President Bush has renewed his push to encourage Congress to address the nation's immigration issue. Bush called for legislation during his April 9 visit to the U.S.-Mexico border and wants to see a compromise by August. Congressional action on immigration has been at a standstill since May 2006, when the Senate passed a bill that included a guest-worker program.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, called for comprehensive immigration reform at a March press conference with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and three other senators.

"There is greater anti-Latino, anti-immigrant sentiment in this country," Rodriguez told ct. "It is a shameful state of the union right now."

Latinos believe that white evangelicals do not support comprehensive immigration reform, Rodriguez said.

"We need friends like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson to stand up and say, 'Let's put an end to this,'" Rodriguez said. "If white evangelicals would have been the staunchest supporters of the immigrant community, this debate would've long been finished."

Rodriguez said he would support a bill that contains a touchback law, requiring immigrants to return for a time to their country of origin.

"We're even supporting legislation we know is going to stir up the masses within the immigrant community," he said. "We're committed to a path to citizenship that's not amnesty."

Land, however, is hoping for something else from Congress. He said the Senate has not sufficiently addressed border security, while the House struggles with how to deal adequately and fairly with the immigrants who live here. One recently introduced House bill would make illegal immigrants who came to the United States before June 1, 2006, eligible for legalization after paying $500. After six years, law-abiding immigrants who have learned English and pay another $1,500 would be eligible for permanent residency.

Last summer, sbc messengers to the annual convention passed a resolution that calls for policies that include border security and a pathway to citizenship.

"I don't think that any of the legislation that has been proposed in either house is adequate," Land said. "It's not comprehensive enough. If Southern Baptists are going to support comprehensive immigration reform, it's going to have to be built on a serious commitment to secure the border."

Advocates for comprehensive immigration reform face an uphill battle to secure evangelical support. According to John Green of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the evangelical community holds ambivalent views on immigration with no consensus on legislative solutions.

"There are many evangelicals, like many Americans, who are concerned about the cost of immigration," Green said. "Evangelicals have some influence, but since they are not united on this issue, their influence may be less."

Related Elsewhere:

Related articles are available in our special section on immigration.

The SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has information on immigration and Richard Land's stance.

Samuel Rodriguez has written about Hispanic evangelicals and the immigration debate in his blog.

The NHCLC has more from a Hispanic perspective, as well as links to recent news stories.

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