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Evangelicals take to Illinois airwaves to promote immigration reform

U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam R-Ill.  |  Charles Dharapak/AP

U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill. | Charles Dharapak/AP

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Updated: September 22, 2013 6:38AM



An evangelical group supporting comprehensive immigration reform is spending more than $400,000 on radio advertisements running in Illinois and 13 other states, featuring pastors asking listeners to contact their legislators and pray for reform.

With a Senate-passed comprehensive reform bill stuck in the House and facing stiff opposition from Republicans, the ad campaign targets Republicans in five congressional districts in Illinois and a total of 60 key members of Congress home for the August recess. The campaign also focuses on districts where a large number of evangelicals reside.

The Evangelical Immigration Table, a national group founded by heads of evangelical organizations that range from the conservative to the liberal, launched the ad campaign.

The ads running in Illinois feature Lynne Hybels, co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington.

“The lives of 11 million of our neighbors hang in the balance as Congress seeks to reform our immigration system,” says Hybels on the ad.

“The Gospel calls us as Christians to compassion and justice,” says Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, who joins Hybels on the ads. “I’m asking you to join a growing movement of Christians who are appealing to our political leaders for immigration solutions that respect each persons’ God-given dignity.”

The ad also asks for support of reforms that establish a path toward citizenship, protect family unity and the rule of law, guarantee secure borders and ensure fairness to taxpayers.

The ads send the message to legislators that they have support from the evangelical community at home for comprehensive reform, said Barrett Duke, a vice president with the Southern Baptist Convention. He spoke on a conference call announcing the ads Tuesday.

Others who spoke on the call said they’ve felt compelled to act because they’ve seen their church members, many of whom are undocumented, and others in their communities hurt by a broken immigration system. They also contended their stance is biblically based.

The radio ads are part of the Evangelical Immigration Table’s “pray4reform” campaign in which some 60,000 people have participated. To date the Evangelical Immigration Table has spent nearly $1 million on advertising and made numerous visits to legislators and their staffs. The latest ad campaign is its biggest ad buy yet.

The Republican congressmen whose districts have been targeted are: Peter Roskam in the western suburbs, Randy Hultgren in the west and northern suburbs, and Rodney Davis, John Shimkus and Adam Kinzinger downstate.

The group’s efforts also include an “I Was A Stranger” campaign, which encourages people to read one Bible verse a day and “listen to what God says about the immigrants among us.”

Representatives acknowledged evangelicals aren’t united on the issue and said they don’t know if they’ve won over any legislators. But the group has enabled members of Congress to hear from a broader range of evangelicals on the issue and made progress in educating evangelicals, they noted.

Still, the path toward passage of comprehensive legislation remains rocky. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said at a townhall meeting Monday that he rejects giving illegal immigrants a special pathway to citizenship and that he’ll do everything he can to ensure the House never takes up the Senate bill. He will proceed with individual bills, he said.

Contributing: AP

Email: fknowles@suntimes.com

Twitter: @KnowlesFran



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