Evangelical groups launched a radio ad campaign on May 30 to boost support for the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill. In a $250,000 campaign, ads ran in 13 states and included billboards dispersed throughout these areas. The ads are a final effort from pastors who support ongoing efforts to increase border security and urge Congress to change the country’s broken immigration system. Pastors spoke in Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission beginning on June 1, noted that evangelicals participated in the fight for immigration reform because they wanted to see immigrants who did not have citizenship get the chance to become members of the U.S.
“Our involvement signals the fact that we don’t see this as a blue state, red state, culture war question,” Moore said. “When you have people of courage and goodwill, such as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is heroically working to craft legislation that is fair and just, I think it’s very difficult to pigeonhole this into the easy left-right categories we’re accustomed to.”
Religious supporters of immigration reform plan to gather in their communities to pray for an equal path to citizenship, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The source also said that billboard ads reading “Praying for Immigrants, Praying for Congress” are on display in Sen. Marco Rubio’s office in Jacksonville, Fla.
“Evangelical Christians from across the country are putting their faith into action by praying for reform that keeps families together and provides an earned pathway to citizenship while also ensuring the safety of our borders – and also by urging our nation’s leaders to enact such reform this summer,” religious supports told the Tampa Bay Times.
While evangelicals are adamant about feeling compassionate for immigrants without citizenship, other conservatives note that an equal path to immigration is not going to be successful in the United States. Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, is particularly against the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill, saying the approach that religious groups are taking is “immoral.”
“They’re not offering one bit of compassion to the 20 million Americans who are unemployed,” Beck told USA Today. “It’s not moral leadership to do that.”
Although Rubio was part of the “Gang of Eight” legislation, he recently announced that the bill would not pass without changes, causing concern from some of its supporters. Reuters reported that Rubio’s office sent a note to Senate staff listing 21 concerns with the bill and ideas for changing the documents that he helped to write and formulate. Rubio’s position on the bill needs to be balanced delicately due to the need for support from both Democrats and Republicans in order for the bill to pass in the House of Representatives.
“Rubio is uniquely qualified to talk to conservatives about immigration reform,” Frank Sharry, head of the immigration advocacy group America’s Voice, told Reuters. “On the other hand, if he thinks now that he’s the face of immigration reform, that he’s going to drive this bill in a direction that makes it less palatable for the progressive coalition that created the political space for reform, it’s going to be a huge problem.”
Early supporters of immigration reform noted that Rubio needs to back up the bill that he was a part of writing, or risk fallout. While Rubio is trying to sell this immigration reform to both parties, some say that he is taking a highly critical approach to please conservatives, something that could lose votes for the legislation in the long run.