Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore and other religious leaders have met with President Obama to discuss the continuing effort to pass immigration reform this year.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission president joined Obama and others in an oval office meeting April 15 as the attempt to reform the immigration system awaits action in the U.S. House of Representatives. Flaws in both the system and its enforcement have resulted in an estimated 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants living illegally in the United States.
“I disagree with the President on some serious issues of human life, marriage, and religious liberty,” Moore said in a written statement after the meeting, “but this is one issue where the country isn’t divided up into red and blue.
“I don’t know anyone who thinks the status quo immigration policy is working,” Moore said in the statement released by the Evangelical Immigration Table, a group of religious leaders advocating for immigration reform consistent with biblical values. “Our border isn’t secure, we don’t know who is and who isn’t in the country, and we have families torn apart by an incoherent and capricious system.”
White House file photo by Pete Souza
Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell D. Moore, second from right, is shown in a Nov. 13, 2013, immigration reform meeting in the Oval Office with President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and religious leaders. In a Tuesday (April 15) meeting with Obama and other religious leaders, Moore said disagreements should not stop evangelicals from collaborating with Obama on immigration.
He reminded the president of their differences during the meeting, Moore said. Obama joked, “You don’t have to list them all,” Moore said later.
“Though I have all sorts of disagreements with the president, I think we should express those disagreements while at the same time working to honor and pray for him as our nation’s leader, as Scripture calls us to do, and working together where we can for the good of the nation,” Moore told Baptist Press.
Moore said he encouraged Obama “to work with Republicans to get beyond partisan bickering and fix this broken system.”
The president and a House Republican leader clashed, however, over immigration reform the next day.
In a statement released Wednesday (April 16), Obama pointed to the failure of the GOP majority in the House to act, saying Republicans are “seemingly preferring the status quo of a broken immigration system over meaningful reform.”
The House majority leader, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, reacted sharply in a written release, describing the president’s statement as an attack “which indicated no sincere desire to work together.”
The Senate passed broad reform legislation last year, but the ERLC has said it needs changing. So far, House committees have approved bills dealing with such matters as strengthening border and national security, providing visas for guest workers and requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to check employees’ eligibility. The full House has yet to pass those bills, however.
The ERLC and other evangelical organizations have called for reform that would provide border and workplace security, uphold the rule of law and respect family unity. The ERLC and other evangelicals also want laws to establish a path to legal status and citizenship to those who want to live in this country permanently and are willing to pay penalties and meet certain requirements.
Moore’s meeting with Obama occurred while his administration is studying its deportation processes for illegal immigrants, in the face of allegations those methods are harming Hispanic families, according to The Wall Street Journal.
After the meeting, religious leaders told the president “about the impact the failure to fix the immigration system has on families in their congregations and communities,” the White House reported. Obama voiced “deep concern” for the pain many families are experiencing from being separated, according to the White House.
Other religious leaders attending the meeting were Noel Castellanos, chief executive officer of the Christian Community Development Association; Luis Cortes, president of Esperanza; JoAnne Lyon, general superintendent of the Wesleyan Church; Suzii Paynter, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and Dieter Uchtdorf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Moore also participated in a November oval office meeting on immigration reform with Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other religious leaders.
In 2011, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix approved a resolution on immigration reform that called for the advancement of the gospel of Jesus while pursuing justice and compassion. The measure urged the government to make a priority of border security and hold businesses accountable in their hiring. It also requested public officials establish after securing the borders “a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country.” It specified the resolution was not to be interpreted as supporting amnesty.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)