Hispanic Evangelicals to Congress: Your Turn on Immigration

It is high time Congress passes immigration reform. For over a decade we have seen repeated bi-partisan efforts fail for inexplicable reasons. All of us can remember, the promise of compromise in McCain-Kennedy and Graham-Schumer that came to nothing. The case for reform has been made repeatedly. Major faith leaders have for years advocated for common-sense immigration reform including: the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Southern Baptists Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the National Association of Evangelicals, Church World Services, and our own National Latino Evangelical Coalition.

Immigration reform has been endorsed by Presidents Bush and Obama, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and leaders in law enforcement and still nothing. Time after time in the place of action we have heard excuses. Polls have recently shown that close to two-thirds of Americans want immigration reform; this includes Republicans, Independents, and Democrats. The day for bi-partisan immigration action is NOW! We need Congress to act and lead on this issue.

On Friday, I joined President Obama on Air Force One to Las Vegas for a historic moment. While I was the sole faith leader to join the flight I recognize that our organization is only part of the chorus of faith leaders who continuously champion immigration reform. Most importantly, it was a great day for five million undocumented people. Many families will no longer have to live in the fear of deportation or of being torn apart. A great Thanksgiving surprise.

As pastors who serve immigrant communities we welcome the relief we know that executive action does not repair the entirety of our broken immigration system. However, indubitably, executive action is a step forward for millions of people. On this front, our organization is now committed to two things; advocating for bi-partisan immigration legislation and registering scores of people who qualify under this executive action. We will not give-up on asking Congress to act on a bi-partisan bill. It is important for Republicans to know that Latino evangelicals expect their leadership on this issue. We expect them to uphold the promises they have made to us in countless meetings on the hill and when they have visited us in our churches. We take them at their word that they want to get immigration reform done. We support bi-partisan legislative action. Legislative action is the only long-term way to repair this broken system in ways that respect the rule of law, helps our economy, and keeps families together.

For me, as a Hispanic evangelical leader, it is important to remember the names and faces of those who suffer under a broken system. When I spoke with President Obama I lifted some of those names to him from our congregations; Yunlong, Letty, Romeo, Ingrid, Nina, Anthony, Evelyn, and Leslie. It is they who flew in my heart to Las Vegas. As I left the Del Sol High School Auditorium two moments were emblazoned on my mind. First, a young Latina hugging her mother, both with tears in their eyes, saying, "We can stay together." The other an elderly woman from South Asia embracing me repeatedly whispering, "Thank you, Thank you, Thank you......!"

These faces are the reason we continue to ask Congress to act. In the midst of all the back and forth on immigration reform my prayer is best relayed in the ancient Latin adage, "Fiat justitia raet caelum -- Let justice be done though the heavens fall."

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