Evangelicals launch radio blitz to sway GOP Texans on immigration reform

Published on August 22nd, 2013

By Gary Martin, [email protected]
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Houston Chronicle

An evangelical group has launched a million-dollar radio advertising blitz to sway Republican House members to support immigration reform with a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Evangelical Immigration Table announced Tuesday that they would increase their ad buys on Christian and talk radio by $400,000, raising the total of expenditures $1 million.

The ads target lawmakers in 56 congressional districts in 14 states – including GOP members in Texas and California.

“Right now members of Congress are home for the August recess, listening to what their constituents want for the rest of the year,” Barrett Duke, president for policy with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“We support broad immigration reform, without delay,” Duke said.

Immigrant rights supporters have turned up the heat on lawmakers this summer as Congress spends its time back in congressional districts to meet with constituents about pressing issues.

Likewise, conservative groups and those opposing increased immigration limits are conducting campaigns to pressure lawmakers to vote against increased immigration levels and citizenship.
Many evangelical groups often align with Republicans on social issues.

But the Evangelical Immigration Table has joined with a centrist coalition of groups representing law enforcement and businesses who seek a more humane immigration system and one that would allow those here illegally to gain citizenship.

“There are so many children in our community who fear their parents will be deported,” said Mike McClenahan, pastor of the Solana Beach Presbyterian Church in California.

He joined other pastors, including Dr. Stan Coffey, senior pastor of The Church at Quail Creek in Amarillo, and Felix Cabrera, Hispanic pastor for Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, in taping radio ads to be aired in congressional districts.

The ads are running over a two-week period and at saturation levels, Duke said.

Cabrera said he decided to participate, because “through the ads I could be the voice for those who were voiceless.”

He said his Oklahoma City congregation includes immigrant families who have become the “collateral damage of our broken immigration system.”

A Senate bill passed in June has bipartisan support for a 13-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, as well as a $46 billion border security that would double Border Patrol agents and erect border fencing.

The House is taking a more piecemeal approach, eyeing bills that focus on border security, law enforcement and expanding an electronic employee verification program for all businesses.

None of the House bills includes a path to citizenship, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said this week his committee would not entertain citizenship proposals.

Republicans in the lower chamber, meanwhile, are being pressured on the political right and left on the citizenship issue.

Opponents of citizenship have called citizenship an amnesty that would reward law breakers.

And groups like NumbersUSA, which advocate lower levels of immigration, are targeting lawmakers who support citizenship in conservative districts with telephone calls and advertising.

Evangelical Immigration Table, meanwhile, have signed up 60,000 people for a grassroots effort called “Pray for Reform,” designed to reach out the wavering or uncommitted lawmakers on immigration reform.

In addition, the $1 million ad campaign is running in 14 states to convince lawmakers in these states that when they will return to Washington they have support at home for reform legislation that includes an earned pathway to citizenship.

The 12 lawmakers targeted in Texas include: Ted Poe, John Culberson, Kevin Brady, Michael McCaul, Randy Weber, Pete Olson, Sam Johnson, Joe Barton, Pete Sessions, Mac Thornberry, Bill Flores and Blake Farenthold.

Farenthold was targeted by immigrant rights groups earlier this month with a petition drive and rally at his Corpus Christi office.

In a twist, Farenthold’s congressional office notified local Republicans who showed up to counter and disrupt the rally, drawing national headlines.

In California, considered a key battleground in the immigration reform debate, eight lawmakers are being targeted by the Evangelical Immigration Table ads.

Those lawmakers include: Doug LaMalfa, Paul Cook, Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy, Buck McKeon, Gary Miller, Ed Royce, Darrell Issa.

McCarthy backs legal status but has stopped short of supporting citizenship for the undocumented immigrants.

The House Majority Whip, McCarthy is being targeted in TV ads by a group opposed to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, Californians for Population Stabilization of Santa Barbara.

In addition to Texas and California, other states where the ads will be aired include: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

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