Evangelicals on Immigration Reform: 'How We Treat the Stranger Is How We Treat Christ'

The evangelical "Pray for Reform: 92 Days of Prayer and Action to Pass Immigration Reform" campaign called on Congress in a press call on Wednesday to pass meaningful legislation in the next 92 days, throwing further support behind the current momentum in Congress to finally pass a immigration reform bill.

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, explained in the press call that the number 92 is significant for evangelicals because the Hebrew word for immigration is mentioned 92 times in the Old Testament

"This number represents the biblical call to welcome the stranger. I'm convinced that we stand on the edge of the Jordan called 'immigration reform.' On the other side lies the promised land of integration, secured borders and safer communities," Rodriguez said.

"We have 11 million hard-working, God-loving family individuals who contribute daily to the spiritual and economic well-being of our nation, waiting to step in," he continued, calling on Congress to show "prophetic courage" when deciding on such measures.

Immigration reform has become a bipartisan issued after the November 2012 election, with both Republicans and Democrats insisting that it is time America found viable solutions for the roughly 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal documents.

The Evangelical Immigration Table leaders have sent Congress a letter calling for bipartisan passage of a bill within 92 days, which they hope will both be fair on American taxpayers but also provide opportunities for undocumented immigrants. In a previous press call in March, EIT outlined some of the key provisions it hopes to see in an immigration reform bill.

EIT argued, however, that those who have been trying to obtain citizenship through a legal path should be addressed first: "This will ensure that those applying now do not enjoy an advantage over those who have been trying to comply with immigration laws, while allowing all qualified applicants to earn status within a reasonable period."

Jim Wallis, president and CEO of the Christian ministry Sojourners, noted on Wednesday that in the dysfunctional political system in Washington D.C., immigration reform is one of the few issues that has a chance of receiving bipartisan support.

"How we treat the stranger is how we treat Christ himself. That message is converting evangelicals by the thousands, by the millions – and we've seen now how that conversation is changing politics," Wallis said.

"We're praying that the dysfunction can be overcome for the sake of 11 million vulnerable undocumented people that Jesus calls us to welcome. Prayer is necessary in these final stages. We are going to pray without ceasing that they can put aside their interests and agendas and finally do something together for those people and for the common good," he added.

Dr. Richard Land, outgoing president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and incoming president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES) in Charlotte, N.C., called immigration reform a "moral issue."

"We are calling on Congress not to act like politicians who are focused on the next election, but to act as statesmen and stateswomen who are focused on the next generation," Land said.

He highlighted how legislation has already gone further than many people thought was possible, and explained that the Prayer for Reform campaign shows Congress that evangelicals are behind them on this issue.

"We must begin the mending process, we must focus on the human dignity of each of these individuals and their families and look upon them as the assets that they are, not as liabilities to our nation's future," Land added.

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