WASHINGTON – Over 300 evangelicals representing 25 states gathered in the nation's capitol Wednesday for worship, prayer and meetings with members of Congress in an effort to bring about comprehensive immigration reform.
The events, organized by the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), began with a press conference in front of the Capitol, followed by a praise and worship service a few blocks away at Church of the Reformation, a prayer walk, and over 80 meetings with senators and representatives.
"We're here to say that immigration reform has strong evangelical support," said the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition.
The bipartisan "gang of eight" senators working on immigration reform had just released a bill proposal at 2 a.m. on Wednesday. The Evangelical Immigration Table did not have time to read the 844 page bill to determine if it was consistent with the organization's "Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform," Salguero explained. Many of the speakers, though, were clearly excited about the bill's possibilities.
"We are encouraged that after months of careful negotiation and deliberation, a group of bipartisan senators will soon introduce an immigration bill that reflects many of the principles World Relief has been advocating for," said Jenny Yang, vice president of advocacy and policy for World Relief. "While the introduction of the bill is just one step forward in a long process, we applaud the actions taken by the Senate and believe such leadership from members of Congress and the president will continue to be critical in the months ahead."
Salguero told The Christian Post that he is not sure if the EIT will advocate for or against passage of any particular bill, if one were to be voted on in the House or Senate. Those are conversations that EIT members would have when the time comes. For now, the EIT will continue to encourage members of Congress to work toward reforming the immigration system and apply the principles set forth by the EIT.
A broad spectrum of evangelicalism was represented. At the press conference, Salguero and Yang were joined by Timothy Goeglein, vice president of external relations at Focus on the Family; Dr. Richard Land, outgoing president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and executive editor for The Christian Post; Dr. Carlos Moran, a National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference board member; and Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, co-chair of the National African American Clergy Network.
Three pastors were also there – Kenton Beshore from Mariners Church in Irvine, Calif.; Bill Hybels from Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill.; and David Uth from First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla. The pastors spoke about how they and their congregants have been personally impacted by involvement in the lives of immigrants and by reading scripture related to immigration.
Beshore described how ministries in his church have worked with children in his community who are living without a parent due to immigration laws that have broken apart their family.
"This has to change," Beshore said.