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Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 1:01pm

Georgia Evangelicals Pressure Congress To Pass Immigration Bill

Congress is just days away from its Christmas break. A national coalition of evangelical Christians that includes pastors in Georgia is still pressing Washington lawmakers to address immigration. And the evangelicals remain hopeful a bill will pass soon.

The Evangelical Immigration Table will run newspaper ads this month in North Carolina and Texas.

Aimed at House Speaker John Boehner, they read, “We’re praying for you, Speaker Boehner.”

With these ads, the group of pastors has invested $1 million in the issue.

Pastor Cynthia Hale of Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur appeared in ads earlier this year.

And she says while the focus is often on Latino immigrants, the issue speaks to her church because of its many African and Caribbean members. And that brings the issue home for Georgia’s large Black population.

“African-Americans are speaking up to say you know, ‘While we are concerned about our Latino brothers and sisters, it is an issue not just for brown people but for black people as well’," she said. "And so the issue is larger.”

She and other evangelicals say any reform must include a path to citizenship for people here illegally because it’s the moral thing to do.

The U.S. Senate has passed an immigration overhaul but it hasn’t come to the floor of the House. Despite Congress’s lack of action, Georgia’s evangelical leaders remain hopeful a bill will pass, although it may not be until the first quarter of 2014.

Tim Isaacson, a minister in Chamblee and a member of the group, says the group believes immigration reform is within reach.

“That wasn’t true a year ago. That wasn’t true earlier this year,” he said. “So I think there’s real hope, especially as evangelicals have stepped in and taken one small piece of this puzzle, they have, I think, been able to sit down with conservative lawmakers and talk about where the integrity is with conservative values.”

Barrett Duke with the Southern Baptist Convention agrees. He says the evangelical support has been a “game changer” for this issue. He said conservative Christians have been watching the debate on this issue for many years and he said, “it’s driven us to our Bibles.”

There, he said, evangelicals have been reminded that Christian philosophy advocates not only following laws but also showing compassion.

Duke echoed the general consensus, saying a bill will pass, albeit not before the Christmas break. He says the House leadership has made the commitment.

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