- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 23, 2014

President Obama is selling his unilateral immigration package unveiled last week as, in part, a way to keep millions of families from breaking up.

But family-values groups, many of which focus heavily on keeping families together on matters such as refugee and asylum cases for home-schoolers, are rallying around one position: White House usurpation of the issue is wrong. Beyond that, there are differing views about solutions — and even contentment to let others fight that battle.

The conservative Family Research Council “does not take a position on immigration reform,” said senior vice president Rob Schwarzwalder. “We’ve got enough on our plate” dealing with such issues as life, marriage and religious liberty.

“However, we take a strong position on the Constitution: We believe in it,” Mr. Schwarzwalder said, which is why “conservatives have every right to be concerned, even alarmed” by Mr. Obama’s recent executive orders on U.S. immigration policy.

The “immigration accountability” orders, signed Friday, defers deportation of several million illegal immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens or longtime legal permanent residents, and young people who were brought into the country illegally as of 2010. Deportation efforts will instead focus on felons. In addition, the new policies will assist millions of illegal immigrants with employment.

Mr. Obama made the pro-family argument explicit in his speech Friday in Las Vegas defending his decision to act on immigration in the face of staunch opposition from Republicans in Congress.

“America’s not a nation that should be tolerating the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms,” the president said. “We’re a nation that values families, and we should work together to keep them together.”

But groups like the American Family Association (AFA) remained incensed over what they called “the president’s unconstitutional overreach.”

“This is not simply a matter of disagreeing with the president on immigration policy. It is a matter of the gross abuse and overreach of power by the White House,” AFA President Tim Wildmon said.

“The Constitution is very clear that the sole authority to establish immigration policy rests with Congress, not with the president,” said Mr. Wildmon who urged consideration of a suggestion by Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, that the Senate “withhold confirmation of nominees if the president proceeds with his plan.”

Penny Nance, chief executive and president of Concerned Women for America, said Friday that their stance on immigration is that “we must secure our borders and enforce the law” — and “we do not believe the president has constitutional authority to give temporary amnesty without congressional approval.”

“I think it’s important to note that the president and others have been using dog whistles to [call] evangelicals, by saying that undocumented workers must ‘get right with the law,’” said Ms. Nance. “It’s true and it’s clever, in that it appeals to our core belief in redemption and restoration.”

But the question is whose idea can make that happen, Ms. Nance said. “Eleven million people are God’s children and we must choose wisely and justly. But we must also be cognizant of national security and sovereignty.”

Among religious leaders, views on immigration reform are likely to not only continue, but harden, said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a Christian think-tank and religious watchdog organization.

Already, well-funded efforts by the Roman Catholic Church and mainline Protestant groups have tried unsuccessfully to expand political and religious support, especially among conservative groups, for mass legalization of illegal immigrants, Mr. Tooley said.

Those “hard-core” supporters of mass legalization are likely to stick with their views, he said. But conservative Christians, including those that have stayed away from the immigration issue, are likely to find Mr. Obama’s actions polarizing and even “solidify” their resistance.

A core question, Mr. Tooley asked Friday, is whether supporters of immigration reform will “look beyond” their objectives and see “the dangerous implications of unilateral presidential action.”

“Rule of law, nurtured by centuries of tradition, is part of what attracts immigrants to America and protects the poor and most vulnerable,” he said. “Can there be true biblical justice without it?”

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