On Friday, June 19th, over 750 influential Latino Evangelical clergy and leaders converged on Washington, D.C., to pray for our country and its leaders, talk with our members of Congress about immigration reform, housing, etc, and hear from our President and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Latino/a evangelicals where lead by the Rev. Luis Cortés, the president and founder of Esperanza. By all accounts Esperanza is the largest and most active Latino evangelical organization in the country and has hosted the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast for the past 6 years. The leadership of Esperanza has over 12,000 congregations and over 500 not-for-profit faith organizations in its network. In the last several years the National Hispanic Prayer breakfast has been attended by President Obama, President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain, Secretary Hilary Clinton, and members of Congress from all sides of the political spectrum.
This year one message was made clear at the breakfast. What is that message? The millions of Latino/a evangelicals are calling for fair and humane immigration reform now. This is not just a political issue this is a moral, spiritual issue that cannot wait.
Over 2/3 of Americans agree that the immigration system is broken and is in need of reform. Evangelical clergy are asking for a workable reform that respects the law and conserves human dignity. Not reforming is not a viable option; people will remain in the shadows and families will continually be separated. A way has to be made for people to earn a path to citizenship; even if this means paying a fine, and creating a line for the close to 12 million undocumented immigrants.
The clergy gathered at the Esperanza National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast are people of faith and compassion. We believe in finding a balance between justice and mercy. There is a way forward that respects the law, and honors human dignity. The voices who say that this is not possible have not understood U.S. ingenuity and our incredible capacity to find workable solutions. Moreover, voices that argue for a reform that does not provide a path to citizenship underestimate this countries’ incredible legacy and capacity for welcoming the stranger. This welcoming the stranger has always honored existing citizens while creating paths that are true to Emma Lazarus’ claim, “Bring me your poor,your tired, your hungry….” It is also part of the ancient Christian ethics of hospitality and generosity.
We heard President Obama commit to immigration reform as a Presidential candidate. We know heard him repeat that commitment at the breakfast. Our prayer now is for legislative action. The Hispanic Congressional Caucus and leaders like Congressman Luis Gutierrez have led a tour around the country emphasizing the impact of this issue for thousand of U.S. citizens. While we understand the need for dealing with the economic crisis, health care reform, and the challenges to totalitarianism all over the world. We believe that this Administration and Congress have the capacity to enact comprehensive immigration reform while responding to these issues responsibly. We earnestly expect that this will not be delayed nor denied.
Future generations and millions of people of faith committed to loving our neighbors and welcoming the stranger pray for comprehensive and humane immigration reform now.