Evangelical Group Pushing Immigration Reform Doesn't Legally Exist

Evangelical Group Pushing Immigration Reform Doesn't Legally Exist

Late last week, The Huffington Post reported that the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of evangelicals supporting the Senate immigration bill, had announced a $250,000 ad buy in support of the legislation. It was part of the Table’s 92-day Pray for Reform campaign that also included newspaper and radio ads. Curiously, however, the Evangelical Immigration Table doesn’t legally exist as an incorporated political entity or non-profit organization. 

On Thursday, Breitbart News contacted the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), asking about the organization’s structure, how it is governed and where it receives funding. The organization responded Friday in an email to Breitbart News:

The Evangelical Immigration Table functions as a coalition of partners and does not exist as its own non-profit.

The principal organizations that serve as the coalition’s leadership are listed on our website and include Bread for the World, the Christian Community Development Association, CLUE Orange County, Esperanza, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, Sojourners, World Relief and World Vision.

That invites an obvious question: Who paid for its ad campaign? The email continued:

The organizations that make up the leadership of the Table are predominantly 501(c)3’s but some have affiliated 501(c)4’s.

Funding for our work comes from a variety of sources including the organizations that make up the leadership of the Table as well as other individuals and institutions that believe in our message.

Early in the formation of the Table’s work, the leadership sought a neutral third-party institution, the National Immigration Forum, to help facilitate our work.

So, the EIT is made up of a coalition of (c)3’s and (c)4’s but isn’t itself a legal non-profit organization or corporation. How did it launch the ad campaign reported in the Huffington Post? Loose, informal coalitions cannot purchase advertising. There are also strict limitations on what activities (c)3’s and (c)4’s can undertake, and clear prohibitions on them coordinating on an issue campaign. 

EIT says it selected National Immigration Forum to “facilitate” its work. That statement makes it likely that the ad campaign was paid for by NIF. They are certainly free to undertake an issue ad campaign, but not in someone else’s name.  

Most Americans, including Evangelicals, support reforming our nation’s immigration system. That isn’t the same as supporting the legislation currently in the Senate. The members of the Evangelical Immigration Table may believe the Senate bill is the best course of action. They should, however, make that support known in a transparent way. 

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