I have been to Washington, DC a few times with mission teams. We have worked in cities in Virginia in the past and taken time to tour the nation's capital. It's always encouraging to me to walk the streets of DC and see the diversity of people also there. There are many Americans who work in the city and no doubt now view the monuments and memorials like many who live in Orlando view Disney World. You know, "Oh, yeah, that's cool. . .I guess." It becomes commonplace.
There are groups from other nations posing by every American icon to get photographs to post online or send back home.
Government workers move quickly between buildings.
Capital police stand guard everywhere.
I have been in Washington DC for the past two days. This time, I was not with a group of students or a mission team. I was joining over 600 other pastors, business leaders, conservative thinkers, educators, law enforcement and others in an effort to encourage House Republicans to move forward with immigration reform.
Why would a pastor in Orange Park, a suburb of Jacksonville, care about immigration reform? It's one thing for leaders in south Florida, or in border states like Texas, Arizona, New Mexico or California, to care, but why me?
The phrase "immigration reform" has been hijacked by many in the political arena. As I met with Congressmen and congressional aides today, we affirmed the hijacking of these terms and realize that many hear the phrase, but think it means "amnesty for illegals" and "insecure borders." When others write the talking points, that does come to mind.
Thankfully, as we met with Florida Republican members and/or aides of Congress today. . .
- Steve Southerland, II - 2nd District
- Ted Yoho - 3rd District
- Ander Crenshaw - 4th District
- Daniel Webster - 10th District
- Tom Rooney - 17th District
- Mario Diaz-Balart - 25th District
- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen - 27th District
. . .the clarity of thought moved beyond sound bytes.
Each agreed that we have a broken immigration process. Each agreed that border security and homeland security is a priority. Each agreed that amnesty is not the answer and would be unfair to taxpayers and those who went through the legal process of naturalization. Each also agreed that there are many holes in our system. Holes that leave us with many problems, such as law enforcement issues, economic issues, familial issues and various other problems.
Partnering with the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), (By the way, there are reports that the EIT is a front organization funded by liberal billionaire George Soros. Those assertions of funding and control are false. Please read here.) we were able to discuss the real issues based on the EIT's principle statment:
As evangelical Christian leaders, we call for a bipartisan solution on immigration that:
- Respects the God-given dignity of every person
- Protects the unity of the immediate family
- Respects the rule of law
- Guarantees secure national borders
- Ensures fairness to taxpayers
- Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents
The Bible is clear about how immigrants should be treated. The Hebrew word for immigrant, ger, is used in the Bible 92 times and we are continuously called to care for the stranger in our midst.
Compassion and justice for the sojourner and alien among us is affirmed in numerous places (Exodus 22:21; Deuteronomy 10:18-19, Psalm 94:6) and Jesus spoke of ministering to the "least of these" in the Gospels.
And as Romans affirms, we are to live as Christ-followers while abiding by the rule of law.
Our meetings today were fruitful and discussion and prayer was good. Each member we had the privilege to speak with today desires to address and fix the immigration process. The "how to" is still being debated. Some say the Senate bill is a good start. Others fear that there are too many holes in that bill to enforce it well and therefore, a new bill should be written. Forsaking border security and fairness to taxpayers is not an option. Providing amnesty is not an option.
Yet, something must be done. That has been agreed upon.
We met today to affirm our lawmakers and to ensure them we respect them, and pray for them. Please join me in praying for these members of Congress and those they represent and may well represent in the future as they move forward to reform our nation's immigration process.