Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (www. nhclc.org), America's largest Latino evangelical organization, which "is committed to serve approximately 15 million evangelical/born again Christians." He talked about comprehensive immigration reform and the New Sanctuary Movement with Sojourners organizing/policy intern Bob Francis.
The Hispanic evangelical church can really mediate reconciliation between the extremes in the immigration debate. We offer a viable alternative to complete amnesty or "Let's shut down the borders, build a 1,000-foot wall, and put missiles on top of the wall."
Hispanics are Republican and Democrats. However, Republicans have historically depended on evangelical voters to get elected, and Hispanic evangelicals—even though they are more bipartisan than white evangelicals—are taking their message to these political representatives. There are moral ramifications of immigration reform that affect the spiritual health of our nation.
In earlier sanctuary movements, many non-ethnic clergy were responsible for the leadership. But this time around you're seeing a lot more Hispanic clergy involved. It's a minor but significant difference in the mosaic of leadership. We're working to find white evangelical solidarity on the issue of reform. One recent success was getting the Southern Baptists to support comprehensive immigration reform that includes an earned pathway to citizenship—with 97 percent of the vote!
It's not typical for evangelical churches to be engaged in political activities that have historically been interpreted as walking a fine line between the violation of law and the application of our biblical narrative. However, with the egregious damage caused to the families that are being separated now, we find the church to be the only sanctuary that can accommodate the needs of our people. The immigration issue affects the Latino community more than any other community, so to us it is not just a matter of political expediency, it's a matter of survivability.
There is some resistance in our churches around the "rule of law" issue, but also an understanding of the moral framework that says—at the end of the day—the church is the last safe haven. We respect the law; however, our congregations are filled with undocumented members. And if our churches need to protect and offer safety to those members, they will do it.