Religious leaders active in Arizona interfaith affairs went to Washington in mid-May to tell the state’s senators that the federal government, not the state, should take the lead on immigration reform.
In the shadow of Arizona’s strict immigration law, a broad range of evangelical leaders are speaking in support of comprehensive immigration reform, with more specifics than some were able to embrace before.
When Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona in late April signed a bill authorizing local police to apprehend people suspected of having entered the country illegally, she brought to national attention the tensions and frustrations that many Arizonans feel when it comes to immigration. These tensions are evident in congregations, which contain a wide range of opinions on immigration policy.
Although nearly everyone agrees that U.S. immigration policy is inadequate, different critics focus on different elements of the problem. The most comprehensive proposal comes from Representative Luis Gutierrez (D., Ill.), a native Chicagoan of Puerto Rican ancestry who has criticized President Obama’s reluctance to address the issue. Gutierrez’s bill is heartily endorsed by most immigrants’ rights groups, but it is not likely to pass in its current form. Jen Smyers of Church World Service calls it “a marker bill,” since it stakes out a clear position. It has no Republican supporters.
On the heels of a rally on the National Mall by advocates of immigration reform, religious leaders met at the White House on March 22 to plot strategy, despite a packed election-year political calendar.
With less than six months to go before the start of the 2010 census, immigration reform activists—divided over whether undocumented immigrants should volunteer to be counted—are escalating rhetoric as they seek critical support from Latino evangelical and Protestant pastors.