After House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama met privately this week, the Speaker identified immigration as a potential area for legislative cooperation. That may please Catholic and evangelical elites who started a new lobbying campaign to move stalled immigration legislation.
At a briefing for reporters, Boehner was asked to identify one possible area of cooperation with the White House. Boehner said, “Immigration — we had a very good, very healthy conversation on immigration.” Reporters asked Boehner to elaborate, but he only said, “You asked a question and I gave you the answer.”
Boehner had not met with Obama for over a year, so reaching common ground has some significance, even if it does not produce results in the short-term. It’s a reminder that immigration is a priority for Boehner, either now or in another Congress.
The leaders of Catholic and evangelical groups started a cooperative effort this week to spur movement on immigration legislation in the House. They join the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and business groups, which just launched a similar initiative.
Leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and evangelical leaders sent House members a letter saying: "Common-sense fixes to our immigration policies are long overdue…We are hopeful for reform legislation that respects the God-given dignity of every person, protects family unity, respects the rule of law, guarantees the integrity of our national borders, ensures fairness for taxpayers, and makes it possible for undocumented immigrants who meet the requirements to become citizens if they desire.”
Although the letter targets all House Members, those in the GOP received special attention on a conference call religious leaders held to discuss the effort. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said that older evangelicals may be aligned with the Republican Party, but Republicans risk alienating younger evangelicals by opposing reform. "These young voters, who are increasingly concerned about justice issues, are the activists," he said.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said “It is morally reprehensible and counter to the teachings of Christ to continue to sacrifice 11 million lives on the altar of political expediency. As Evangelicals, we join our Catholic brothers and sisters in affirming our conviction that this is the time to reconcile border security with the security of our values…The consequences [of inaction] are both moral and political.”
Starting this weekend, Hispanic evangelical pastors will ask churchgoers to call House Members to demand passage of a comprehensive amnesty bill. The effort is being organized by the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which has 34,200 member churches.
The elite evangelicals' push for a comprehensive amnesty is in sharp contrast to the views of rank-and-file evangelical voters, according to a NumbersUSA-sponsored poll. By a 4-1 margin, evangelicals were more likely to say the government has "a lot" of moral responsibility to protect struggling Americans from having to "compete with foreign workers for jobs" than to say the responsibility is to protect the ability of "settled illegal immigrants to hold a job and support their families without fear of deportation."