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Christian conservatives make case for immigration reform

The debate over immigration has brought together some unlikely political partners.

The debate over immigration has brought together some unlikely political partners. Many prominent Christian conservatives, usually aligned with right-leaning policies, have joined the chorus of groups calling for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Attorney Mathew Staver, a high profile anti-abortion leader who wrote a book arguing against gay marriage, says immigration is a matter of family values. “The best way forward is to give opportunity to those illegal or undocumented immigrants who are living in the shadows to come out and participate in the American dream. I think that has to include a pathway to citizenship,” he told The Cycle hosts Thursday. Staver is the dean of Liberty University School of Law, the school founded by former televangelist Jerry Falwell.

Staver says he is working with pastors, church leaders, organizational leaders, and members of Congress in pushing for reform.

An ABC/Washington Post poll last month recorded 55% of Americans supporting a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, while 41% opposed it.

“For us to say that you can come out of the shadows but you don’t have an opportunity as a citizen really is the wrong message, and I think it’s contrary to our values,” he said. “It’s against our history as a country that has had open arms for our immigrants.”

Last month, a dozen evangelical groups launched a 40-day “I was a stranger” campaign,” which asked pastors to read Bible verse about immigrants, according to Politico.

The day after the November election, Staver wrote a letter for the Liberty Counsel that said, “We grieve today like we have lost a friend or a close relative. Millions of Americans looked evil in the eye and adopted it.” But on The Cycle, he said the election also caused “a sea change” in support of immigration reform from some of his peers.

“That didn’t cause me to have a change in position. It just simply confirmed what I already believe is true, both from a biblical standpoint and a practical standpoint and a moral and family position as well,” he said. Staver blamed Mitt Romney’s poor showing among Latino voters on the Republican candidate’s sometimes harsh answers to debate questions on the issue.

Staver also scolded both sides for making immigration an issue of “political ping pong,” and pointed to previous support from George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan to demonstrate that the discourse wasn't always so partisan.

Last month, the socially conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition quoted scripture in a statement of support for immigration reform, calling it an issue related to family, respect for the law, the economy, and a secure border.

“The Bible instructs God’s people to show compassion and love for the foreigner and the immigrant,” it said. “We believe the faith community has much to contribute to this discussion. Immigration reform is not only an economic and national security issue; it is a moral issue that is best advanced by applying principles from Judeo-Christian tradition.”