A group representing top evangelical leaders announced Wednesday that it will air ads on 15 South Carolina Christian radio stations urging Christians to contact members of Congress in support of an overhaul to the nation's immigration laws, including a path to citizenship for immigrants currently in the country illegally.
South Carolina is shaping up as a key battleground on the immigration issue. South Carolina. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R), who will face a tough reelection battle in 2014, has emerged as a leading proponent for immigration change in the Republican party.
Graham has already faced push-back at home in the form of ads aired by the group Numbers USA, which opposes legal changes that would allow illegal immigrants to remain in the country. They've targeted Graham over his work with an eight member bipartisan senate group currently negotiating details of proposed legislation on the issue.
The religious leaders said their effort will help give Graham support from churches, filled with conservative voters who they say are increasingly supportive of the immigration change.
"There are some very entrenched forces in our country who do not want comprehensive immigration reform," Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the policy wing of the Southern Baptist Convention told reporters Wednesday.
"They have not been shy about making their concerns and their wishes known. In a Democracy, those who want something passed need to let their rep and their senators know they want it passed and that they support them trying to pass it," Land said.
South Carolina is also home to Rep. Trey Gowdy (R), the fairly new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's immigration subcommittee.
The ministers featured in the ads--sponsored by the Evangelical Immigration Table--said they are working to educate their congregants about Bible verses that encourage Christians to welcome the stranger and treat their neighbors with compassion.
"I believe the radio ads will further solidify the growing base of support for immigration reform," said Rev. Trey Doyle of the First Baptist Church of York in South Carolina.