By Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
On Wednesday, hundreds of evangelicals and evangelical leaders from across the country will converge on Washington, D.C., with a unified message: We need immigration reform now, and we are praying for our members of Congress to follow through.
As president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, I see the urgent need for immigration reform based on biblical values. The United States cannot wait for sensible immigration reform that upholds human dignity, family unity and respect for the rule of law.
Already, close to 30,000 people have signed up as partners in the Evangelical Immigration Table’s “Pray for Reform” campaign, which emphasizes these values. In evangelical churches across the country, our reading of Scripture and our personal relationships with immigrants are opening hearts and minds.
As faith leaders, it is not our role to endorse specific legislation or candidates. Rather, it is our responsibility as followers of God to pray for the courage and wisdom of our elected leaders to reach a consensus on immigration that aligns with our values.
We recognize that the House of Representatives must follow its own path. But it must traverse that path.
Reform that addresses all parts of America’s broken immigration system can be both tough and compassionate. The Bible speaks clearly and repeatedly to our obligation to uphold the rule of law and expect the government to enforce the law.
But we also are called to care for “the least of these among us,” to act justly and mercifully toward the “stranger.”
More and more leaders in both parties recognize that we need this middle ground: one that simultaneously keeps our borders secure and creates an opportunity for aspiring Americans to emerge from the shadows, pay appropriate penalties and eventually earn citizenship.
Accountability is key. Reform must hold aspiring Americans accountable as they pursue full participation in the American dream.
But our government also is accountable. God judges nations based on how they treat the strangers in their midst. At this extraordinary moment, our government has the opportunity to align our rule of law with our biblical obligation to welcome and care for the stranger.
We support all members of Congress who want to come together and develop immigration solutions that reflect these biblical principles and move us forward. As more and more lawmakers recognize, immigration is not primarily about politics. It is about human beings for whom we have compassion and whose God-given dignity we respect.
Both parties recognize that this moment and this issue are unique. No other issue unites Americans across the political spectrum. Polls continue to show overwhelming support, even among conservative voters, for broad reform, including the opportunity for earned citizenship. All of us recognize that the sooner we wake up to a new immigration process, the better off all of us will be.
In the end, Congress must pass reform that keeps our borders secure, holds businesses accountable and creates a just and compassionate opportunity for people who do not have legal status to attain it. Such immigrants should have the opportunity over time to earn American citizenship.
That’s the kind of reform that will honor our American values, our biblical values and our God. Only then will all of us, together, be able to help our nation realize its full potential.
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.