Immigration Reform July 2013
Demonstrators rallying for immigration reform in front of the White House, July 24, 2013. The demonstrators urged President Barack Obama to use executive authority to expand the policy that allowed hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to remain. Associated Press

An evangelical coalition has made a $400,000 radio ad buy in support of comprehensive immigration reform, but the ads aren’t targeted at members of Congress. Instead, the ads that will be run across 14 states are geared toward evangelicals, asking them to do a few simple things: hear both sides of the issue; approach it from a humanitarian and biblical perspective; and respond as they see fit.

The Evangelical Immigration Table is hoping the responses will end up getting back to Washington lawmakers, who are still debating a 2013 immigration reform bill that has stalled in the House after passing the Senate.

The ads will run in 56 congressional districts, mostly on Christian radio. The ad buy is the coalition's largest since it was organized in June 2012.

Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said the ads are "really speaking to the people within these districts and encouraging them to become more engaged on immigration reform themselves."

"Ultimately, that will end up filtering back to their congressmen," he added. "The ads are speaking to evangelicals principally within these media areas.”

Duke’s commission is a part of the larger coalition of about 12 organizations representing more than 100,000 congregations. It isn't the first significant immigration ad purchase the coalition has made. In spring, it spent at least $200,000 on ads supporting the cause. Through the coalition’s eyes, immigration reform would legalize, as much as possible, the undocumented people living in the country so that they can work legally, pay their fair share in taxes, receive protection by the law and get a path to citizenship. Duke said this path must not be special or automatic.

“We do support the ability of people who meet the same kind of standards and requirements that anybody else would meet,” he added. “We do support the need for anybody in this country to be able to ultimately obtain citizenship, including those who will be addressed by our immigration reform.”

There are an estimated 11 million people living in America without legal documentation, 40 percent of whom are believed to have overstayed their visa.

The Evangelical Immigration Table’s website said current U.S. immigration laws have created a moral, economic and political crisis.

“Initiatives to remedy this crisis have led to polarization and name calling in which opponents have misrepresented each other’s positions as open borders and amnesty versus deportations of millions,” the group said on its website. “This false choice has led to an unacceptable political stalemate at the federal level at a tragic human cost.”

Duke wants people being targeted in the districts to think about the biblical perspective on caring for strangers, not just focus totally on questions of law and order.

“We think that, as they integrate their understanding of biblical teaching with the perspective on the importance of the rule of law, that they’ll want to do both things: they’ll want to be sure that the law is upheld but also find a way that responds compassionately toward those who are here in our country, oftentimes with no real place to go if they were to be deported,” he said.

“We felt like we needed to make sure [immigration opponents] wasn’t the only voice heard in these districts ... tempting to persuade the people in those districts to think negatively toward immigration reform,” he added. “Part of it was an effort to just make sure a positive voice was out in these areas as well making sure folks heard both sides of the stories, so that they could make their minds up with more information.”