Principles for Immigration Reform

Greg Strand – June 20, 2012 1 Comment

Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform

From the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) website:

At a time when immigration has become a partisan talking point for campaigns on both sides of the aisle, these Christian leaders are uniting to call on Democrats and Republicans to lead our nation to a bipartisan solution on immigration.

Evangelical leaders formally announced the creation of an “Evangelical Immigration Table” to advance a cohesive immigration reform message and strategy while building political will in the pews. The “Table” was more than one year in the making and represents an unprecedented coalition of evangelicals from diverse political and theological backgrounds. The leaders made the case that humane immigration reform should be a moral priority and told stories of how concerted outreach to evangelical churches and colleges is already shifting opinions on immigration reform among the evangelical grassroots.

This is the heart of the brief document.

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

This is a good document for what it sets out to do. The strength of this document is its brevity; the weakness of this document is its brevity. That simply is the way it works. If the document would have become much longer, it would not be as useful. As it is, the concern and criticism is that it is too simple. However, remembering its intent, it must be read as general principles, not specifics. It is these general principles that ought to frame the specific outworking of immigration reform.

Joe Carter, “Evangelical Leaders Call for Immigration Reform” (June 15, 2012): , is one who affirms the evangelical leaders for their attempt to find bi-partisan agreement and for their commitment to provide a framework by which evangelicals ought to process this issue. But his concern is that it is “too vaguely worded to be of use as a guiding document on actual policy.” My guess is that most evangelical leaders who drafted and have since signed this document would agree. But this limitation does not negate the importance and usefulness of these principles.

Greg Strand


Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

One response to Principles for Immigration Reform

  1. (Email reply from Alejandro Mandes, director of EFCA Hispanic Ministries used with permission.)

    Brother Greg thank you for bringing attention to the “Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform.” I was proud to be one of the lesser signers and even more proud to see my captain sign as a denominational leader. Greg I thought I would add my comments to your post. On a small side note I read Joe Carter’s article and wanted to dialogue on an problem he saw in reconciling one of the principles. Carter argues that we can’t hold to points 1-5 and then also point 6 which essentially asks for a path for “legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify.”
    • 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
    Brother Carter says that if we give the 12 million undocumented amnesty (not that it is amnesty but that is quibbling) we have to give it also to the 4 million who are now in line. He says that would be more than the people who went through Ellis Island. The fact of the matter is that not all of the 12 million want citizenship. The six principles advocate for a “legal status” not just citizenship. A key and important point is that many just want to work (mind you I fully acknowledge that even this is against the current law…not to mention the people who hire them) Many are not looking for citizenship. They have homes where they came from and will go back when they can. The typical stay before the economy tanked was two years. Under Bush’s and Obama’s “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” (CIR) bill there would be a generous “Guest Worker” program that grants workers “legal status.” Brother Carter fails to distinguish that key point. Legal status is a broader category than just seeking a track to citizenship.

    I grew up in Laredo and saw this revolving door. People went back easily under these guest worker programs because they could come back later. I worked with a migrant missionary program in North Dakota where many of the farmers loved their guest workers. They would keep in touch all year. More recently I pastored a church where five undocumented came to stay with a sister in the church. They worked a year to save up money to start a carpentry shop to augment the farm business that was killed by NAFTA and then went home to their families. As a church we didn’t violate the law by hiring them but neither were we required to turn them in. It was a hardship for them to be away from their families. Several decades ago America had a robust guest worker program (called the brazero program for agricultural workers) that was shut down. Under CIR these workers would work a year or two and then must step out. Few people honestly wants these 12 million deported because our economy would suffer but our system is failing even our own agriculture economy by not making sane immigration decisions.

    Carters’s thinking can be typical of evangelicals who quote half of the information and then let their bias show. These 140 Evangelical signors are very thoughtful people who have really thought these principles out. The sad thing is that while we really don’t want to remove them neither will we give them legal status (guest worker or citizenship pathway). Last year I spoke to an undocumented mother who was cleaning a house and caring for her six year old daughter.
    The man of the house fondled the child and told the mother he would turn her in if she told on him. She could do nothing to protect her child. The status quo is neither good for us or for them.

    Leaving the issue with brother Carter and speaking to the immigration conundrum we must also see this is a great Gospel opportunity. These people are in the midst of great pain and shame…albeit self inflicted. These are great opportunities for sharing the hope of the Gospel. I am so thankful for the Heritage Committee, Greg, Bill and the EFCA doing just that in point 8 of our SOF – “compassion toward the poor and justice for the oppressed.” I am so proud of that and point that out to as many people as we can. Brothers and sister this is the SAMERICAN community that we must reach here in America. (Samerica is a mission field here in America….when Samaria does not wait for us to come to them but comes to us). Lets not allow people to reduce this to merely a political thing. It is a Gospel endeavor. Bonhoeffer well said that the church must speak into the domain of human government. That is what these 140 evangelical leaders are doing. Rarely do we see 140 evangelical leaders agree about anything…maybe it should scare us. We of the EFCA must add the component that is our component to this conversation…transforming people by the work and working out of the Gospel. By this we will transform America. I am truly excited about what God is doing. We must have an eye to transforming communities for that is where the great commission is played out.
    I Timothy 2:1-2 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
    Again I am so thankful for the Heritage Committee, Greg, Bill and the EFCA doing just that in point 8 of our SOF – “compassion toward the poor and justice for the oppressed.” Please do not be fooled into thinking this is merely a political thing. We must speak into human government. Not as donkeys or elephants but as saints seeking to have His will transforming earth to reflect heaven. Samerica is there for the taking. Samerica will not be taken by laws written by men but by the passionate proclamation of the Gospel and seeing it transforming our human and church domains. I propose we go up and take them for Jesus!

    Viva la EFCA, Viva Samerica!

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