WASHINGTON, May 16, 2006—Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, commented on President Bush’s May 15 speech regarding immigration reform.
“I thought the President’s speech was a tremendous, giant step forward. He spent the majority of his time talking about the issues that concern the highest percentage of Americans, including Southern Baptists: border security and border control.
“He clearly sent the message that the government is serious about controlling the border. Unless the American people are convinced that their government is serious about enforcing the law at the border, no significant consensus can be built around the other issues related to immigration.
“Once the government has convinced the people that it is serious about committing the resources necessary to control the border, then a consensus can be built around some type of guest-worker program and some path to permanent residence for most of those who are in this country illegally and wish to stay.
“That’s especially true when you consider the other significant impetus of the President’s speech last night, which was on assimilation and the absolute necessity of people learning to read, write and speak English as the key to assimilation. The ability to read English is insufficient. One must be able to speak and write English in order to fully assimilate and aspire to the American dream.
“This is a very complex issue which is going to require a lot of effort and a lot of trial and error before we get the right mix. However, the program outlined in the President’s speech is a giant step forward and provides the raw materials for the American people to achieve consensus on how to deal with the issue of illegal and legal immigration.”
The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest non-Catholic denomination with more than 16.3 million members in over 43,500 churches nationwide. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.