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.”
heavy metal bands, immigration, movies, free cotton candy,...anything to recruit new suckers
Oops, just answered my own question.
yeah...they dont care where the dollars come from
Everyone seems to forget that this is how hansel and Gretel got into trouble.
*yawn* Wake me up when they stop treating gays and non-christians as subhumans.
Amen (intentional pun)
No sleeping in hell, just pain and suffering.
@Right4Life ... Judge not lest ye be judged. You nasty hypocrite!
right4life: fvck you and your empty proxy threats
Christian Evangelicals is the USA version of the Taliban!!
Well if we want to blow anyone up, we'll keep you in mind.
Evangelicals don't need bombs. They prefer simpler attacks, such as mowing down a Sikh temple with a high-powered rifle or chewing off the face of a homeless man or drowning their children in a tub or sniping doctors from afar. That's not to say they don't use bombs at all. They planted them in 6 abortion clinics last year.
If we could just put and end to the whole evangelical Christian thing? Yea, that'd be great.
From your lips to the imaginary God's ears.
they left off the last part of the article's t.tile, should read:
Evangelical Christians prepare for ‘largest ever grassroots push on immigration... fighting against other Evangelical Christians.
their opponents will be their fellow christians in the south that hate them. lol. good luck with that. they talk about building a barb wire fence between the US and mexico with machine gun turrets. really evil, evil sh.it. love and compassion? not for mexicans. christians only follow the parts of the bible that are convenient for them, the parts that already go along with their own views.
So what, prey tell, do you follow? That which you dispise?
Aetheists only quote the parts of the Bible that they dislike.
And idiots like you only try to pretend you're literate. It's "PRAY", you lame-brain.
And it's "DESPISE." Jesus Melmo, did you even make it through 5th grade??
Hey Tom...did you notice Chad abandoned the Hobby Lobby thread (page 51) when the questions held his feet to the fire? Not a surprise...exposed, once again, as a fraud.
Don't make me go dig up all the spelling and grammar mistakes that you have made, TTPS.
And, surely somebody who is as intelligent as yourself realizes that stooping to name-calling and/or nit-picking spelling mistakes is a sure sign of no real response.
You might benefit from this little grammar lesson, TTPS:
Whenever we have to use a question mark or an exclamation point with a sentence that ends in a quotation, we follow the dictates of logic in determining where the question mark or exclamation point goes. If it is part of the quotation itself, we put it inside the quotation marks, and if it governs the sentence as a whole but not the material being quoted, we put it outside the quotation marks.
~Have you read the assigned short story, "Flowering Judas"?
~No, but I did finally get around to reading last week's assignment, "Where Are They Now?"
Still blind. "Aetheists only quote the parts of the Bible that they dislike." Ignoring your spelling mistakes that would leave a lot of material for quoting.
Those are not mistakes, they are indications of poor education. These are typical of religies who apparently spend too much time groveling on their knees and too little time in school.
Actuall, blind, the rules on quotation marks depend on whether the writer is American or British. Did you know that?
@Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
You forgot a comma. Can you find where it was missed? I didn't think so...
My keyboard did that!
Would you look at that? The highly educated one put a comma where a semi-colon should have been. LOL!!! Can't make this stuff up!
Either would be correct.
And it's semicolon, not semi-colon.
Nitpicking grammar errors on a forum, chat room, or any other informal writing platform is just a thinly veiled personal attack and shows the poster lacks an actual response to the argument presented. It's a defense mechanism.
No, it isn't. These are anonymous blogs. We have no other way to gauge the intelligence of the writer. How a person writes is really the only available measure of the writer's IQ. Calling someone stupid because I don't agree with their comment obviously carries no weight. Writing better than the one you disagree with does.
I love the bible, lots of big old style words and mythical beings.
Listen, sh!twit, the rules on quotation marks vary and are not hard and fast. If I'm quoting some asinine remark you made, it is quite correct for me to put the quotation marks INSIDE the punctuation ending the sentence. I choose to use that little rule because I would not want anyone to mistake your words for mine. Ever.
Oh, and "IS both blind and stupid", I don't make stupid errors that are so egregious as to cause others to wonder if I'm even conscious at all, unlike your little fvck-up of mistaking "prey" for "pray."
Fvcking ass waffle.
was blind: Christians only quote the parts of the babbble they like.
It is personal for me,” Rodriguez said, describing deported friends and congregants as "lovely people. These are wonderful, God-fearing, family-loving people.”
I'm sure they are. They also didn't mind one bit intentionally breaking our laws and sneaking into our country illegally. Mexico says we shouldn't enforce illegal immigration, but they do. Mexico says we shouldn't use local police to enforce illegal immigration, but they do. I get busted for breaking the law, why should people who aren't even supposed to be here be above the law?
easy to say that when you weren't born into abject poverty, in a war-torn, crime-ridden country with little education or work opportunities. if you had a little girl and a wife that were living in squalor, wouldn't you climb a fence to give them a better life?
immagration will never stop until they have a better quality of life. instead of searching for a band-aid to treat the wound, let's take away the knife that caused the wound in the first place. we offer them jobs. it's as simple as that. want to stop them coming? stop inviting them over.
So because you were born under unfortunate circu.mstances, that gives you the right to break laws willy-nilly because they are inconvenient?
And just because someone offers you the opportunity to break the law, advising that the pay-out will be good excuses your culpability?
Of course not.
There is no excuse. They made a choice, knowing the illegality of their actions, knowing that there were consequences if they got caught, and then want to whine and complain when it happens? That sounds like a lack of personal responsibility.
If I rob a bank (another federal felony) and get away with it, that's awesome! Free money! If I get caught and thrown in prison, can I really complain that I just didn't have the money and shouldn't be thrown in prison because I'm poor? Of course not. Your socioeconomic standing does not excuse you from the law, nor does it excuse you from the consequences for breaking said law(s).
ThatOneGuy: The law was broken, granted. The punishment should fit the crime. Proportionality must be exercised. Shoplifting is not punished with 20 years or a $300,000 fine. Entering the country illegally should not be punished by tearing families apart, uprooting people who have lived here decades, wreaking havoc on people's lives, insulting and mistreating the poor. To go beyond a proportionate response is to treat Jesus the same way and is wrong. But of course there should be some kind of response, I'm just not sure what it should be.
What we are suggesting is swift, harsh punishment to discourage the action in the first place. Laws should be less about punishments and more about deterrents. Deportation doesn't work because they come through again and again. So obviously, that's not the answer. We can't fix other countries. So the only thing we CAN do is enforce the law with swift punishment that makes someone not do it. Unfortunately, when people have nothing to lose, it is difficult to find a punishment which will be a detriment.
A couple of answers to the idea of tearing families apart. 1) We tear families apart because someone commits a crime. How often do we send a mother, father, grandfather, uncle, aunt, grandmother, etc to prison for years and years and rip them away from their families? Why are illegal immigrants any different? This idea that we should be somehow more sympathetic to their plight than any other criminal is ludicrous. 2) We aren't tearing families apart. There is nothing stopping these people from taking their families with them when they leave or are deported. They are choosing that.
We need to look at this for what it is. It's a felony. That's all it is. A felony that needs to be punished as harshly as any other felony with no respecters of person. Look at the image of Justice. Scales and a blindfold.
The gubmint creates a problem. The gubmint fixes da problem. Blessed be da name of our fadder who art in washington, hollow be his name.
Never let a crisis go to waste. Even if you have to create the crisis. Whatever it takes to cram through your self-serving agendas...
New message, eh? Who are they hating on now? Retarded people? Gingers?
story:"...........“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.”........." They vote like they do in a public corp.The most votes, errr dollars, AKA shares, wins.
I would swear (if I could) that I have hit the links at mutiny at least 4 or 5 times.
haven't seen you in a while AB, everything good?
Why do people use the term "god-fearing" as though this is a positive quality in a person?
As with many words, they redefine it. They recognize the cognitive dissonance of fearing their god and so claim it means something not so odd. For them fear means "acknowledge the awesomeness of."
God fearing means they give respect to the only God and our founding fathers were odd then. The bible calls for Christians to be a peculiar people and guess what living to a higher moral code is a good thing. How is living a good life that helps other a bad thing. The church is a vital need for without it the world wont see the power of God.
When you were a child, did you fear how your father might react when you contemplated doing something wrong? Do you suppose this was a good "fear" or a bad "fear?
When you were a child, blind doofus, did you go to school? Did you listen?
Doesn't seem so.
Perhaps you are right, TTPS, prayer truly does not work. I have prayed that you might receive a bit of relief from that pain that you are carrying with you. I guess you'll have to do it yourself. Sorry about that...
My kids fear being put in time out, not being sent to burn for all eternity. Slight difference.
@was blind, but now I see – RE: Fathers and 'good "fear" or a bad "fear"'
When I was a child, I often feared my father. Had my father been infinitely just, infinitely wise, and infinitely kind (characteristics you claim for your god), I would have had no reason to fear him; alas, my father was human and, therefore, often unjust, unwise, and unkind. Once I became a man I no longer feared my father.
-"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me." Corinthians 13:11
Truman, your inability to articulate your poorly-formed thoughts is a poster child for the ignorance that begets religion and religious fervor. god exists only in your imagination. There is nothing in the world to suggest otherwise.
Truman, if your god is the only god why does your god's 10 commandments mention other gods?
it's because their god desires slaves
That's how GW Bush got elected twice, claiming he was a christian conservative. He killed how many innocent people in Iraq, and ran this country into the ground with debt. What kind of so called christian does, the things he did? How many preachers take up money on Sunday morning, with the pretense of helping the poor and elderly? Ask Kenneth Copeland and his preacher wife, with their 4 Airplanes and their own landing strip at their house.
You are enlightened. Like me, you're baffled at the gullible. It's just "opium for the masses".
Nice to see evangelicals agreeing with Obama and eager to work with him on meaningful reform. There is hope after all.
We, In America, have much larger problems to deal with than a few immigrants, legal or not
The Catholic Sisters have been working on this and bringing it to light for many years, its nice to see the fruit of their efforts. A noble cause for the Evangelicals. Thank you for also bringing attention to this and how it destroys families.
You put women in close quarters and their monthly lunar cycles sync up. Every old time Mormon man knows that.
It makes it much harder to control them. It's common knowledge that 33% of SWAT team calls are for such a reason.
Did This Shooting Really Happen Or This Just Wicked Media!? You Be The Judge: The Sandy Hook Shooting Exposed
IT WAS ALL FAKE
I wish it would have been fake.
I am connected to people involved. All of the "evidence" of a conspiracy has been soundly disproven. It happened.
It's just amazing that there are a number of rightwing conspiracy sites now trying to claim that this tragedy was some type of hoax.
The rightwing has gone completely off the deep end.
us: "The rightwing has gone completely off the deep end."
The fact that you make generalizations about conservatives based on what a few people on the internet have said is telling about your (lack of) intelligence.
Can conservatives call liberals lunatics because of the 9/11 truther movement?
Instead of buying into crackpot theories with no evidence, you should instead ask yourself what reason Sorcha Faal has for creating false news stories about public shootings. I'll give you a hint. Faal is Russian.
Did This Shooting Really Happen Or This Just Wicked Media!? You Be The Judge: The Sandy Hook Shooting Exposed
you are a complete fool
Do people call you "bugzie" because of the bugs in your head?
God can heal you of that. Really. Yes he can heal all afflictions. So they pray and pray and pray time goes by and nothing. Finally the man goes to the preacher and says. Why hasn't god given me my legs back? The preacher says you didn't have enough faith. Thank God for such kindness. Who needs to walk. Really its over rated.
He doesn't heal amputees. Not sure why that's not in the bible. The bible has several stories of people being brought back from the dead. So why don't Christian's pray in cemetaries?
All we need is The Golden Rule.
Tax the churches and erase the deficit.
He created the heaven's and the earth...but those dollar bills elude him.
Surely you can't count.
Wonder whether Evangelicals are beginning to see and feel and recognize the incongruity of their ties to the Republican Party, with its most xenophobic position EVER held by any major Party in American history.
Nah, they are only pretending to care, because they finally noticed the demographics are changing (and not in their favor).
If they truly cared, they would not have supported the GOP/Romney platform, but they did... and they still do.
Do not trust them. Do not fall for their hype.
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.