Evangelical leaders said Monday they will support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants as part of immigration legislation, the first time they've taken an affirmative stance on the contentious issue.
Jim Wallis, head of the Christian social justice group Sojourners, said it's part of a "sea change" in the evangelical community, driven in part by the increasing numbers of immigrants in congregations. He said evangelical leaders have concluded that "we don't believe there are second-class images of God, and therefore we don't believe in a second-class status for people who are willing to follow an earned path to citizenship."
Sojourners is part of a coalition of evangelical groups called the Evangelical Immigration Table that has been lobbying for an immigration overhaul to bring the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants into legal status. Before Monday the groups had stopped short of advocating for citizenship, but they told reporters on a conference call that they've now concluded it's appropriate as religious leaders to support citizenship as well.