Immigration: Faith-Based Messaging Tips

  |February 8, 2013

Original resource from Auburn Media

This is the moment we’ve been training for.

Our nation’s immigration laws are on the table, and we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to lead. Our country is now awake to the human cost of current laws: families ripped apart, dangerous underground economies, and non-existent basic worker-safety regulations.

In times like these, your voice of faith is vital in calling us to build a better, safer world for all people. In fact, times like these are precisely the moments for which Auburn Media training has prepared you.

We want to share some suggested messaging to help you to use your voice and authentically speak from your faith tradition on the issue of immigration this week and going forward.

Below are a few message points from Auburn Media, informed by and in some cases directly quoting sources from our colleagues and partners at America’s Voice, Aso Communications, Center for American Progress, Faith in Public Life, PICO, Lake Research Partners, Media Matters, The Opportunity Agenda, and the Public Religion Research Institute.

Consider this council from those who have studied the values, perspectives and stories that can best move hearts and minds in America and then follow your conscience and call at this critical juncture in American life.

Recommended Messaging on Immigration Reform


People of faith across America are standing up for immigration reform that provides us, our neighbors and our loved ones – people who love this country – with a roadmap to citizenship and puts an end to the tearing apart of families in our neighborhoods and houses of worship.

Values Statement:

My faith teaches that the Golden Rule matters: Do to others as you would want them to do to you. Imagine if you came here to work because there was no work at home or it was not safe there for you and your children. How would you hope to be treated?

Suggested Supporting Points:

  • The same is true today as it has been throughout history: people move to make life better for themselves and their families. It’s hard to move – to pack up everything and go to a new place takes courage – but you do it in order to put food on the table, to provide for your family, or send your kids to a decent school. Immigrant Americans move here for the promise of freedom and opportunity in this country. People move in order to improve life, and we believe that moving to make a better life for your family is one of the best things and one of the hardest things a person can do. One of the values we hold dear to our hearts is a deeply rooted belief in the freedom to be who you want to be, say what you want to say, and go where you want to go. America is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave – that’s a good thing so let’s keep it that way.
  • America is a country built by immigrants who love this country. In fact, my family came here from [lift up your story]. Each of us, like my family was, should be afforded the promise of the America Dream.
  • As people of faith, we believe that every human being has sacred worth and is created in the image of God. The current situation in our nation where millions of immigrant families live in fear of separation, vulnerable to abuse, and unable to fully live out their God-given gifts is morally unacceptable.
  • If you represent an Abrahamic faith: The Bible is full of people called by God to seek a better life for their families in a different land. Abraham, the father of our tradition, felt so unsafe answering the call to lead God’s people to the promised land that twice he was forced to hand his own wife Sarah over to the local authorities (Gen 12 and Gen 20), for fear that if he didn’t his whole family would be killed.
  • The new American immigrants I know are hard-working, family-oriented people who just want a chance to become full citizens of this great nation. They are Americans in every way but paperwork. Let’s change that.
  • Tell a story of an immigrant (your own story or of someone you have come to know or learn about) who exemplifies what it means to be a good neighbor and a good American. 

Problem Statement:

Current laws are tearing families apart and creating dangerous underground economies that hurt the economy and hurt people, providing no basic worker-safety regulations for new American immigrants.

Suggested supporting points:

  • Everyone agrees that the current patchwork of policies and programs is mismanaged and broken, and it breaks up families. For those currently striving for citizenship, the current maze of regulations provides no light at the end of the tunnel, because there’s often no line to get into for becoming a fully participating American.
  • Just last week, a young immigration reform advocate named [lift up a story, for example from a young DREAMer who had half her family deported in front of her eyes].
  • On the issue of LGBTQ families: Certain families are particularly vulnerable under current law. Same-sex couples shouldn’t have to choose between their love for one another and their love of America. We want legislation that helps and protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender bi-national couples. We support President Obama’s call for immigration legislation that “treats same-sex families as families by giving U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner.”

Good News: 

By all accounts, we Americans believe it is time to establish an immigration process that works for new Americans who want to contribute to this country and I believe it is going to happen this Spring. Please join me in calling for change.

Suggested supporting points: 

  • As a matter of principle based on the core teachings of our traditions, faith communities of all kinds have assembled a massive movement calling for an immigration process that works.
  • Americans support a roadmap to citizenship for immigrants without papers. In a recent poll from George Washington University and Politico, 62% supported citizenship for immigrants who do not have legal papers, and 77% supported the DREAM Act. We must pass immigration reform that puts 11 million immigrants on the road to citizenship.  Americans support it. Congress has to deliver it.
  • Enacting broad immigration reform will help fix the economy. Getting more workers into the legal system means their employers pay taxes, workers pay taxes, and they can exercise their rights. Numerous studies have shown the presence of immigrants helps revitalize economies.

Many faith groups and leaders have centered their message around “welcoming the stranger.”  Research on this frame finds that it triggers a negative understanding of who immigrants are – that they are “strangers,” not us or our neighbors, and therefore not to be trusted. While the word “stranger” has biblical, theological resonance for our communities, we would not recommend its use for public messaging on immigration.

Please remember: there is nothing like the power of story to move hearts and minds. What is a moving story from your experience, local community, or congregation that will allow you to wrap your core message in a powerful narrative? Please email us your stories, sermons, or media work to [email protected].