Awareness To Advocacy
by Michelle Warren, M.P.A.
Many evangelicals who have walked alongside undocumented people and their families — serving meals, tutoring children, teaching English as a Second Language classes, visiting deportation centers, or giving legal aide — come to realize that the church can respond to tangible needs with mercy. They also come to realize that people who are outside the system are unable to confront unjust infrastructure issues that prevent them from becoming a productive part of American society. They need advocates who can be a voice for those who are unable to speak on their own behalf.
As a public policy issue, however, immigration needs a just solution — a proactive, out-in-front-of-the-problem solution. Numerous solutions have been presented to address federal immigration laws, but as many public policy gurus will tell you, good public policy solutions will not see the light of day without political will.
In today’s political landscape, it’s nearly impossible to advance productive, bipartisan solutions. Sounds depressing until you realize that political will can be shifted when you have a critical mass of constituents desiring movement. There is an entire group of constituents who have not formally weighed in on immigration — evangelical Christians. Immigration has been something of a blind spot for evangelicals, who have only recently joined the business community, law enforcement, and the broader faith community to engage this issue.
Learning about immigration and understanding our biblical mandate to love the immigrant is a great starting point, but it is certainly not the end. If we are to become true Kingdom-servants, we must move beyond awareness to engagement.
The Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT) is a grassroots movement pressing for change. The EIT is comprised of 140 national evangelical leaders representing churches and ministries across the country. Members are committed to talking with their congregations and supporters about immigration issues, teaching biblical mandates, and encouraging evangelical Christians to engage their elected representatives to ensure change will take place. On June 12, 2012, the EIT sent representatives to Washington, D.C., to present a letter to Congress and President Barack Obama asking for a stop to the current public policy stalemate and an end to the injustice of our country’s immigration system.
The EIT is gaining signatories daily. This national effort has brought about the resources to formally organize in Colorado and Florida. The group hopes to add more states over time as it has the necessary critical mass to motivate federally elected officials to implement policies to address immigration reform.
Advocacy can feel like a stretch for many of us who prefer to stop at learning about this issue or even reaching out to immigrants around us. But, in addition to a rich theology for loving immigrants, we have a rich theology to advocate for the voiceless as well.
Michelle Warren is an immigration policy specialist and the Colorado organizer for the Evangelical Immigration Table. She received her B.A. from Cedarville University and her M.P.A. from the University of Colorado. View the EIT’s statement and signatories at evangelicalimmigrationtable.com.
This article first appeared in the 2012 spring/summer Torch, a publication of Cedarville University. cedarville.edu/torch.