By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – When the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez talks about immigration, it is as someone who has witnessed the way a religious community is affected when a family is torn apart by deportation.
“It is personal for me,” Rodriguez said, describing deported friends and congregants as "lovely people. These are wonderful, God-fearing, family-loving people.”
Rodriguez, the head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, has a naturally boisterous voice that booms with authority. When he speaks about immigration, passion oozes out of every syllable. But his voice softens as he speaks of those close to him who have been deported: an associate pastor's wife, a friend from Sacramento, California, a well-known congregant - the list seems committed to memory.
Even as he relives the heartache, the pastor seems hopeful, if not optimistic.
Rodriguez, along with a number of other high-profile evangelical leaders, many of whom who have worked on immigration reform for decades, are betting that 2013 represents the best opportunity they've ever had to get meaningful reforms passed. Proof of their confidence: A coalition of evangelical groups is launching what many are calling the “largest ever grass-roots push on immigration.”
“We have a moral imperative to act,” Rodriguez exclaims. “This is the year. This is the evangelical hour to lead in a justice issue.”
In the mind of many evangelical leaders, the reverend is right.
Betting on 2013
The coalition is called the Evangelical Immigration Table and it is brought together a diverse mix of evangelical groups, including the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the National Association of Evangelicals, Sojourners and Focus on the Family.
Though the groups began holding broader discussion two years ago, Monday will serve as the campaign's first concerted push on immigration, with the goal of getting meaningful immigration reform through Congress in 2013.
“I think we have a window of opportunity in these first months of 2013,” Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told CNN. “I think there is a real, new conversation on immigration reform.”
That window, Land acknowledges, is small and could close at any point. Congress has a number of issues to deal with in the coming year; Republican members of Congress hope to focus on government spending and the debt, while the White House is likely to push for gun control early in the president’s second term.
Land, however, says that isn’t an excuse.
“I am hopeful that Congress can walk and chew gum and the same time,” Land said. “I am hopeful they can deal with more than one issue at the same time.”
The group has already released an open letter to Congress and the White House. In it, they the group presses Congress to respect “the God-given dignity of every person” and establish a “path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and wish to become permanent residents.”
“As evangelical leaders, we live every day with the reality that our immigration system doesn’t reflect our commitment to the values of human dignity, family unity and respect for the rule of law that define us as Americans,” the letter states. “Initiatives by both parties to advance commonsense fixes to our immigration policies have stalled in years past.”
Since the group's launch last June, organizers have been fundraising and placing people in three states, Colorado, Florida and Texas, to lay the groundwork with local evangelical leaders and politicians. By making these early investments, coalition leaders hope there will be a highly reactive group of evangelicals ready to push for immigration reform.
In addition to local networking, these evangelical leaders have begun lobbying leaders in both the U.S. House and Senate and plan to do more “grass-roots lobbying,” including bringing people to Capitol Hill in the future.
According to Jim Wallis, CEO of Sojourners and a leader in the coalition, the group has met with “top-level White House officials” as well as Democratic and Republican leaders "from Chuck Schumer to Lindsey Graham."
“Immigration reform, fixing this broken system, has a chance of being the first thing, maybe the one thing, that I think could really be accomplished in a bipartisan way,” Wallis said. “Courageous, bold, bipartisan decisions that do the right thing are not real common (in Washington), but I think this is really possible now.”
Making the focus biblical
For Richard Land and other coalition leaders, this is not just a moral issue, it is also biblical.
“For those of us who are people of faith, these are issues that our faith informs,” Land said. “For us, this is an issue that is rending the social fabric of the nation and causing a great deal of human suffering. As people of faith, we need to address it.”
The campaign will release a video on Monday that features more than a dozen evangelical leaders reading the text of Matthew 25:31-46.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him…” reads Max Lucado, a well-known evangelical pastor and author.
“He will sit on his glorious throne, all the nations gathered before him…” continues John Perkins, an evangelical author and speaker.
The video continues this way for more than two minutes, evangelical leader after evangelical leader reading a biblical text that stresses the importance of helping “a stranger.”
“'For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me,'” Jesus says, describing the Final Judgment. “'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'”
In addition to the video's release, the coalition organizers have asked local leaders to encourage their congregations to take the “I Was a Stranger Challenge.” Those who take the challenge will receive daily verses of scripture that might apply to the immigration issue – with the hope that they will use them in prayer – and a “Toolkit” to help spread the word on the need for immigration reform.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them,” reads the first text, citing Genesis 1:27.
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands,” reads the last text, citing Revelation 7:9.
Pastors are also being urged to use their sermons to speak about the need to help "strangers" and relate immigration reform to Christian values.
In total, the organizers believe the campaign will reach more than 100,000 churches.
“Evangelicals have been converted by the Bible and by Jesus on the issue of welcoming strangers,” Wallis said. “It is very clear if you go around the country, this is a conversion here. It is a biblical conversion. What Jesus says is the way you treat the stranger is the way you treat me.”
‘The right thing for the wrong reasons’
Coalition leaders also see the 2012 election results, particularly the fact that Republican nominee Mitt Romney struggled mightily among Hispanic voters, as a powerful tool they can use against reluctant politicians. Land, who has long counseled Republican presidents on religious issues, says he plans to use the 2012 election to his favor when talking to legislators.
“We plan to point out that if the GOP ... wants to be a viable national party in the future, then it is going to have to get more Hispanic votes then it did in the last election,” Land said. When asked if he is comfortable with getting immigration reform passed by using political and election bargaining, Land laughed.
“Maybe [the Republican Party] should do the right thing for the wrong reasons,” he said.
But Republicans are not the only group faced with changing demographics. Evangelical Christians, too, are seeing the makeup of their churches change drastically.
Nearly one-fifth (19%) of Hispanics in the United States identify as Protestant, a Pew Research study found in 2012. On top of that, Hispanics are nearly twice as likely to say they are “born again” or evangelical as opposed to mainline Protestant.
Though Hispanics are still more likely to identify as Catholic – 62% do so, according to Pew – evangelical leaders say they see signs that the number of Hispanics in their churches will only grow in the future.
“The growth in most of our churches is because of immigration. That is the future of our churches,” Wallis said matter-of-factly.
That change is evidenced in the ethnic makeup of the coalition’s leadership. Luis Cortés, president of the evangelical group Esperanza, Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, and Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, all signed on to the group early. Additionally, many of the local pastors are from primarily Hispanic churches.
Wallis concludes: “This is our growth, these are out brothers and sisters. We are a diverse body of Christ, we are a very diverse community. This is our family and this is our future.”
won't work. southern evangelicals hate latinos. just listen to southern politicians talk about putting up a giant wall on the mexico border with machine gun turrets. really evil sh.it. sorry latinos, if you're waiting for your southern evangelical 'brothers and sisters' to help you out - you'll be waiting a long time. they only praise the lord if it's in their best interest.
Either that or the mega churches need more janitors to pay at minimum wage or less.
You should really check out your facts before posting. Posting false information only discredits yourself.
Go visit one of those southern evangelical churches before you make such comments. You will be in for a big surprise.
I have Eric. I have known quite a few Southern Evangelicals. They are even more racist than I expected, and they think they aren't.
been to a couple. my family is from texas and arkansas. the people in the church... ask them what they think about mexicans. seriously, are you living on an ocean of delusion? you don't think there's latino prejudice in the south? lol.
If the Latino illegals had simply worked for a living, and learned English - instead of spawning gangs and trashing neighborhoods everywhere.... absolutely, positively, everywhere.... that they move in - they'd have a lot more evangelical and/or white and/or conservative defenders.
Somebody has to tell the truth: Latinos are resented because they are RUINING THE COUNTRY. They have EARNED this hostility by their actions.
Somebody here is in dire need of racial repentance, and this time around it ain't the white man.
El que tenga oídos, que oiga.
What I am most concerned about is the democrats willingness to spend the public's money in various welfare benefits for non US citizens. That's the real issue. The fact is that illegal immigrants cost money in direct welfare benefits and services such as public schools and medical care for which they don't pay. You would think that with our budget situation, politicians would at least recognize this financial reality. Yet the left turns it into a discrimination accusation every time. Even in my state, the democratic governor cut education without cutting food aid to non-citizens, and medical translators employed by the state. Our state also gives illegals drivers licenses, which is one way illegals register to vote. Democrats want these voters, and will buy their votes with taxpayers' money.
Don't be surprised if in 4 yrs US home owners will be required to take in illegals and support them in our homes.
I don't get this idea that Hispanics – even illegals – don't pay their way. Unless they do not work (the case for many American citizens), do not rent a home, do not buy anything (in states with sales tax) they pay taxes along with the rest of us. If fact, if illegals use false social security cards they pay social security with not expectation that they will ever receive SS.
The problem is individuals who are paid under the table and, therefore, do not pay taxes. But that happens among American citizens too.
Some states, of course, have more than their share of people who are not contributing, California is an example. But California would not prosper with immigrants. Much of the food production in California depends on them.
A better way to address the problem is to find a way to allow workers to work legally, to pay them adequately, and to make it easier for them to return home where their families live. With the money they earn here, they could live quite well in Mexico, as an example. That would do something toward reducing the load on social services.
hello: "the sky is falling! the sky is falling!'
If deity worshipers really cared about their fellow human, they would stop procreating immediately
Way to twist Scripture, guys. The passages quoted have nothing to do with amnesty, when taken in context.
The only appropriate context for The Babble is that it is fiction, in other words, a steaming pile of manmade crap, not to be referred to in any serious discussion or decision.
0G, you apparently think context = genre. Doesn't exactly encourage me to pay much attention to anything else you have to say.
@rmtaks I agree with you. Faith & politics should not mix. That is why the Bible does not say anything about voting or electing a leader or official. Voting is a Roman system. Jesus said (I'm paraphrasing this.) concerning the Jews paying their taxes: Give to Caeser what is due to him, & give to GOD what is due to Him. Voting/not voting, paying/not paying taxes has nothing to do with GOD's agenda. These are things that are characteristic of our society on Earth. GOD gives us 6 days to be active in our society, under our systems, rules, etc. That's almost the whole week. GOD only asks that on 1 day, we put aside our normal habits the best we can & focus on GOD's agenda. For this reason, it saddens me when people go to hear the Word of GOD & instead they end up with some guy standing behind the pulpit telling them what they should or shouldn't do concerning politics, fashion, taxes, ect. They've got 6 days to voice their opinions about that stuff, but on the 1 day that is supposed to be about worshipping GOD these Christians want to impede upon GOD's day; inorder to address their agendas. That's a low, selfish thing to do. Many Christians who do this are the Christians who are quick to tell the world they must change or face eternal damnation. But look at their calibur. They are hypocrites. If everyone on Earth would just worry about their own soul, rather than their neighbor's we'd all be better off. Afterall, according to the Bible our neighbors will not be present with us on judgment day. It'll just be ourself...and our Maker. Face to face.
Keep politics, business, & worldly affairs out of church. And put GOD's Word back in church. This is my advice to The Body of Jesus Christ on Earth.
the christian myth was created by they Roman Caesar Flavian family to control the Jews. It was created as a political tool.
and has been use as a political tool ever since.
Read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill. for the details.
I'm Hispanic. My entire family is Hispanic. My entire extended Family is Hispanic. Do they really think we're that stupid. Take your message of divisive hatred to Africa.
why africa, idiot? talk about hate.
If the guy in the picture was painted in blue I'd almost mistake that for a cheer after a Seahawk victory over the Falcons.
in 4 yrs
1. no one but the government, illegals and criminals will have guns
2. a majority of the population will be drug addicts, especially those under 50 .
3. 75% of the population will be on some form of welfare program.. prisons will be full of people who did not pay their taxes.
4. the depression of the 30's will be nothing like what is coming here again.
5. the price of food will be so high only the government can afford it and will give it away to freeloaders and given only those who swear to vote for the democrats. all farms and food production will be government owned.
6. medical care will only be available to freeloaders...
7. gas will be cheap as no one will be needing it to go to work. no jobs.
8. it will be illegal to grow food but legal to grow pot.
9. We will all know every time Lohan, Gaga, Spears, Biemer, take a chitz.. but have no idea what our government is doing.
10. only illegals will be in college, to learn how to run our welfare systems and make sure the democrats win every bogus election.
11. there will be no such thing as an illegal alien... no borders, and billions will be flooding the US for a better life... that the US owes them.
12. every person here must pay their taxes to the local church.
Prior message approved and paid for by the NRA, the National Republican Association. Vested interests and deception are how we play our game with your lives.
that message was from a different person .. people are using others names as their own...
There now are 2 posters with the the same name.. HELLO..
Dear Mr hello: Does paranoid delusion run in your family? If you would be willing to bet, oh say $1000 on each of your propositions, I will cover each and every one at two to one. Please just leave a comment accepting my offer and name a suitable reliable holder of the bets and I will contact that person with my money.
Mr. Hello, you'd better start packing because in four years: we are coming to get you!
When Disney World can service over 40 million people "per year" than the United States can, and must, deport 10 million illegal parasites who are uneducated, have zero loyalty to this country, and simply do not bring anything to the table but their wants!
Mexico will jail you up to 2 years for violating their immigration laws!
Do they honestly think they can convert enough Catholic Hispanics before the next election? The religious right have poisoned the well, it's too late for them. Too many of their flock will push back on this. It will take hell freezing over before conservatives will welcome "strangers" or forgive them for breaking the law. I wish these so call Christians would focus on feeding and clothing the poor and stay out of politics.
The deluded Talibangelicals hope that they can persuade hispanics to help vote them back into office thinking they are on their side but once goal is achieved they will just re-interpret scripture once again to justify their abandoning turning on latinos.
Bunch of uneducated kooks!
It's sad to hear all of the over the top hate and generalized statements. Illegal immigrants are illegal. Plain and simple. Should they be deported? Yes, but our country makes it so hard to gain citizenship that the Mexicans rarely have a choice. It takes over 18 months just to get a green card from mexico, and even then it's a program set up to fail. I'm fully against amnesty, and I don't agree with open immigration, but if we made the process much simpler you would see the ones who are going to come no matter what be added to the system, thus strengthening our country. It's common sense. Generalized comments that they are dirty criminals is hillbilly logic. You cannot stop them from coming, so why do you continue to try? Like I said earlier, it's much easier to build a life in Mexico than the media makes it seem, but those with no education are out of luck. As a child it's not your fault that you didn't get an education. There has to be an easier way to get them into the system, and a much better way of treating them. If you are an illegal immigrant reading this, you came here knowing the risks. You put your kids into this situation. You can't blame us for tearing your family apart because of the illegal decisions you made.
If they go back to THEIR countries.. they will not be called illegals... but citizens...
Why can't the go back to THEIR countries and hold them accountable for their problems and not the US?
We have a legal immigration system in place they can use... So why do they feel they can break our laws and demand to have our rights.... and be insulted because we call them illegals?
They are criminals....not just illegals... but OUR government does not see them as criminals.. until they leave enough of US citizens bodies for our government to clean up off the streets.
Mexicans should stay in Mexico and fight to make Mexico a decent place to live and work.
What good are these people if they just abandon their nation when it needs them most?
All they want is the easy way out.
Send them all back to Mexico.
Mexico does not support any kind of birth control... the breeding poor come to the US to get on our welfare breeding program. then they vote to keep the welfare system going to they can FEED off it.
The word illegal will be taken out of the dictionary and no be allowed in any laws...All laws will be about taking from the few that do have anything to take.. when that is gone... we will move on to a communist country.
Government will own and distribute to everyone one. based on a bribe system.
America as we use to know it is dieing. The US will be just like th chitz holes the illegals came from... then where they go?
The muzzys will then take over and then we will all be mythic prisoners.
There is no welfare system in Mexico.. that is why they come here.... There is no support for birth control.. so the poor who over breed are encouraged to come here to get on our welfare breeder programs.
The catholic church likes over breeding because the more they get into the church doors the more money they make.. tax free. and the more little boys they have to be used by their dirty salesmen.
Ban the tritone once again I say!
Since the church gave way on enforcement it's been nothing but a musico-cultural disaster! Polyphony in plain sight, straight-up ars nova, deceptive cadences, ambiguous chromatic harmony, A-TON-AL-ITY for crying out loud, and now neo-romantic and minimalist reactionaries – we've got to get back to good Gregorian values once and for all!
Laws? What Laws?
With all the crap going on about gun control and later, the debt ceiling, immigration is probably going to be stuck on the back burner again until election season comes again.
As it should be!
US citizenship will be only used by the government as proof they can take what they want from you. Taxes, property, the right for you to protect yourself and property ... all of it will be the governments.
I can see why people refuse to work.. why work when you can get more free and do nothing for it.
let the government take your house... you can get a better one FREE...
Hello sounds like a taxdodger.
hello sounds like a paranoid delusional knuckle-dragging refugee from creationist fantasy land.
It's sad that these "Christians" apparently lack the same concerns for their fellow citizens as they do for those who have disrespected our immigration laws and then have the gall to demand "respect and dignity." While 20 million Americans are unable to find full-time employmeht, 7 million illegals are being permitted to keep their non-farming payroll jobs. What about the "heartaches" of the 20 million being forced by their own government to compete with illegals in a dismal job market?
Midwest Coalition to Reduce Immigration
I don't understand this either. As a pastor in southern California who deeply loves people and my nation, the only compromise that can be had is beefing up the border, closing it down, and making those here presently citizens with inroads for immediate family members. This is just ridiculous. As Christians, we should welcome strangers into our homes. But as Christian Citizens, we must honor the laws of ur Government. This is evidence of the shallow nature of most evangelicals...we simply aren't thinking anymore. God help us.
most of the illegals,,, do not work.. the are on the welfare breeder programs. They do not want jobs.. they want freebies.
They can walk into any hospital and get all their medical care free.. I walk in as a citizen and if I can not prove I can pay.. I am out the door.
I will have to pay for increased food prices.. while this has no effect on the illegals.. they get it free..
How many legal citizens are supporting illegals?
14 trillion in debt... so what... it will never get paid... millions and millions of US assets will be sold to China...
War with weapons if way out dated... the best weapons are dollars... and we are loosing... that war.
China and the US are already making US citizens of the Chinese right under our noses... bringing in pregnant women by the millions to get citizenship for their kids so when they invade us... we will be invaded by our own US citizens groomed to take over the US.... and their property they purchased penny's on a dollar.
This is like what the UK and a lot of Euope are dealing with Muslims moving in and demanding they change their culture to more sute them. For some reason, if you're Anglo, you are supposed to feel you should make concessions due to guilt, shame and political correctness. A lot of our politicians we put in office are really traitors and would sell their children for a vote.
Those twenty million Americans you mention have forgotten the power of self-suffiency. How many of those 20 million are farmers or are self-employed. The average US citizen has no real economic plan beyond finding a faceless corporate giant to work for. Regardless of immigration, US citizens have been trapped in a social economic plan that would never work long term anyway.
Arrest, fine, and jail everyone who hires an illegal worker and you will end the problem in a heartbeat. No jobs for illegals, no illegals. There are many fewer employers of illegals than there are illegals so that problem is easier to solve.
There are FAR MORE Evangelicals who are AGAINST amnesty. Once again, CNN is using their influence to artificially create a "social movement."
Are you saying Focus on the Family is in cahoots with CNN? Interesting....
Would you allow uninvited strangers to just walk through your front door, sit at your table, and take your food watch your television, use your toiletries and simply FORCE THEMSELVES into your family?
That is exactly what the socialist obama democrat party wants Americans to do! THIS IS CRIMINAL!
.........YOU NEED IMMEDIATE MENTAL ASSITANCE...................there are Mental Health facilities near you....FIND ONE !!!
Trex THE TROLL needs to SCREAM because he is OFF HIS MEDS! ....ICD-10 F22 is your free diagnosis
in reality... they will instead tell you to get out of THEIR house and take over your house, property and life..
HEY!.. we are / were Americans.. we owe the hole human population a better life.. and they are determined to come and take it. with our government opening the door for them.
Illegal.. that's an American citizen trying to keep what they worked for.. It will be illegal for Americans to keep the illegals OUT.
Arrest, fine, and jail those who hire illegals. NO JOBS for illegals, NO ILLEGALS. Period. Done. Oh, but that would require reason and effort and arresting Americans ; it's much easier to complain.
Sheesh, if you're really looking for a stranger to help there are plenty of American strangers to help out. I'm sure families experience problems when someone gets deported, but they are getting deported because they broke the law, remember? Families also experience when any criminal goes to jail–should we stop doing that?
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.