In an effort to push comprehensive immigration reform, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), will initiate a 40-day fast with the faith-filled hope that Congress will pass the long-awaited reform bill by the end of this year that could legalize 11 million immigrants.
"In the spirit of Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and other leaders who have acted on the moral imperative to do justice, as well as our ultimate example found in Jesus, I likewise sense an urgent conviction to engage in the spiritual exercise that in my faith narrative produces great results," said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez will begin his fast on Nov. 4 and is urging others to join in on the commitment that he is willing to extend beyond 40 days until the proposed legislation gets passed. For a while now, Rodriguez and other NHCLC leaders have been actively engaged in pushing along immigration efforts while succeeding in garnering the massive support of the Evangelical Christian community.
"There are 11 million plus children of God waiting for the opportunity to come out of the shadows. While I cannot condone how all have come, I do understand why they came," said Rev. Tony Suárez, Virginia chapter director for NHCLC.
"The United States is the proverbial 'Promised Land.' While living in nations ravaged by drug wars, socialism, religious intolerance, and extreme poverty, they heard that in America there is freedom and opportunity. They read that America was founded by immigrants who came seeking the same freedom and opportunity they now seek," he added.
Suárez, who will join Rodriguez for the fast, says although they have lobbied members of Congress and will continue to do so, "some things must be accomplished through prayer and fasting."
Many believe that the bill, which was introduced in the Senate in April, could be a breakthrough in the fight for the legal recognition of many and a possible advancement for their civil rights and liberties.
If passed, immigrants would be eligible to obtain legal status unless they have been found guilty of committing a crime, including misdemeanor offenses, such as a drunk-driving conviction, gang activity, domestic violence, passport fraud or identity theft. The bill also requires the Department of Homeland Security to make changes to the Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy that includes an additional 700 miles of fencing.
The focus of NHCLC's support for the reform is based on three key points that would put an end to illegal immigration, including increased border protection and the creation of a market-driven, guest-worker program that would "reflect the Judeo-Christian value system on which this nation was founded."
The organization also supports the development of standards for undocumented residents without a criminal record who are earning citizenship status to go to the "back of the citizenship line" and receive a financial penalty, while acquiring civic and language proficiency to serve their community.
Contrary to recent news indicating that the push for immigration reform came to a halt, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said earlier this week that he was "hopeful" the legislation could pass by year's end, but he did not indicate any guarantees.
In the past week, three Republicans signed on to the House Democrats' immigration bill. Three additional GOP votes do not, however, indicate major progress since 218 votes are needed to pass. So far, the bill has 186 Democratic co-sponsors.