Growing Common Ground Between Liberals and Conservatives on Immigration

More religious conservatives are getting on board for comprehensive immigration reform.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

Is the idea of common ground between liberals and religious conservatives a pipe dream? Not when it comes to one of the major goals of President Obama's first term: immigration reform.

My most recent God & Country column in U.S. News Weekly tracks an effort by some powerful evangelical conservatives to build support for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for many undocumented workers. Here's the top:

Despite President Obama's talk of dialing down the culture wars, including a pledge to provide a "common ground" approach to abortion, his administration has little to show for the effort. Abortion foes have spent months alleging that Democratic healthcare reform proposals include taxpayer-funded abortion coverage that undermines the president's vow to keep reform abortion neutral. "All the bills that have come through committee so far increase abortion coverage," says Galen Carey, chief lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals.

And yet, many prominent social conservatives say the administration can still find common ground with evangelicals and other conservative religious constituencies. Rather than revolving around abortion, however, the opportunity is on another thorny issue: immigration. Many of the same faith-based groups attacking Obama and the Democrats over healthcare reform's abortion provisions, including the National Association of Evangelicals, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, are poised to become major players in the president's coming push for comprehensive immigration reform, which would include a path to citizenship for many illegal immigrants. "There is a strong biblical teaching about showing hospitality to the stranger and the alien," says Carey.

One reason the president and his party have better odds at winning over religious conservatives on immigration than on abortion is that some influential evangelicals have changed their thinking on a path to citizenship for illegals. That includes some evangelical groups and figures who sat out President Bush's unsuccessful 2007 push for comprehensive reform or opposed the effort outright. "There has been a significant shift among evangelical leaders who view the immigration reform debate as an important measure of their [Christian] witness," says Michael Gerson, who was Bush's chief speechwriter and is a fellow at the Institute for Global Engagement (and a former U.S. News staffer). Indeed, the National Association of Evangelicals, the nation's largest evangelical group, representing 30 million Americans, avoided 2007's immigration debate because its members were divided on the issue. But recently, the NAE passed a unanimous resolution backing comprehensive immigration reform.

Read the rest here.