A major Supreme Court ruling and a decision by President Barack Obama is scrambling the political and religious calculus of the immigration debate. On June 15, 2012, the president said he would stop deporting some immigrants who came to the country as children, and the high court’s ruling on a tough Arizona law came out on June 25, 2012.
Obama’s decision to stop deportations of illegal immigrants who were brought to the country as children but are now productive and law-abiding residents was a way for the president to circumvent the congressional stalemate over the DREAM Act, a bill to overhaul the immigration system.
But it also put immigration at the center of the presidential campaign, as presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney sought to offer a counterpoint to Obama’s plan without alienating the GOP base, which tends to favor immigration restrictions over reform.
This all comes as a Supreme Court decision is expected on an Arizona law that is a model for other tough state laws aimed at curbing immigration. The Obama administration argues that Arizona, and other states, are overstepping their boundaries with the measures. Depending on how the high court rules, the decision could halt hard-line state laws or encourage some states to adopt similar measures.
These recent developments are being keenly followed by religious groups, including evangelical organizations that represent a growing concern in that community with reaching out to immigrants.
Other elements that are shaping the debate:
- Immigration to the United States from Mexico has virtually stopped, and there may be some “reverse migration.”
- Asians have replaced Hispanics as the leading immigrant group to the U.S.
- The views of Americans toward immigration are much more positive than they have been in recent years.
- Births among minority groups, mainly Latinos, now outnumber births among whites – a result of immigration and birth rates.
This edition of ReligionLink provides background and resources on this evolving issue.
Developments: the Supreme Court decision
Arizona v. United States
See the Supreme Court of the United States blog’s comprehensive coverage of the Arizona v. United States case.
“If Supreme Court Backs Arizona’s Anti-Immigration Law, What Do Churches Do?”
Read a June 13, 2012, story at Ethics Daily about how the Arizona anti-immigration law affects churches and faith leaders.
“In Alabama, strict immigration law sows discord”
Read a May 30, 2012, article from Reuters about the continuing discord in Alabama as a result of the strict immigration law implemented there in 2011.
“Arizona immigration law: Supreme Court seems receptive to parts of crackdown”
Read an April 25, 2012, article from The Washington Post about the Supreme Court justices’ positions on the Arizona immigration law.
“Hispanic Churches Coping With Alabama Immigration Law”
A Feb. 8, 2012, article from the Christian Post cites declining numbers of worshippers in Alabama’s Hispanic congregations.
“Christian Leaders Sue Over Alabama Immigration Law”
Read an Aug. 2, 2011, article from the Christian Post describing Christian leaders’ decision to sue over the Alabama immigration law.
“Ala. governor rejects bishops’ immigration plea”
Read a Dec. 21, 2011, article from Religion News Service about the Alabama governor’s rejection of religious leaders’ pleas to repeal the immigration law.
“Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform”
In June 2012, a broad coalition of evangelical leaders unveiled an Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform, which was seen as an important step in solidifying faith-based support for reform.
“Exclusive: Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly on a New Stance on Immigration Reform”
In this June 12, 2012, interview, Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly tells Christianity Today why he joined a coalition of evangelical leaders supporting immigration reform when the organization has not taken a public stance on the issue in the past.
“Evangelicals press Congress on immigration”
Read a June 12, 2012, Religion News Service story about the influence of Evangelical activists on an immigration reform plan.
“Backing DREAM Act, USCCB campaign says Rubio bill would ‘create permanent underclass'”
Read a June 11, 2012, story at Catholic World News about the hierarchy’s opposition to an alternative immigration reform bill sponsored by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
“Bishops denounce ‘horrors’ suffered by immigrants in the West”
Read a May 31, 2012, article from the Catholic News Agency about the 2012 Regional Bishops’ Consultation on Migration, held May 28-30 in Santo Domingo, where bishops denounced certain states’ immigration laws.
“Group forms to back Md. Dream Act”
Read a May 23, 2011, article from the Washington Examiner about the coalition of religious groups forming to back Maryland’s version of the DREAM Act.
“Rubio: The new DREAM Act is about humanitarian relief, not immigration reform”
A May 10, 2012, article summarized Rubio’s position on immigration reform and the DREAM Act.
“Jews are world’s most migratory religious group”
A March 8, 2012, article from Religion New Service describes a study from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life that found that Jews are the world’s most migratory group.
“Will Immigration Slowdown Prompt a Bilingual Ministry Bust?”
Read a Jan. 19, 2012, essay in Christianity Today about the effect of decreasing immigration numbers on churches.
“Gospel Without Borders”
Gospel Without Borders, a documentary on immigration, was released by EthicsDaily.com, a division of the Baptist Center for Ethics.The film was produced primarily with funding from the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas but features religious leaders from various denominations.
“SBC’s Contentious Debate over ‘Amnesty’ for Undocumented Immigrants”
Southern Baptist delegates in Phoenix, gathered for the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, adopted a resolution on immigration June 15, 2011, after sharp debates and divided votes on amendments regarding amnesty and enforcement. Read about it in a story from Ethics Daily.
“Southern Baptists adopt ‘Gospel response’ toward undocumented immigrants”
Southern Baptist delegates in Phoenix, gathered for the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, adopted a resolution on immigration June 15, 2011, after sharp debates and divided votes on amendments regarding amnesty and enforcement. Read about it in a blog post from the Houston Chronicle.
“Immigration and the Gospel”
Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a June 20, 2011, column in The Christian Post, “Immigration and the Gospel,” that calls on evangelicals to be welcoming to immigrants.
“As Mormon Lay Clergy Are Deported, a Divide on Immigration”
Read a June 20, 2011, story at Religion Dispatches about the LDS Church’s position on immigration.
“Immigration: Church Issues New Statement”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on June 10, 2011, issued a statement saying that immigration reform was a job for the federal government and that the Mormon leadership “is concerned that any state legislation that only contains enforcement provisions is likely to fall short of the high moral standard of treating each other as children of God.”
“Harmful State Legislation”
Read a Jan. 24, 2011, statement from the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service saying the agency is “gravely concerned that the punitive immigration bills being considered by many state legislatures would contradict the biblical mandate to care for sojourners in our midst.”
Why it matters
Historically, the United States has been a nation of immigrants. It has also long been seen as a harbor for religious migrants seeking freedom of worship. That is why the Pilgrims first came to America and why immigrants of many other faiths still seek entry. Those immigrants continue to renew or transform American religion. But many argue that wide-open immigration, especially for non-Christians, is changing what is essential about the United States, including the nation’s foundational faith traditions. Consequently, the debate over immigration reform can be seen as a debate about American identity.
Background and resources
There are two constants throughout the debate: One is the push by religious groups to pass a bill, and the second is the fact that the issue will not go away. By some estimates there are as many as 11 million “undocumented” or “illegal” immigrants (the preferred adjective varies) in the United States, and experts say a strict law enforcement approach has not stanched the influx.
Promoting immigration reform and aiding immigrants are priorities for many religious groups, whose leadership has been deeply involved in the political debate. These faith communities often have different reasons for their positions. But for most, the immigration debate centers on shared religious principles of hospitality to the stranger, charity for the needy and justice for the oppressed.
When it comes to immigration, however, those views are not necessarily shared by worshippers in the pews. Americans consistently rank immigration reform as a top priority, but a strong majority of those who follow the issue want that reform to start with a law-and-order approach to illegal immigrants.
A complicating factor today is that many Republicans worry that if they oppose immigration reform now they may suffer politically in the future because of the growing presence and influence of Hispanics.
Meanwhile, some Hispanic leaders say that Obama and the Democrats must deliver on their promises to enact immigration reform if they want to retain Latino support. At the same time, unauthorized immigration is dropping markedly, according to recent research.
References for further research
“Get the Facts on the DREAM Act”
The White House website has a fact sheet on the DREAM Act laying out the arguments for the legislation.
“U.S. Unauthorized Immigration Flows Are Down Sharply Since Mid-Decade”
An analysis released Sept. 1, 2010, by the Pew Hispanic Center shows the annual influx of undocumented immigrants to the United States was nearly two-thirds smaller in the March 2007 to March 2009 period than it had been from March 2000 to March 2005.
“Unauthorized Immigrant Population: National and State Trends, 2010”
The Pew Hispanic Center has a map (2011) of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. with state-by-state data.
“President Obama calls for immigration reform, including path to legalization for illegal immigrants”
President Obama pushed for immigration reform in a major speech July 1, 2010, at the American University School of International Service in Washington, D.C.
“Remarks by the President on Comprehensive Immigration Reform”
President Obama pushed for immigration reform in a major speech July 1, 2010, at the American University School of International Service in Washington, D.C. Read the official text of the address.
“Religious Leaders on Immigration Reform”
Read a July 21, 2010, discussion among religious leaders on immigration reform, hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations.
“Evangelical Leaders Unite on Just Assimilation Immigration Policy”
On May 11, 2010, an unusually broad range of evangelical leaders released a joint statement that calls for a “just immigration policy” that “begins with securing, not closing, our borders, one that provides a temporary guest-worker program, and one that offers a pathway for earned legal citizenship or temporary residency.”
“Evangelicals Find New Unity on Immigration”
Read a Religion News Service story about the Evangelical response to the Arizona immigration law, posted May 14, 2010 at the website of Christianity Today.
“Should immigration reform benefit gay couples, too?”
A post at USA Today‘s Faith & Reason blog explains how provision in some proposals to benefit same-sex immigrant couples could become a major stumbling block for certain religious groups.
“5 Myths about immigration”
Read a May 2, 2010, feature in The Washington Post by Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, who served as commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1993 to 2000.
“Uncertain status: 15 myths about immigration”
Read a column by an immigration lawyer at the website of the monthly magazine U.S. Catholics about the facts of immigration.
“Mormons on both sides in immigration controversy”
An April 30, 2010, Salt Lake Tribune article examines Mormons’ varying views on immigration reform.
“Is immigration reform a biblical imperative?”
Read a March 20, 2010, post at USA Today‘s Faith & reason blog about the influence of the Bible on people’s views of immigration reform.
“Immigration Debate Prompts Growing Jewish-Latino Ties”
Read a Jan. 27, 2010, story in The Forward about the emergence of a political alliance between Jews and Latinos.
Council on Foreign Relations-“Experts”
The Council on Foreign Relations has a web page listing a number of immigration experts and their contact information.
“Restriction or Legalization? Measuring the Economic Benefits of Immigration Reform”
The libertarian Cato Institute in 2009 released a study claiming that legalizing undocumented workers in the United States would bring an added $180 billion to the U.S. economy during the next decade, while only toughening laws and tightening borders would actually hurt American households economically.
“LifeWay Research finds outreach to first-generation immigrants succeeding, needs improvement”
Read about a 2009 study on churches’ outreach to first-generation immigrants in North America. LifeWay Research conducted the analysis for the North American Mission Board, the domestic missions agency of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Polls show that Americans generally want immigration reform but are concerned about the possible negative effects on immigrant families and on increasing the risks of bias against Hispanics in particular. Those concerns are balanced against a desire for greater border security, which is why there is general support for the Arizona law, for example.
“Slim Majority of Americans Would Vote for DREAM Act Law”
A Gallup poll released Dec. 10, 2010, shows that a slim majority of Americans polled, 54 percent, would vote for granting legal status to illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, which is the centerpiece of the DREAM Act.
“Poll Shows Most in U.S. Want Overhaul of Immigration Laws”
See a May 4, 2010, story about a New York Times/CBS survey on immigration.
“Americans Value Both Aspects of Immigration Reform”
See a May 4, 2010, analysis of a USA Today/Gallup poll about public opinion on immigration reform.
“More Americans Favor Than Oppose Arizona Immigration Law”
See an April 29, 2010, Gallup poll analysis of Americans’ views on the Arizona immigration law.
“Survey: Religion, Values, and Immigration Reform”
A March 2010 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found broad support across religious groups for comprehensive immigration reform and strong approval for clergy speaking out on the issue.
“Religious Leaders vs. Members: An Examination of Contrasting Views on Immigration”
In December 2009, the Center for Immigration Studies released results of a poll conducted by Zogby International. Among its findings: Many people of faith want overall immigration reduced, regardless of what their religious leaders are advocating on the issue. The findings drew criticism from the Public Religion Research Institute.
Pew Hispanic Center
The Pew Hispanic Center is part of the Pew Research Center. It researches the growing Hispanic population in the United States and works to understand its impact.
Gallup provides polling and analysis on dozens of pressing topics in the United States, many of which involve religion.
PollingReport.com offers a collection of polls on Americans’ opinions on politics and religion.
Religion angles on immigration
Since the history of the United States is largely the story of immigration, it is not surprising that the history of nearly every religious community in the United States, from Puritans to Muslims, is also a story of immigration. These are not static stories, either. Religious groups continue to be affected and even transformed by immigration. Mormonism, for example, is considered a “home-grown” American religion, and yet today much of the church’s growth is in the immigrant Latino community. The same holds true for Pentecostalism.
Yet many religious believers are at odds with their leaders on the immigration issue. Experts say economic anxiety — the fear that immigration costs resident Americans more in terms of jobs and higher taxes than it helps the economy — and fears of terrorism trump religious tenets on this issue. With that perspective in mind, here are story angles and sources on the various religious groups with a stake in the immigration debate:
The Interfaith Alliance is the national nonpartisan advocacy voice of the interfaith movement. Media inquiries can be submitted through a form on the alliance’s website.
Sojourners magazine is a progressive evangelical magazine in Washington, D.C. Its commitment is to faith in action for social justice. Jim Wallis is CEO and editor in chief of Sojourners.
Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights
The Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (ICIR) is an organization formed by California religious leaders to support the rights and fair treatment of immigrants. Rev. Deborah Lee is project director.
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights works to protect the rights of immigrants and refugees and to promote social and economic justice globally. Catherine Tactaquin is executive director.
National Immigration Forum
The National Immigration Forum advocates for the rights and integration of immigrants and works for productive immigration reform. Ali Noorani is executive director.
Faith in Public Life
Faith in Public Life is “a strategy center for the faith community advancing faith in the public square as a powerful force for justice, compassion and the common good.”
Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform is a campaign of Sojourners that educates and mobilizes Christian organizations, churches, and leaders from across the theological and political spectrum to advocate for comprehensive U.S. immigration reform and compassionate immigration policies at the state level.
The Gamaliel Foundation describes itself as a nonpartisan, faith-based organizing network of 72 affiliates in 26 U.S. states and five provinces of South Africa. The foundation is a leading advocacy group for comprehensive immigration reform.
Interfaith Immigration Coalition
The Interfaith Immigration Coalition is a group of faith-based organizations that work for immigration reform and justice. Its umbrella covers 500 national and local faith-based organizations and individuals and includes Mennonite, Jewish, Catholic, Christian, Quaker and Unitarian groups.
Among faith groups, the Catholic Church in the United States has always been one of the most vocal and prominent advocates for immigrants. Part of this is due to its size; with more than 65 million Catholics, the church is by far the largest single denomination, and that means the bishops’ views will be given a hearing. But that size is also due to the large and steady influx of Catholics from other countries in the past 200 years. Once it was the Irish and Italians and Eastern Europeans. Today it is immigration from Latin America and Asia that is reinforcing, and transforming, the Catholic Church.
Kevin Appleby is director of the Office of Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which works with both grass-roots Catholic groups and the bishops to advocate for immigration reform.
David Badillo is associate professor of Latin American and Puerto Rican studies at Lehman College at the City University of New York and author of Latinos and the New Immigrant Church, about the Catholic Church.
Jacques B. Doukhan
Jacques B. Doukhan is a professor of Hebrew and Old Testament exegesis and director of the Institute of Jewish-Christian Studies at Andrews University, a Seventh-day Adventist school in Berrien Springs, Mich. He is an expert in the area of the Sabbath.
The Rev. Jaime Soto is Chairman of Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church. The office focuses on a number of church ministries, including the pastoral care of migrants, refugees and travelers. He has commented on the importance of Hispanics to the Catholic Church in the U.S.
William Donohue is president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, an organization that is akin to a Catholic counterpart to the Anti-Defamation League.
Virgilio Elizondo is a professor of pastoral and Hispanic theology at the University of Notre Dame and a fellow at the Institute for Latino Studies and Kellogg Institute. He is widely considered the “father of Hispanic theology” and frequently comments on the intersection of Latino culture and religion.
Arturo Chavez is president of the Mexican American Cultural Center in San Antonio, Texas. The center is a leading advocacy group for Latino Catholics and immigrants.
Evangelicals are often, and mistakenly, viewed as a white, politically conservative bloc of loyal Republicans. But the influx of Latino evangelicals is helping to create splits and tensions among evangelicals in the United States.
Read a March 22, 2010, story at Christianity Today that discusses the changing demographic and political calculus for evangelicals.
Amy Bliss Tenney
Amy Bliss Tenney is an immigration legal services attorney for World Relief, the development arm of the National Association of Evangelicals. World Relief is involved with refugee resettlement.
The Rev. Leith Anderson is president of the National Association of Evangelicals and the former senior pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minn.
Galen Carey is vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals, an organization that has polled Americans on current event issues, such as gun control. Direct media inquiries to Sarah Kropp Brown.
Richard Land is president of the nondenominational Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, N.C., and previously served for 25 years as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. He has criticized conservative evangelicals who have spoken against or have remained silent on immigration and argued that the August 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, was driven, in part, by anti-immigrant rhetoric. Arrange an interview through the Kairos Co.
The Rev. Jim Wallis is a Christian author and commentator and the founder of Sojourners magazine, a periodical that tries to promote social change through Christian values. He has served on the White House Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and can comment on policies related to race, immigration and other religion-related issues. Arrange an interview through Meredith Brasher.
American Jews have traditionally taken a strong stand on behalf of immigrants and refugees because of Judaism’s teachings on the issue and because of the lifeline that immigration – especially to America – has provided for persecuted Jews. Also, Jewish immigrants often faced the same prejudices and difficulties that today’s immigrants face.
Ira Mehlman is media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. FAIR advocates for changes in immigration law that would reduce the number of immigrants allowed to enter the United States. Mehlman contends that Jews could face increased anti-Semitism if more immigrants are allowed into the U.S. Contact Mehlman through FAIR press secretary Cassie Williams.
Leaders of the mainline Protestant churches and related organizations have generally supported immigration reform, on scriptural and other grounds. These denominations are trying, with varying degrees of success, to attract ethnic and racial minorities to their predominantly white churches. Their support for immigrants is also in keeping with their moderate to liberal political stances.
The Rev. John Fife retired in 2005 after serving 30 years as pastor of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Ariz. Fife works with humanitarian programs, including Humane Borders, that provide food, water and medical care for migrants crossing the Arizona desert. He is co-founder of the immigrant rights group No More Death.
Linda Hartke is the president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, an organization that serves both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. It helps resettle refugees, protect unaccompanied refugee children, advocate for the just treatment of asylum seekers and seek alternatives to detention for those incarcerated during immigration proceedings.
Ricardo Hernandez works on immigrant and refugee rights for the American Friends Service Committee. Contact 215-241-7132.
Bill Mefford is director of civil and human rights at the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society.
Mark Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, a faith-based organization that tracks how Christian denominations respond to issues such as religious liberty, LGBT rights and immigration and often advocates for a more conservative approach.
Rick Ufford-Chase is the founder of BorderLinks, a nonprofit, faith-based educational organization in Tucson, Ariz., that focuses on cross-border relationship building opportunities, issues of immigration, community formation and development, and social justice in the borderlands between Mexico, the U.S., and beyond. He was also the moderator of the 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
African-American denominations have generally not been outspoken leaders about immigration reform. This reflects a deep concern within the African-American community that immigrants, who tend to migrate to urban centers where African-Americans are concentrated, will hurt blacks on the lower end of the economic ladder because they will accept lower wages, even less than the minimum wage at times.
“Does the Black Church Support Immigration Reform? A conversation with Bishop Vashti McKenzie, African Methodist Episcopal Church”
Read a March 21, 2010, Huffington Post column on whether the black church supports immigration reform.
“Village Takes a More Hospitable Approach to Day Laborers”
Read a June 13, 2007, New York Times story about an African-American congregation in Mamaroneck, N.Y., that serves as an official hiring site for largely Hispanic day laborers. One expert says very few of the nation’s hiring sites are associated with African-American churches.
“African Americans and Immigration”
Listen to an April 3, 2006, Talk of the Nation program on National Public Radio about the contentious issues of African-Americans, immigration and social justice.
The nation’s Islamic community has been at the center of the immigration debate, though not always for the best reasons. Immigration fears spiked after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and amid the subsequent war in Iraq and escalating concerns over terror attacks by radical Muslims who might be allowed into the country. Islamic groups have generally supported immigration reform as a way to protect the rights of Muslims and to ensure that they receive equal treatment. Immigrants are also a leading source of new congregants for American mosques. Opponents of immigration often cite concerns about terrorism in order to thwart reforms. Experts say that has made many Muslims and Islamic groups wary of speaking out on behalf of reform legislation.
Council on American-Islamic Relations
The Council on American-Islamic Relations says it is the largest advocacy group for Muslims in the U.S. It advocates for Muslims on issues related to civil liberties and justice. Contact communications director Ibrahim Hooper in Washington, D.C.
Khaled Abou El Fadl
Khaled Abou El Fadl is an internationally recognized law professor and the Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Distinguished Fellow in Islamic Law at the University of California, Los Angeles. He teaches a course on Islamic law and has also taught about Middle Eastern investment law, immigration law and human rights and terrorism. His books include Speaking in God’s Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women, and he wrote the entry on Shariah for The Oxford University Handbook of Islam and Politics.
Asian and Eastern religions
Nothing illustrates the potential impact of immigration reform more clearly than the 1965 major immigration overhaul. In 1965, Congress abolished the quotas that had favored Europeans and for much of the century greatly limited immigration from Asia. The subsequent influx of Asians, who brought the pluriform religious traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism, along with Sikhism and other faiths, helped recast American spirituality. Many ethnic and religious leaders from these countries worry that immigration reform will start to close the door on their co-nationals, many of whom are also Muslim. The conundrum for some politicians is that many of the highly skilled workers that the United States needs also come from these Asian countries and are members of these religious communities.
“Religious Movements in the United States: An Informal Introduction”
Read an essay on the New Religious Movements website at the University of Virginia, by Timothy Miller of the University of Kansas. Miller examines the 1965 immigration reform and how it changed American religion and paved the way for New Religious Movements and the many “sects” or “cults” inspired by Eastern spirituality.
Dr. Aseem Shukla
Dr. Aseem Shukla is a urologist and a member of the board of directors of the Hindu American Foundation, a human rights group that says it favors a more humane immigration policy.
Gregory Chen is director of advocacy with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which argues for “comprehensive reform that will make immigration safe, orderly, legal and controlled.”
Ernie Cortes Jr.
Ernie Cortes Jr., the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” award, is on the executive team of the Industrial Areas Foundation, which engages in community organizing to encourage social change. He is widely known for developing leadership among Latino immigrant communities.
Josh DeWind is program director of the Migration Program of the Social Science Research Council in New York City. He was a founding member of the Center for Immigrants Rights, National Coalition for Haitian Rights and National Immigration Forum.
Diana L. Eck
Diana L. Eck is a professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at Harvard University. She is also director of Harvard’s Pluralism Project, which explores the religious diversity of the U.S.
Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo is a sociology professor at the University of Southern California and an expert on issues of illegal immigration and the illegal-immigrant rights movement in the United States. She is the author of Doméstica: Immigrant Workers Cleaning and Caring in the Shadows of Affluence.
Karen Leonard is an anthropologist at the University of California, Irvine. Her publications include Muslims in the United States: The State of Research and Immigrant Faiths: Transforming Religious Life in America.
Peggy Levitt is a professor of Latin American studies and sociology at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass., and an associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. She is the author of several books, including God Needs No Passport: Immigrants and the Changing American Religious Landscape.
Ian F. Haney-López
Ian F. Haney-López is the John H. Boalt Professor of Law at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law. An expert on race relations and law, he is the author of Racism on Trial: The Chicano Fight for Justice (Belknap/Harvard, 2003).
Janet Murguia is the president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States.
Jeffrey S. Passel
Jeffrey S. Passel is a senior demographer for the Pew Hispanic Center, which has conducted research on Latino immigration patterns and Hispanic attitudes toward immigration policy.
Jonathan D. Sarna
Jonathan D. Sarna is professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. He is co-author of Religion and State in the American Jewish Experience and author of American Judaism: A History, which won the Jewish Book Council’s Jewish Book of the Year Award in 2004.
Fenggang Yang directs the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University. He is the author or co-author of more than a dozen books, including Religion in China: Survival and Revival Under Communist Rule. He is also an expert in Asian immigration and Eastern religions.
Think tanks and university centers
Center for Immigration Research
The Center for Immigration Research at the University of Houston previously had a Religion and Migration Project. Jessica Brown is its director.
Center for Immigration Studies
The Center for Immigration Studies is a nonpartisan research organization in Washington, D.C. Many of its researchers have concluded that current high levels of immigration are harming the country. The organization says it’s not anti-immigrant, however; instead, it favors a policy of fewer immigrants but a “warmer welcome for those who are admitted.” Mark Krikorian is executive director.
Center for Religion & Civic Culture
The Center for Religion & Civic Culture at the University of Southern California has a principal focus on the study of religion and immigration and its various manifestations. The executive director of the center is Donald E. Miller, Firestone Professor of Religion at USC. Contact Brie Loskota.
Immigration & Ethnicity Institute
The Immigration & Ethnicity Institute at Florida International University has studied issues of religion and immigration.
Immigration History Research Center
The Immigration History Research Center is based at the University of Minnesota. It is an interdisciplinary research center that brings together a variety of scholars. Erika Lee is director.
Zolberg Center on Global Migration
The Zolberg Center on Global Migration is at the New School University in New York City.
The Migration Program of the Social Science Research Council in New York City studies the interrelationship of migration and religion. Josh DeWind is director.
Population Studies Center
The Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan is a leading resource for information about demographic trends in the United States. The center has access to dozens of scholars and experts. It has a page providing links to experts in specific fields.
In the Northeast
George J. Borjas
George J. Borjas is the Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. An immigrant from Cuba, he is the author of Heaven’s Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy (Princeton University Press, 1999) and supports restrictions on immigration.
Jennifer Johnson is a senior associate specializing in Mexico and the U.S./Mexico border with the Latin America Working Group (LAWG), based in Washington, D.C., a nonprofit coalition including many religious groups that encourages the U.S. to develop policies toward Latin America that promote human rights, justice and peace.
Douglas S. Massey
Douglas S. Massey is a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University. He also is co-director of the Mexican Migration Project, which compiles a year-by-year history of Mexican migration to the United States based on interviews with migrants. He is co-author of Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Mexican Immigration in an Era of Economic Integration (Russell Sage Foundation Publications, 2003).
Mark J. Miller
Mark J. Miller is the Emma Smith Morris Professor of political science and international relations at the University of Delaware. His research focuses on comparative immigration and refugee policies, global migration and migration and security.
Joseph Nevins is an assistant professor of geography at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He is the author of Operation Gatekeeper: The Rise of the ‘Illegal Alien’ and the Making of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary (Routledge, 2002).
Thomas Ogletree is a United Methodist minister and the Frederick Marquand professor emeritus of theological ethics at Yale Divinity School. He has said he believes the debate over homosexuality indicates the church will eventually change its position.
James Russell is spokesman for Catholics for a Moral Immigration Policy and the author of Breach of Faith: American Churches and the Immigration Crisis, which decries “out-of-control immigration” and examines “why American churches do so much to further an agenda so obviously harmful to the well being of Middle Americans.” He is based in White Plains, N.Y.
In the South
Dr. Raleigh Bailey is the founding director of the Center for New North Carolinians, established in 2001 by the University of North Carolina board of governors as a resource to the state university system in immigrant outreach, research, and training.
Helen Rose Ebaugh
Helen Rose Ebaugh is a professor of sociology at the University of Houston who specializes in the sociology of religion as well as religion and new immigrants.
Jacqueline Hagan is a distinguished professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research interests include religion and migration. She is the author of Migration Miracle: Faith, Hope and Meaning on the Undocumented Journey.
Héctor Fernández-L’Hoeste is a professor of modern and classical languages and director of the Center for Latin American and Latino/a Studies at Georgia State University.
Ruben Martinez is a writer, performer and teacher and the son of immigrants — his father is from Mexico, and his mother from El Salvador. Martinez is the author of The New Americans, which tells the stories of seven immigrant families and is the companion book to a PBS series on immigration from 2003. He also wrote Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail. Contact through Susan Bergholz.
Hernan Prado is the CEO of Hola Latino and the founder, president and CEO of the Alabama Latin American Association.
The Rev. Harold Recinos is a professor of church and society at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas. He has worked with immigrants in the United States and abroad and studies issues related to immigrants and refugees in the United States.
In the Midwest
Oscar Chacón is the executive director of the National Alliance of Latin American & Caribbean Communities (NALACC) whose mission is to bring about a more equitable and sustainable way of life for Latin American immigrant communities in the U.S.A.
The Rev. Daniel Groody is an associate professor of theology and global affairs at the University of Notre Dame and director of the global leadership program within the university’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies. He is an expert on migration and refugee issues and has consulted for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Congress and the Vatican.
Edwin I. Hernández
Edwin I. Hernández is the director of the Center for Study of Latino Religion at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind. The center conducts social-scientific study of the U.S. Latino church, its leadership and the interaction between religion and community.
Joshua Hoyt is executive director of the National Partnership for News Americans, which works to advance the integration and citizenship of immigrants. Media contact is Charlie McAteer. Until 2013, Hoyt was the chief strategy executive of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, which supports comprehensive immigration reform, including family reunification and a path to citizenship for undocumented workers. Its members include many religious and interfaith organizations.
Timothy Miller is a historian of American religion in the religious studies department at the University of Kansas. His expertise is in new and alternative religions, and he has written about the impact of the influx of Eastern spirituality after the 1965 immigration reform act.
Rich Nathan is pastor of Vineyard Church of Columbus in Westerville, Ohio, a congregation of 10,000 that includes members who came from 75 different countries. He has said he’s seen how the immigration system can separate families or prevent them from visiting sick or dying relatives.
Luis Alberto Urrea
Luis Alberto Urrea is a writer and a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Urrea, a native of Tijuana, was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction for his book The Devil’s Highway: A True Story (Little, Brown & Co., 2004). The book chronicles the attempt 26 Mexican men made in May 2001 to cross the desert into southern Arizona. Only 12 survived.
In the West
Wayne Cornelius is a distinguished professor emeritus of political science and U.S.-Mexico relations at the University of California at San Diego and the director emeritus of the university’s Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and is co-editor of Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective (Stanford University Press, 2004).
The Rev. Ben Daniel is pastor of Montclair Presbyterian Church in Oakland, Calif. He is the author of Neighbor: Christian Encounters With “Illegal” Immigration.
Rev. Deborah Lee is executive director of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, which is based in Oakland, Calif. She helped boost northern California churches’ participation in the sanctuary movement.
Gastón Espinosa, assistant professor of religious studies at Claremont McKenna College in California, specializes in Latino religion and politics.
Bryan Fischer is the former director of issue analysis for government and public policy at the American Family Association, where he is now host of its “Focal Point” radio show. He has suggested that no more Muslims should be allowed to immigrate to the U.S.
Victor Davis Hanson
Victor Davis Hanson is a fifth-generation Californian, a farmer, a classicist and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is the author of Mexifornia: A State of Becoming (Encounter Books, 2004), in which he argues that California is being transformed by illegal immigration from Mexico. Contact Hanson through the Hoover Institute’s public affairs office.
Uriel Iniguez is the executive director of the Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs which looks to improve public policy development and the delivery of government services to the Hispanic community.
Daniel J. Tichenor
Daniel J. Tichenor is the Philip H. Knight professor of social science, senior faculty fellow at the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics and a professor of political science at the University of Oregon. He is the author of Dividing Lines: The Politics of Immigration Control in America (Princeton University Press, 2002).
James A. Tolle
The Rev. James A. Tolle is former senior pastor of the Church on the Way in Van Nuys, Calif., a congregation that includes many immigrants. Tolle has been active on the immigration reform issue, including testifying before a Senate subcommittee. He has been pastor of the Church on the Way’s Spanish-speaking congregation, La Iglesia en el Camino, and is now pastor of El Camino Metro in Los Angeles.