WASHINGTON – Prominent evangelical leaders stood side-by-side with senators and congressmen on Thursday to rally support for a comprehensive immigration reform bill which they consider a "moral" and "biblical" response to the immigration crisis.
"As Christians, as evangelical Latinos, we want everyone to respect the rule of law and come here legally," said the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. "We need to protect our borders and we need to stop illegal immigration."
However, the head of America's largest Hispanic Evangelical organization pointed out that the government must similarly protect the nation's "values and faith narratives."
"How we deal with the 12 million currently undocumented [people] in this nation is actually a diagnostic of the spiritual health of our nation," said Rodriguez, whose organization represents 10,700 Hispanic evangelical churches with 15 million members.
Rodriguez, Hispanic evangelical pastors and congressmen present at the press conference gathered to show support for a new comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced last week by Congressman Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Luis Gutierrez (R-Ill.). The senate will consider the reform legislation, which supports a process for illegal immigrants to obtain legal status or to become U.S. citizens, in the coming weeks.
Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, spoke strongly about the Southern Baptist's support of the immigration reform bills. He highlighted the motive for why Hispanics come to America as reason for people to support the bill.
"One of the great tragedies of our immigration crisis is that these people have come here illegally. But the difference is that they have come here illegally to work," said Land. "Whereas our homegrown people who break the law, break the law so they don't have to work," referring to Americans who hire the illegal immigrants.
"These people have come here to work and to become part of the American dream and they are far too often exploited by unscrupulous individual employers and that is not going to end until we have comprehensive immigration reform," he emphasized.
The evangelical leaders countered arguments that the new bill will serve as amnesty for the millions of illegal immigrants, stating that illegal Hispanics and other immigrants will have to go through the process of learning to read and write English proficiently to earn their legal status or citizenship.
"We are committed, and hear carefully, we are committed for every Latino and immigrant in America to become a productive citizen, to master both the English and the Spanish language and to embrace the core values of America and realize the American dream," emphasized Rodriguez.
Other prominent evangelical leaders who support comprehensive immigration reforms include Joel Osteen and Jack Hayford, according to Rodriguez.