Opposition to illegal immigration is gaining a new place on the agenda of the Christian right, reports The Public Eye (Summer), a newsletter of the Political Research Associates, a left-oriented group monitoring conservative groups.
Judging by 2007 Values Voters Summit, which is sponsored by such key Christian right groups as the Family Research Council, proposals about border security and penalties regarding illegal immigrants received as much attention as abortion. But the focus on illegal immigrants at the 2007 Values Voters Summit represented a significant change from previous gatherings and statements of Christian right leaders, as they counseled moderation on the issue or remained silent.
The earlier stance was largely based on the fear that an anti-immigrant agenda would alienate the growing ranks of Hispanic evangelicals. But by January 2007, “the position of some prominent Christian right leaders hardened considerably, with the launch of the ‘Families First in Immigration’ campaign, which took a family values-friendly approach while also adopting a strong anti-immigrant stance,” report Tarso Luis Ramos and Pam Chamberlain.
But the shift to a more aggressive posture on illegal immigration is largely a matter of “shepherds following their flocks,” as the base of the Christian right is more friendly to anti-immigrant sentiments. Recent research, such as a 2006 survey by the Pew Research Center, has suggested that conservative white evangelical Protestants view immigrants as a threat to “traditional American customs and values.” Ramos and Chamberlain add that an anti-immigrant rhetoric was also often heard on Christian radio stations.
Anti-immigration groups have been happy to draw in a segment of evangelicals to their cause. But because some prominent anti-immigrant organizations carry undertones of support for eugenics, nativism, and antiCatholicism, the alliance between secular anti-immigrant groups and the Christian right may be an uneasy one.
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