An immigration overhaul could attract non-germane amendments or ones expressly designed to derail the measure. A 2007 overhaul of immigration laws drew hundreds of proposed amendments and was eventually shelved after Senate leaders couldn’t come to agreement.
“I can guarantee you, there will be people pushing every variation of immigration reform legislation,” Kirchner said. “We’ll see what kind of behemoth this turns into.”
But Matthew Soerens, U.S. church training specialist for World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, said that more conservative-voting church- goers are beginning to view immigration in a new light, as their pastors and leaders have called for immigration reform.
“More and more evangelicals in the pews are asking what a biblical response to immigration issues looks like,” he said, adding that the Bible preaches respect for the rule of law, as well as treating immigrants with compassion.
His organization supports toughening border control, making it easier to immigrate legally and keep families together and setting fines for those who entered the U.S. illegally and then putting them on a path toward citizenship.
Soerens’ evangelical organization has ramped up its grass-roots outreach since the elections and plans to distribute bookmarks with references to 40 relevant biblical passages that it urges parishioners to read over 40 days.
But legislation addressing the already politically thorny issue may morph into a crucible for other socially charged topics.
Kevin Appleby, director of migration policy for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said his group is ginning up its grass roots and plans to work both sides of the aisle in support of a bill. “There is a moral argument to be made,” he said. “We have 11 million undocumented people living in the shadows, a lot of them work in this country as a permanent underclass. That’s not the American way.”
But Appleby will keep his eyes out for a policy that would create an immigration category for relatives of same-sex families, something the bishops oppose. That would “only complicate the situation. It’s an explosive mix,” he said.