By John Mark Boes
In the middle of a Washington, D.C., snowstorm in November, leaders representing businesses, law enforcement and religion gathered to discuss how best to reform our current broken system and to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform on Capitol Hill. Immigration reform was examined through three separate lenses: the American electorate, the American economy, and American ideals.
The Evangelical Immigration Table held its annual convening on the first day. Participants heard from a diverse group of speakers representing denominations, churches, faith-based organizations and universities. Much of the discussion centered on ministry to immigrants and how religious organizations can make an impact in the immigration debate. The National Immigration Forum convened the next day for a conference entitled “Leading the Way: an American Approach to Immigration.” This group includes members of the Bibles, Badges, and Businesses Network, which connects faith, law enforcement and business leaders to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform.
I had the distinct privilege of sitting with Mark Prosser, the Director of Public Safety for Storm Lake, Iowa. Storm Lake is a small town of about 10,000. According to Prosser, the town is wholly uninteresting save for the fact that Tyson Foods operates a large plant in Storm Lake. Storm Lake has undergone a drastic shift in population demographics over the last 18 years as more immigrants have relocated there to work in the plant.
Storm Lake, like many other towns in the United States, is changing. Prosser rightly realized that protecting these new arrivals to his town was his job. This is why Prosser connected with the Bibles, Badges, and Businesses Network of the National Immigration Forum
The National Immigration Forum presented the Courage to Lead Award to Senator James Lankford (R – Oklahoma) and Senator Michael Bennet (D – Colorado). Their work together stands in marked contrast to the partisan vitriol we have come to expect from our politicians. However, Lankford and Bennet both expressed a deep desire to compassionately reform our immigration system while extolling each other for their commitment to buttressing the very idea of an American immigration system.
While political divisions remain, consensus is growing for immigration reform. Scott McConnell of Lifeway Research shared the results of a 2015 study that showed 61% of Evangelicals supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The number is growing.
Leaving Washington, D.C., I felt a deep sense of thankfulness for advocates in Fellowship life that have dedicated time to speaking up for the immigrant among us. I am thankful for law enforcement officers such as Mark Prosser who not only seek to protect members of their community, but take the time to step up and fight for immigration reform. I am thankful that the National Immigration Forum exists to argue for a better way forward. I am thankful for the work of Fellowship Southwest ministering to immigrants along the border. I am thankful that CBF is a national leader advocating for justice for immigrants and refugees.
As we near Christmas, let us remember that the post advent journey in Scripture is harrowing, at times, for the holy family. My prayer for us is that we remember the harrowing journey and seek to protect the immigrant in our midst.
John Mark Boes serves as the Partnerships and Advocacy Specialist for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.