US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Hispanic evangelicals and immigration reform

By Father Tom Joyce, CMF | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

One hundred and fifty Protestant evangelical leaders met this week Capitol Hill in Washington to discuss compassionate immigration reform. Whether their meaning of “compassionate” would measure up to what has been proposed by the Catholic bishops and other religious leaders waits on the details. But the meeting is significant and welcomed.

These leaders came from religious bodies that have been already on record for immigration reform--like the Southern Baptists Convention, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, and the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents 40 evangelical denominations. But joining them was Focus on the Family, a Colorado-based network of evangelicals, and a very active body in Republican politics. What brings them together is the growing numbers of Hispanic evangelicals.

There are 7.5 million Hispanics among the nation’s 85 million evangelicals. Most Latino congregations are independent, but denominations have also been incorporating significant numbers in established churches like the Southern Baptists. Many of their ministers are joined in the Hispanic Leadership Conference and they have been pressing their evangelical brothers and sisters to be more understanding and biblical on the issue of undocumented immigrants. Hispanic evangelicals generally look very much like their American brothers and sisters--conservative Republican, anti-abortion, anti-gay-marriage, anti-alcohol, and the like. But they are stung and hurt by the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Republican primary campaign, echoed often by their evangelical brothers and sisters. (Catholic Hispanics are also not happy about some attitudes of white Catholics, for that matter.).

In alliance with the majority of evangelicals, some Hispanic Evangelical leaders hope to push prospective Republican nominee Mit Romney off his “self-deportation” position on undocumented immigrants that he announced during the presidential debates as his ”bipartisan” approach to  the issues.

There are more secular pressures to get him to ease up on immigration to woo Hispanic votes in swing states like Florida, Colorado, and Nevada. So far he has been non-committal. We’ll find out soon if there is any movement. Romney is to speak next week in Orlando,to a convention of elected Latino officials. Let's hope the Evangelical pressure leads to more GOP openness.