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Exclusive: Focus on the Family's Jim Daly on a New Stance on Immigration Reform

By Sarah Pulliam Bailey on June 12, 2012
© Christianity Today

One of the most eyebrow-raising names to join a group of evangelical leaders to release an "Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform" was Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family. The group has usually shied away from the issue publicly, saying the organization is not an expert in the area. Last year, Christianity Today published a cover story on how the organization has taken a distinctly different tone and emphasis under Daly than it did under its founder, James Dobson. Previously, we have noted how evangelical groups were hesitant to take a stance on immigration, including Focus on the Family. For instance, the Family Research Council, which was founded by Dobson, does not have a representative on today's list.

However, several changes among leadership and priorities have paved the way for other leaders connected with evangelical institutions to take a stance. Other names included Max Lucado, Russell Moore, Margaret Feinberg, J.D. Greear, and Timothy George. Organizations included World Relief, Bread for the World, the Southern Baptist Covention's Ethics & Public Policy Center, Esperanza, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and the National Association of Evangelicals. Daly could not attend the gathering of several evangelical organizations on Tuesday, but longtime Focus staffer Tom Minnery will join the release. On Monday, Daly spoke with CT about why he signed the statement and what it means for the organization.

The statement you agreed to sign signals something new for Focus, is that right?

We've had a statement in the past but it's been for internal purposes mostly, and for people that have written us asking about our position. But it really said that we're not experts in immigration, we're concerned about families, but we don't really take much of a position on it..

I just felt—along with the board of directors here at Focus, who just met this week so the timing was perfect—that fundamentally all of us were concerned about the family issues related to this issue now. When you look at it, the immigration issue is not just a legal issue. We respect what needs to be done there and hopefully we can strengthen laws, enforce laws and do all the things that we need to do in that way, because it's important for a country to establish its borders and maintain its borders. But when you look at the family impact now and the stories we've received over the past year or two, it's pretty tragic what's occurring.

I was aware of stories here in Colorado of people who have been waiting in line for green cards and once they get their green card they're waiting seven, eight years for their immediate family members to be able to get into the country. And I put that in the context of my two boys, Trent and Troy, 11 and 9, and I think, if I were in their shoes, stood in line, got the card, worked here in the United States and it would take me seven years to get my kids with me? They would be going off to college and I would have missed their entire teen years. It just seems immoral that we don't come up with a better system to fast-track immediate family members who have gone through the process properly.

Specifically, are there any policy recommendations that either you or the policy side of Focus through CitizenLink might think about in light of signing this statement?

I think the best thing we can do—because in many ways we are not experts in this area—is provide principles, hopefully biblical principles, on what we see as appropriate behavior when it comes to immigration issues, for the Christian community in particular. We want to do what we can to help families come together. Obviously we want to be fair to the taxpayers and make sure that taxpayers aren't burdened with those costs. But we don't have specific policies. We're signing the NAE document because we think it's a good start for the Christian community to recognize the issue and join 100 or so cosigners from a broad spectrum of theological and political persuasions.

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