Hispanic Church Network Pushes for Immigration Reform

The nation's largest Hispanic faith-based network launched a nationwide grassroots campaign on Tuesday to push lawmakers to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year.

Esperanza, which includes more than 12,000 Hispanic churches and community non-profits, is seeking to mobilize Hispanic communities across the country to contact their elected officials in support of comprehensive immigration reform.

Participants will tell their representative in Congress that 65 percent of Americans support reform.

"It is time for Congress to catch up to the American people," said Reverend Luis Cortés, Jr., president of Esperanza. "We reject the notion that conservatives do not support immigration reform. By huge margins, Americans in every part of the country – swing districts, conservative and liberal districts – support the types of workable solutions under consideration today."

The National Association of Evangelicals and Lakewood Church in Houston also lent their voices to the "Esperanza for America" effort.

Galen Carey, director of government affairs for the NAE, called on the U.S. president and members of Congress from both parties to work together "in a spirit of civility and public interest" to quickly pass immigration reform.

"Our system is broken and for too long our politicians have lacked the courage to come together for a meaningful solution. In the meantime, our families and communities are suffering," Carey said.

Similarly, the Rev. Marcos Witt, pastor of Lakewood Church's Hispanic ministry, described the current immigration situation as "nothing short of a humanitarian crisis."

"When can we stop playing politics and help our country solve this problem?" he posed. "I think the time is now."

In a bipartisan show of support for immigration reform, Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey also spoke at the campaign launch. Diaz-Balart said immigration reform is critical to the nation's future while Menendez said the country must not forget that it is "a nation of immigrants."

"We must drown out the hate and fear of those who refer to Latinos as 'those people' with a message that is positive and unified," Menendez asserted.

An estimated 12 million people live in the shadows of American society as illegal immigrants.

A growing number of Christian leaders say they care about the issue of immigration reform because the current system is tearing families apart. U.S.-born children are being separated from their parents who are deported by immigration officials.

Many Christian groups are calling for the government to create a pathway, which includes paying fines and taxes, for undocumented immigrants already in the United Sates to gain legal status.

The NAE is one such Christian group that has recently come out in force to support immigration reform. Last year, the group released its most comprehensive resolution on immigration to date. After the resolution, the NAE increased its engagement and activism on immigration reform.

The wider faith community will come together Sunday to demonstrate and show their support for just, humane immigration reform. Tens of thousands of people are expected to converge on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for "March for America: Change Takes Courage and Faith."

Some of the faith leaders will meet with top White House officials on Monday to discuss the urgent need for immigration reform. Meanwhile, hundreds of people of faith will meet with their senators and representatives to urge them to pass reform.

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