What Happened to Supporting "Comprehensive Immigration Reform"?
December 21, 2018
Updated January 2, 2019
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Once upon a time the CRCNA signed up to support a broad evangelical coalition in making a public statement about immigration reform. Then acting CRCNA executive director, Joel Boot, signed us collectively on to indicate the denomination's support. I cringed a bit when this was done, but ultimately resolved it was probably OK for the CRCNA to do it. Why? While I'm a strong advocate for the denomination to stay clear of political activism, this statement expressed only broad principles as to what might be considered by our nation (and government) as it contemplates overhauling its nightmarishly complex web of immigration (including refugee) laws and policies.
The statement the CRCNA signed on to can be found below. It says rather simply:
"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 border
Ensures fairness to taxpayers
Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents"
Some (all?) of these items necessarily require a lot of fleshing out of course (that last one on the list—even the two words, "who qualify," is a doozy), but on the whole, the statement is constructive because:
(1) it expresses only general principles and doesn't get into the weeds of the politics/lawmaking actually involved in passing hundreds (more likely thousands) of pages of new legislation;
(2) it purports to represent the thinking of a broad array of evangelical organizations (and perhaps because of that, avoids a degree of partisanship).
But that was then and now is now. Since signing up for this statement, I've heard little from the CRCNA (or its agencies) that repeats the call for "comprehensive immigration reform" — or from anyone else for that matter. Instead we have drifted toward engaging the subject matter in more political activist kinds of ways. And political activism always puts stakes down in a partisan place, that is, political activism invariably abhors the "comprehensive" part of any political question. Quoting from the website cited, we too have drifted—CRCNA and CRC members—too much toward "polarization and name calling in which opponents have misrepresented each other’s positions."
The CRCNA as a denominational bureaucracy tends to push toward the left of the political spectrum. Thus, it embraces and promotes buzz phrases like "Immigrants are a blessing and not a burden" and our obligation to "welcome the stranger." That political spectrum location focuses only some of the points in the joint statement, like "Respects the God-given dignity of every person" and "Protects the unity of the immediate family." There are no CRCNA-pushed buzz phrases that mantra the "Guarantees secure national border" or "Ensures fairness to taxpayers" items on the joint statement list.
Other CRCers, even if unrepresented in official CRCNA publications, suggest we "send them all home because they are nothing but a burden." This perspective focuses on different points in the joint statement, like "Guarantees secure national borders" and "Ensures fairness to taxpayers."
Rarely heard anymore is that long ago call for "comprehensive immigration reform."
My own view about all of this gets pretty complicated and would take much more than the acceptable length for a blog entry to delineate. (Any comprehensive legislation will be much, much longer still). So what's my point if not to share my own perspective here in lengthy detail?
This. Above all, both the CRCNA (as a denominational agency for its members/churches) and CRCers would do well to avoid the partisan rancor. No, this doesn't mean CRCers should avoid sharing their mind with their legislative representatives, even President Trump if they like, but coming out blasting (or exaggerated) as to just some aspects of the immigration challenge, but not others, may well be counter-productive—for everyone. And second, we should all remind ourselves of how complex this political subject matter actually is (and it is), and then consider this rule: the more complex a political matter is, the less strident one should be about advocating for positions as to only some parts of the problem. There is good reason we denominationally starting out supporting comprehensive immigration reform.
And finally, I'd suggest praying for those who have the buck-stops-here authority and responsibility to find solutions to these kinds of problems (immigration being only one of them). That would include your legislative representatives (even the ones you didn't vote for), but others as well. It would even include the president, whatever you think of him, and his agents like Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, whatever you think of her, among others. If the thought of praying for any of these seems too distasteful, take it as a sign that the need for doing it is greater.
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Thx Doug, I wish everyone would visit the website you suggested! It answers a lot of questions about immigration and how to approach it! Incidentally, praying for people you don’t agree with is more of a motivation to me!
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