Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, reiterated Tuesday morning that he’d still like to see the House pass an immigration overhaul by the end of the year; on Tuesday afternoon, over 250 faith leaders set out to make sure that was indeed the case.
The group of evangelical pastors descended on Capitol Hill throughout the day to meet with more than 100 rank-and-file House lawmakers, most of them Republican, to make the case for acting on a rewrite of the nation’s immigration code before the clock runs out on the 113th Congress. Brought together by the Evangelical Immigration Table, which describes itself as “a broad coalition of evangelical organizations and leaders advocating for immigration reform consistent with biblical values,” the pastors hope to deliver a message that appeals to members of Congress on the far-right end of the political spectrum who might be inclined not to support any legislation that smacks of “amnesty.”
“I’m here today because in 2011, the Southern Baptist Convention overwhelmingly approved a resolution on immigration reform. The leadership of the convention was concerned that so many conservative Christians were having their views shaped by talk radio and other news outlets, and we wanted them to come to a position shaped by Biblical teaching,” said Bryan Wright, senior pastor at the Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., and president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 2010 to 2012, in a statement. “Now it’s time to bring these Biblical teachings to our leaders in Washington, D.C., and ask for immigration reform this year.”
Participants kept a tally of some of their congressional office visits under the Twitter hashtag #Pray4Reform. A cursory run-through of those tweets show that pastors enjoyed audiences with representatives from the offices of Reps. Rob Woodall, R-Ga; Austin Scott, R-Ga.; Joe Wilson, R-S.C.; Dave Reichert, R-Wash.; and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. They also report meeting with Boehner aides.
According to an ongoing Roll Call survey of where members stand on GOP leadership’s principles for an immigration rewrite, Boehner was the only one of these visited lawmakers who stands fully behind moving forward on immigration; Reichert was the only one of these visited lawmakers who has signaled a willingness to entertain the matter. Woodall declined to comment, and Scott and Wilson never responded to Roll Call’s requests for comment on their positions.
Rohrabacher has put himself in the firm “no” category on the issue, and he said that while he enjoyed meeting face-to-face on Tuesday afternoon with the immigration advocates who happened to hail from his district, his mind was ultimately unchanged.
“My response to them was, No. 1, a policy of legalizing the people who are here, the sort of easy way out, would in the long run put 40 million new people into our country, which would change the nature of our country, and that would be a bad thing, not to mention breaking the bank, etc.,” Rohrabacher said.
“Also, my response was that Christian love is not furthered by advocacy of government policy but instead by individual action and commitment,” he continued. “Individual commitment is not individual commitment to changing a government policy, it is to come out and help specific people and people who are in need, and if [the pastors] really wanted to help people who are here illegally or in bad situations they, they want to pay for their health insurance and everything, then I would be saying how wonderful that is. But if they are advocating that the government do that, then it will break our bank and destroy our country.”