More than 30 American business, civic, immigrant rights and religious organizations announced the formation of a coalition designed to pressure Congress and the White House to enact border security and immigration reforms in 2022.
The Alliance for a New Immigration Consensus, or ANIC, was unveiled during a March 2 virtual press conference and with a letter to U.S. House and Senate leaders demanding improved infrastructure, security and humanitarian practices at the border, and permanent legal protections for agricultural workers, Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status holders.
Alliance members, including the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, cited recent polling that confirmed most Americans, including white evangelicals, strongly support immigration policies that ensure a reliable workforce for employers and eventual citizenship for TPS holders and immigrants brought into to the U.S. as children.
The group also urged lawmakers and President Biden to act to enact reforms ahead of this year’s midterm elections.
“Our elected officials cannot continue to forego the opportunities that are before them to fix our nation’s broken immigration system,” said Jon Baselice, vice president of immigration policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “We’re here to get something done because, with the recent polling that’s been done, you can see there is a consensus that can be formed. The voting public is tired of the talk. They want action and it’s time for us to get something done.”
Much of the nation’s supply chain interruptions are caused by worker shortages that could be partially addressed through immigration reform, Baselice added. “If we can get immigration right, it would help solve these and other problems.”
It also would help if the U.S. immigration system reflected the moral and religious values that many Americans hold dear, Christian leaders said during the virtual announcement.
“Certainly, at the NAE we would affirm God has ordained governments to maintain order, and that would include systems that keep out those who would seek to do harm,” said Walter Kim, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. “But it also includes offering refuge for those who are fleeing harm. And we see this explicit concern for the immigrant repeated throughout the Bible.”
The Bible identifies immigrants, along with orphans and widows, as those especially vulnerable to mistreatment and therefore a population worthy of deep compassion for the church, Kim said.
The plight of Dreamers, and immigration reform as a whole, therefore are of significant concern for many evangelicals, he added. “We are commanded to protect those who are vulnerable and often Jesus paid particular attention to those who were most vulnerable.”
Recognizing the intimate connection between immigrants and Jesus — who once was a refugee himself — has compelled the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to join the alliance, said Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, chairman of the Migrant and Refugee Services Committee of the USCCB.
“In his own life, Jesus Christ often associated himself with newcomers and other marginalized persons. It is his face we see in Dreamers, undocumented agricultural workers and other immigrants.”
ANIC is a clear demonstration of the power interfaith and inter-organizational partnerships can have around a common cause, Dorsonville said. “For decades the Catholic bishops of the United States and members of the faithful across our country have been advocating for just and forward-looking immigration reform, a reform that recognizes the God-given dignity of every single person in our nation, citizens and non-citizens.”
Other faith-based members of the alliance include the National Latino Evangelical Association, the Asian American Christian Collaborative, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Immigration Table and World Relief.
The National Retail Foundation, the International Fresh Produce Association, the American Hotel and Lodging Association and the Idaho Dairymen’s Association are among the other business members of ANIC.
The National Immigration Forum, the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, the George W. Bush Institute and the Council on National Security and Immigration also are part of the alliance.
“Democrats and Republicans have an opportunity here to lead the way toward much-needed consensus,” said Ali Noorani, president of the National Immigration Forum. “Americans want their elected officials to come together and address their concerns about the ongoing economic recovery from COVID-19, persistent labor shortages and supply chain challenges, rising inflation and border security. Consensus-based immigration reforms can do just that.”
Noorani cited a survey conducted by the his organization and The Bullfinch Group that found 79% of registered voters currently support Democrats and Republicans working together to strengthen the border, offer citizenship to Dreamers and to provide a steady workforce for ranchers and farmers.
The survey also found that 84% of Democrats, 78% of independents and 76% of Republicans support such a bipartisan approach.
ANIC participants vowed to keep the pressure on Congress through immediate and determined lobbying efforts.
“Our voices are not going to go away. We are not going to go quiet into the good night because of inaction. In fact, we are going to get louder,” said Daniel Garza, executive director of The LIBRE Initiative, a Texas-based organization that seeks economic freedom for the U.S. Hispanic community.