Immigration continues to be a contentious sociopolitical issue, with politicians, faith leaders and American citizens all weighing in on proposals to cope with the millions of illegals who are currently residing within the nation’s borders. Due to its complexities, finding common ground can be difficult, however religious leaders like the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), believe that it is possible to reach viable — and faith-based — solutions to the domestic conundrum.

TheBlaze recently interviewed Rodriguez, a prominent evangelical leader, to learn more about how he is tackling this controversial issue. Considering the role that preachers have in American communities and the work Rodriguez has been engaged in, his perspective on this front is important.

Is Rejecting a Path to Citizenship for Illegal Immigrants Un Christian?

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference speaks during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday commemorative service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, in Atlanta. The speech marks the first time a Latino leader has served as the keynote speaker for the commemorative service on the King holiday. Credit: AP

Among other observations, Rodriguez told TheBlaze that Christians’ views on immigration have changed dramatically over the past seven years, noting that progressive and conservative evangelicals, alike, are coming together like never before (we reported on a massive campaign bridging political divides earlier this year called “The Evangelical Immigration Table”).

“It’s important to that conservative evangelicals today, as in comparison to seven years ago, serve as probably one of the most significant supportive groups in favor of comprehensive immigration reform,” he said, noting that just a few years ago these same individuals and collectives were opposed. “Today, because of groups like the Southern Baptists [and] Liberty Counsel…we are pushing immigration reform and we have a piece of legislation coming forth from Marco Rubio.”

Rodriguez noted that he believes the previous stance against reform was rooted in “spiritual, cultural and political myopia.” Rather than a horizontal issue, the faith leader said that conservative evangelicals are now seeing the issue vertically and have woken up to the realities the nation is facing on the immigration front.

Also, outside of the political realm, Rodriguez noted that the most significant growth in Christianity is actually coming from these immigrants, making this as much a religious issue as it is one of policy.

“Before it was a political issue. Now it’s a God and Christian issue,” he continued.

Is Rejecting a Path to Citizenship for Illegal Immigrants Un Christian?

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez (Photo Credit: NHCLC)

As for critics who might dismiss plans to provide a path to citizenship and other such proposals, TheBlaze asked how Rodriguez would react to those who believe that illegals broke the law and that, as a result, they shouldn’t be given amnesty.

“I agree they broke the law and they shouldn’t be given amnesty,” he responded. “We have to ask ourselves what is the Biblical solution for those who are here.”

Rather than deporting them — something Rodriguez said simply isn’t a viable option — he advocated a more compassionate and understanding approach. He also claimed that many of the 11 million people (estimated) who are here actually came to the country legally at some point, but some “overstayed their VISAs” (a Wall Street Journal report corroborated that 40 percent of illegals did enter the nation legitimately at some point).

He said that there’s a fact-versus-fiction paradigm that shows that many of these individuals have actually contributed to their communities. Rodriguez also highlighted his belief that it’s unfair to throw these individuals out when they have been living here for years.

“Ronald Reagan would agree with me on this. He was the one who said that these immigrants really embody the future of America,” he added. “True conservatism [means that] if we are to conserve the spirit of entrepreneurship, we want to welcome these immigrants.”

It’s not as though the faith leader wants to open the floodgates. Rodriguez is, in fact, calling for overarching reform. And he’s fully on-board with making illegals go to the back of the line, pay fines, and learn the English language. He noted that the process for becoming a citizen should include these benchmarks and that it could — and should — take someone 10 to 13 years to achieve this goal.

Now, as for the contention between progressive and conservative evangelicals on a wide variety of issues, Rodriguez spoke candidly about immigration as a uniting force. He said that it has been the most unifying issue he’s observed in quite some time among evangelicals — so powerful, in fact, that it has conservative evangelicals like Rodriguez finding common ground with progressives like Sojourners’ Jim Wallis.

“We coalesce around welcoming the stranger,” he said, noting that Matthew 25 is a key Bible verse in the immigration reform debate.

“I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me,” reads a portion of Matthew 25:35-36.

Rodriguez’s comments come at the same time that a bi-partisan immigration plan is being proposed to help cope with the nation’s borders as well as the 11 million illegals who are estimated to be living within them. TheBlaze told you about the proposal’s contents earlier this week.

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