Focus on the Family president comes out in favor of immigration reform

Focus on the Family President Jim Daly has signed onto a document embracing immigration reform, joining more than 100 evangelical leaders in saying that illegal immigrants should be given an opportunity to become citizens. The coalition will run ads on Christian radio stations in the battleground states of Florida and Colorado encouraging people to welcome immigrants.

A core group of conservative evangelicals--including Southern Baptist Convention leader Richard Land, National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson, and Liberty University Law School Dean Matthew Staver--has been advocating for immigration reform for several years, but the Colorado-based radio ministry Focus on the Family has never before formally joined in. The coalition is releasing an "Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform" Tuesday at a press conference in Washington. The statement--signed by more than 100 evangelical leaders--will then be delivered to the House and Senate.

"I think it's really going to give some new energy to the movement," NAE spokesman Galen Carey says. "Our focus is not just addressing ourselves to politicians but to our own communities and encouraging all evangelicals to take a serious look at the issue from a biblical and pastoral and human perspective."

White evangelicals made up half of Republican primary voters in the first 14 primary states this cycle. But it remains to be seen if the high-profile evangelical leaders' support for immigration reform will rub off on the flock. A poll by the Public Religion Research Institute in 2010 found that half of white evangelicals favor deporting illegal immigrants. Although most Latinos in America identify as Catholic, 10 million of them are evangelicals, and that number is growing.

Daly took the reins of Focus on the Family from James Dobson in 2010. Daly said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal at the time that he wanted the organization to have a broader focus, beyond opposing abortion and gay marriage, and said that families were being "torn apart" by the country's enforcement actions against illegal immigrants. Daly said he wouldn't endorse candidates as Dobson had done, and wasn't sure yet how he would use the organization's $10 million political action budget.

"I signed on to this statement because immigration reform is more than an 'issue' to families—it profoundly affects their stability, structure and quality of life," Daly said in a statement. He said the immigration resolution says "our government must respect and balance both the rule of law and the God-given humanity of all people in working toward an immigration solution that puts principles ahead of politics."

"We call on Republicans and Democrats alike to set aside their party agendas and work together for the public agenda and the common good," Daly said.