Can Evangelicals save Obama's immigration reform?

Just as everyone has written off immigration reform, it looks like President Obama will get an unlikely assist from the Religious Right

Could Evangelicals help Obama win the immigration battle?
(Image credit: Getty)

If by some miracle an immigration bill passes this year, President Obama will have an unlikely ally to thank: Evangelical Christians. While Congressional Republicans oppose such a bill nearly unanimously and Democratic support has wavered, Evangelical leaders are prominently backing Obama's effort, partly due to their growing solidarity with politically active Hispanic Evangelical pastors. And, unlike their Catholic, Jewish, and mainline Protestant counterparts, Evangelical leaders have pull with Republicans. Can the Religious Right save immigration reform?

Their plan is intriguing: "Comprehensive reform won’t get passed without some Republican support," says Elise Foley in The Washington Independent, and the Evangelicals have a decent plan: "Encourage a few lame-duck Republicans to join Democrats and pass a 'morally right' immigration bill after the midterm elections." That said, Religious Right leaders will inevitably withdraw their support if the bill includes "provisions to ease immigration for gay and lesbian couples."

"Evangelical leaders support immigration reform — as long as it doesn't include gay rights"

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Same story, different year: This same story could have been written three years ago, the last time "amnesty-for-illegals" was on the agenda, says Clay Waters at the Media Research Center. In fact it was, citing some of the very same "religious conservatives." They failed then, and they'll likely fail again, despite the "appearance of momentum."

"Christians: Surprising allies... just like they were three years ago"

This is too big for Evangelicals to drop: One of the Evangelical leaders' "greatest challenges" is "persuading their own flocks," say Josh Gerstein and Ben Smith in Politico. And perhaps their "edgier or more novel arguments" — such as "Mexicans are Christians, not Muslims" — will "break through" eventually, even if not this year. But their flocks are also why they'll try again: "Latino immigrants, legal and illegal, represent fertile prospects for proselytizing."

"Churches eye immigration's upside"

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