“Love ye therefore the alien …

… and count his votes. Why white evangelical leaders are pushing comprehensive immigration reform.

… for you were aliens, (Deut. 10:19) and besides, we’re gonna need their votes.

That’s the deeply Biblical reason some non-Hispanic right-wing evangelical leaders are pushing hard for comprehensive immigration reform, according to Laurie Goodstein in Monday’s NYT.

The evangelical pulpit has been a reliable ally for the looniest part of the GOP, but the preachers don’t have to win Republican primaries, and some of them, such as Richard Land, can do the demographic arithmetic: if the Republicans, who have forfeited any claim on the African-American vote and are increasingly despised by the well-educated, lose the Latinos as well, then, in a country becoming less white and better educated, their political goose is cooked.

Moreover, those storefront iglisias pentacostales are largely run by hard-core gay-bashers, right-to-lifers, and “God wants you to be rich so taxes on the rich are sinful, and anyway the poor deserve their poverty” hustlers, who have been happy to team up with their English-speaking brethren. Now they’re presenting the bill for their services, and some of the evangelicals have enough morals to pay what they owe.

Naturally, there will be an attempt to use gay-bashing to split the pro-immigrant coalition, since the Latino evangelicals aren’t at all interested in allowing same-sex couples to benefit from immigration reform.

Ordinarily, I’d figure what’s good for the Christian Right is bad for the country. In this case, though, as conservative as the Protestant Latinos may be, they’re going to be a lot more use to the preachers than they are to Republican politicians. Even if the white evangelicals manage to peel off a few lame-duck Republican votes for immigration reform, Gov. Brewer and Tom Tancredo will make it impossible for any self-respecting Latino to vote Republican for another generation to come.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

7 thoughts on ““Love ye therefore the alien …”

  1. Where are you getting your numbers from in regards to the well educated increasingly hating the Republicans? I've heard similar things, but I was also under the impression it wasn't nearly as likely that they would be shut off from the this group's votes as they would be from the votes of minorities. But maybe that's just me confusing the well educated with independent-minded voters.

    I don't mean to seem like I am suggesting you aren't correct. I believe you are, but I'd like to see the numbers for myself.

  2. I am not convinced that this is quite correct. There seems to be a bit of the same conflation of illegal immigrants with "legal" immigrants with naturalized citizens. The former category is overwhelmingly Latino, although there are quite a few Irish, Chinese, Russian and other East European "illegal" immigrants. There is, obviously, a difference in how they enter the country. Majority of Latino illegals enter through the Mexican border, with smaller numbers arriving by sea (and these tend to be ethnically different categories). Similar distribution exists with "legal" immigrants, although the fraction of non-Latino immigrants is much greater. With naturalized citizens the proportions shifts further still, but the numbers are still dominated by Latinos, although some have entered as refugees (Nicaraguans and Cubans), some through standard quotas and some have gone through one of several "amnesties" that the teabaggers keep complaining about. These are the same methods by which non-Latinos immigrated and gained citizenship, although the proportions are somewhat different. However, this creates a schism between immigrant populations. Those who supposedly gained access through "legal" means–quotas and such–often oppose "illegals" in no uncertain terms. The same goes for various non-Latino groups, such as Russian Jews. A small number of these just see the new arrivals as unfair competition, but many just resent that the newbies failed to jump through the same hoops (e.g., bribing local officials) as they did. There is a much smaller undercurrent of those who arrived through illegal means yet oppose further illegal immigrants and a comprehensive immigration reform, ostensibly because of class differences. As bizarre as it seems, I would expect the majority of Latino evangelicals to fall into one of these groups and, therefore, support the GOP obstruction of immigration reforms. So, here's the bottom line–evangelicals know they can successfully recruit among immigrants, but these are not going to be, for the most part, illegal immigrants. In fact, their most successful efforts are likely to be directed at legal immigrants' teenage children (and this cuts across ethnicity and national origin), and among economically successful legal immigrants both pre- and post-naturalization. And these are more likely to be opposed to "illegals" and, therefore, oppose immigration reform. So, in the end, there maybe some moral reasoning left and the choice is not entirely pragmatic–something that I never thought I'd say about American evangelical churches. On the flip-side, the effect may not be as great because the natural constituents are not anti-Republican. And non-Latino, non-Asian immigrants, for the most part, do not represent a natural constituency for the evangelicals and they do align with Republicans because of their previous experience with what they consider to be the Left. The fact that Totalitarian Left is spiritually a lot closer to the GOP than it is to the Democrats does not bother them in the slightest.

  3. Buck – lots of interesting thoughts here that would be a lot easier to read and ponder if you used several short paragraphs rather than a wall of text. Just a thought for next time… thanks.

  4. Can I love the alien, but still insist that he stay in his own damned country, if mine has not chosen to legally admit him?

  5. "The evangelical pulpit has been a reliable ally for the looniest part of the GOP…"

    Since we're painting evangelicals with broad brushes, let's don't forget that the evangelical pulpit has been a reliable ally for the looniest parts of the DNC as well (think Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Jeremiah Wright, and Father Pfleger, who is technically Roman Catholic but spends more time on racist rants behind the evangelical pulpit than he does behind the Roman Catholic).

  6. In fairness, these operators have pastoral as well as political concerns. For good & bad, the relevant denominations are heavily represented in the areas of immigrant settlement. (E.g., Texas has the largest number of Southern Baptists, Land's group.) Protestant Latinos are diverse denominationally & politically. (Stereotypes of Mexican piety can mislead. There's a tacit political dimension, not entirely reactionary, in Mexican & Mexican-American Protestantism. It's been strong for a century & a half in the northern centers of Mexican capitalism: Nuevo León, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Tamaulipas.) The Anglo megachurches of Metro Phoenix are mostly nativists at prayer, the spiritual home of AZ's anti-immigrant & -Latino panic, esp. in the new exurbs (which sprouted ex nihilo in the desert during the housing bubble & are now in deep crisis), where the sermons run to topics like "Obama: Anti-Christ?" & "Jan Brewer = Esther." The struggle between pro- & anti-immigrant tendencies is also unresolved in the Mormon church (which is heavily invested, partly for arcane theological reasons, in Latin America.) It's far from clear how all this will shake out in the long run — religion can constrain white racial nationalism or sanctify it —, but in the meantime beggars can't be choosers.

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