Photo by Caleb Revill / MTSU Sidelines
U.S. Senate candidate Phil Bredesen held a round-table discussion with local faith leaders at The Grove at Williamson Place in Murfreesboro to discuss the topic of illegal immigration on Monday. The sometimes conflicting views on “humanizing” larger issues, illegal immigration and hopes for bipartisan solutions were all discussed.
Dan Scott is a pastor for Christ Church Nashville. He reflected on the meeting and spoke about his views on illegal immigration and how some media outlets have played a role in the divisiveness surrounding the issue.
“Christian leaders in our area are not completely certain with how to proceed on talking civilly about the issues that face us,” Scott said. “Our folks are so divided by media and their favorite media outlet that by the time they come to have conversation, many times it takes a while before they can get to that place of civility and grace. But we did that today for sure.”
Scott’s position on the current issues facing illegal immigration is tied closely to his Christian values.
“They’re not criminals,” Scott said. “They’re just poor people trying to get a better life. Even when we turn them away, Christians especially must feel compassionate towards those people and not demonize them … But the idea of having strong borders and treating people humanely with respect made in the image and likeness of God, those are different issues altogether.”
After the meeting concluded, Bredesen spoke with media about his takeaways from the discussion.
“This whole issue of immigration is complicated. It’s emotional, and there’s a lot of conflicting values in it. What I wanted to do was to sort of get out of the world of reading what the national press says about it and the national politics about it and just talk to some people who are dealing with this issue day in and day out here in Middle Tennessee.”
Bredesen said that the pastors he met with ranged from “quite liberal to quite conservative in the churches.”
“There were some small churches here, (and) there were a couple of mega churches here,” Bredesen said. “I just wanted to see how they looked at it and how they thought their parishioners looked at it as well.”
Bredesen learned that the viewpoints on immigration as a whole can be dynamic in that there are different issues within illegal immigration that many may hold adverse opinions on.
“One of the things that became very clear was that they had a clear separation between the issue of ‘controlling your borders,’ which they were generally in favor of doing,” Bredesen said. “But that (was) a very different issue from what you do with 10 or 12 million undocumented immigrants who are already here in our cities and communities and (are) being good citizens.”
DACA was spoken of early in the discussions. In Bredesen’s opinion, the issue shouldn’t be considered a political one.
“I think it’s a moral issue,” Bredesen said. “I don’t think it’s a political issue. These are kids who in many cases were brought here (as) very young children. This is their country, they speak english (and) this is where they grew up. They have no more connection to Mexico than I do, and the notion of leaving them in limbo in some way or deporting them back to a country they don’t know just seems to me to be immoral and unAmerican. I hope we get that problem solved very quickly.”
As complicated as the underlying issues may be, Bredesen remains positive about seeking a bipartisan solution.
“I actually think that the Dreamers is something that you could solve with a bipartisan bill if both parties would get out of the business of insisting on tacking onto those bills something much more complicated and much more controversial,” Bredesen said. “If they could consider the DACA bill as an independent issue, I think it would pass.”
Overall, Bredesen thought that the round-table discussion was helpful.
“Helping me to understand what lies under the issue of immigration, what the various pieces of it are and how people might feel very differently about the different pieces was part of what I accomplished today, and I felt good about it,” Bredesen said.
After the meeting, Bredesen left Murfreesboro and traveled to Nashville, where he casted his ballot for early voting in the upcoming primary election.
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