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Land: immigration speech ‘necessary’ step

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Obama called for the federal government “to fix a broken immigration system” in a July 1 speech that Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land commended as a necessary first step to reform.

Acknowledging Washington’s failure to deal with an issue that has led to an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, Obama called for continued work to secure the borders, increased enforcement of the law against employers who hire undocumented workers, and a series of requirements that people in this country illegally must meet to gain legal status.

The president rejected both “blanket amnesty” for and deportation of illegal immigrants. He also said the “legal immigration system is as broken as the borders” and needs reform.

Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, applauded Obama for a “bold and important speech.”

“There are some things that require presidential leadership, and the immigration issue is one of them,” said Land, who attended the speech at American University in Washington, D.C. “This speech by the president, in and of itself, will not solve the immigration crisis, but this speech was a necessary prerequisite to bringing about a fair and just solution to the immigration crisis that is rending the social fabric of our nation.

“In any marriage, you have to first have an initial proposal,” he said. “The president proposed this morning. It’s up to the Congress to now accept that proposal or to construct its own proposal and to bring forth a bill that will consummate the marriage. We need to call upon our congressmen and senators to behave like statesmen. Politicians think about the next election; statesmen think about the next generation.”

In his speech, Obama cited some of the same requirements Land has listed as necessary for illegal immigrants to gain citizenship or legal work status. The president said illegal immigrants must acknowledge they broke the law, register, pay a fine and taxes, and learn English.

Land, who supports comprehensive immigration reform, also has said illegal immigrants must undergo a criminal background check, pledge allegiance to the United States government and its values, serve a years-long probationary period and wait behind legal immigrants.

Land has called for the borders to be secured before other aspects of immigration reform go into effect. Obama indicated, however, he does not have such a requirement.

“[T]here are those who argue that we should not move forward with any other elements of reform until we have fully sealed our borders,” Obama said. “But our borders are just too vast for us to be able to solve the problem only with fences and border patrols. It won’t work.”

Land, who also has recommend a “biometric, tamper-proof Social Security card” for all workers, said, “The problem is always in the details, and I believe that any solution that will meet the fundamental requirement of being accepted by the American people will include securing the border first with measurable metrics that have been certified as met by the federal government in terms of stemming the flow of illegal immigration prior to the implementation of any program that would allow currently undocumented workers to begin a probationary pathway toward legal status, which would include going to the back of the line behind those who have been and are trying to come here legally.

“President Obama has laid out the groundwork for the beginning of an urgent conversation that must be taken up immediately to bring about a solution to this crisis so that we can begin to mend the social fabric, rather than continue to rend it,” Land said.

In 2006, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution on immigration that urged increased border security, enforcement of the laws, and judicious and realistic dealings with illegal immigrants, while encouraging Christian outreach to immigrants regardless of their legal status.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.