Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), is among a group of evangelical leaders calling on President Trump not to deport immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children and offered a reprieve by former President Obama.
President Trump will announce Tuesday what he intends to do with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. With a 2012 executive order, Obama offered young illegal immigrants who met certain criteria permission to temporarily live and work in the U.S. Those eligible for the benefits became known as “Dreamers.”
Moore, who serves on the Evangelical Immigration Table, said in a statement Wednesday:
It is long past time for Congress to work together to find a workable solution for our broken immigration system — especially for the hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to our country by their parents. Many of these Dreamers have stepped forward in good faith. Congress should respond with a legislative solution that delivers on the promises made to these men and women and protects them from perpetual uncertainty. Let’s pray for a fair solution that highlights both justice and compassion.
Other evangelical leaders involved with the Evangelical Immigration Table’s appeal to Trump and Congress included Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief; Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities; Hyepin Im, president and CEO of Korean Churches for Community Development/Faith and Community Empowerment; Jo Anne Lyon, ambassador and general superintendent emerita of The Wesleyan Church; and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to end DACA but as president has sent conflicting signals. Republicans are divided on the issue. Many of those against DACA argue that it is unconstitutional and opens the door to broader amnesty. In an op-ed for The Hill published Friday, Hans von Spakovsky and David Inserra of The Heritage Foundation wrote:
The U.S. government has for many years failed to faithfully enforce our immigration laws. This has inevitably encouraged more and more illegal immigration. DACA is the pinnacle of non-enforcement; not only does it protect illegal immigrants from deportation, it provides benefits that by law are reserved for American citizens and legal immigrants. Why come to the U.S. legally if you can acquire many of the same benefits by coming illegally?…The place to have the debate about what to do about illegal aliens who were minors when they came to this country is in the halls of Congress, not the White House. Failure to correct this overreach will only set a dangerous precedent that weakens our constitutional balance of powers.
In 2014, Obama created a similar relief program for parents of Americans and lawful permanent residents, but it was blocked by the courts.
Moore, in his role as head of the ERLC, the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, has routinely advocated for progressive immigration policies. His positions and his involvement with the Evangelical Immigration Table have been criticized by conservative Southern Baptists who say Moore does not represent their interests. In 2013, media reports revealed that a group that helped fund ads for the Evangelical Immigration Table is backed by leftist groups such as George Soros’ Open Society and the Ford Foundation.
Moore has also been criticized for downplaying social issues of importance to Southern Baptists, such as traditional marriage and the growing cultural hostility to it.
Last week, Moore was among the signers of the Nashville Statement, an evangelical declaration in support of traditional marriage that called homosexuality and transgenderism sinful. He offered a statement in support of the declaration for a Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) press release, but has not promoted the Nashville Statement on the ERLC website or Facebook page. Approved in Nashville at a meeting of the CMBW during the ERLC’s annual conference, the Nashville Statement has been the subject of national attention.
On Friday, the ERLC prominently featured a piece on its website by ERLC communications specialist Joe Carter that argued for continued benefits for DACA recipients. Carter wrote:
The ERLC has always called for a legislative fix to this problem and disagreed with President Obama’s decision to act unilaterally. But regardless of whether we feel the executive order should have been issued in the first place, thousands of young immigrants who are paying taxes and contributing to their communities stepped forward in good faith to correct a legal situation for which the should not be held responsible. They should be rewarded, rather than punished, for their attempt to comply with the law.
We now have the responsibility to work through this complex situation in a way that honors the rule of law as well as the biblical ideal of justice. The ERLC supports White House and Congressional cooperation to provide a solution for DACA recipients. We urge the White House and Congress to work together quickly to arrive at a solution for this special category of immigrants.