. A just, rational policy would put otherwise law-abiding undocumented persons on one of three paths: one path leads to pursuing earned legal citizenship or legal residency, one leads to acquiring legal guest-worker status, and one leads back across the border including a swift process for the deportation of undocumented felons.
America has an obligation to preserve within her borders the culture that has made her successful. Assimilation is both key to protecting that culture and to the immigrant’s chances of success. History has proven that Latinos are quite capable of rapid assimilation. As a group, they have strong moral convictions, a strong sense of family, and a strong work ethic.
A just assimilation immigration policy respects the traditions held by people of many backgrounds that make up America while recognizing the importance of a shared language, history and cultural values. Those who choose legal citizenship should have the opportunity to fully participate in the American dream by removing any barrier to achieving those dreams. America is not a nation divided. There should be no Black America, White America, Latino America, or Asian America. There is one America made up of many races and ethnicities with a common history, culture, and values. Although Americans may speak many different languages, they share English as their common language. The immigration process should provide a just assimilation by teaching English, the history and founding documents of America, and the common values of liberty and justice which are embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Naturalized citizens renounce all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, and declare allegiance to the United States. They pledge to defend America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and they pledge to support the Constitution and the laws of the United States.
Let us be clear – an earned pathway to citizenship is not amnesty. We reject amnesty. And we ask those who label an earned pathway to citizenship as amnesty to stop politicizing this debate needlessly and to honestly acknowledge the difference.