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Why Evangelicals are the new partners for immigration reform

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Much like the nation, evangelicalism is becoming more ethnically diverse. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 13 percent of Hispanic Americans describe themselves as evangelical Protestants. Immigrant churches are growing rapidly, and many denominations have created new structures and leadership posts designed to serve Hispanic congregants. Immigration – including illegal immigration – touches the lives of many in the pews, and church leaders want to help.

Also, greater numbers of Evangelicals are worshiping alongside documented and undocumented immigrants, getting to know them and listening to their stories.

Perhaps the strongest sign of Evangelicals' advocacy is the emergence of new organizations and coalitions focusing on the issue.

In October 2011, Cedarville University, a conservative Christian college in Ohio, hosted the "G92" immigration conference. Taking its name from the Hebrew word for immigrant, , which appears 92 times in the Hebrew Bible, the conference has spawned a new movement designed to mobilize Christian college students to advocate on behalf of all immigrants. Leaders are planning half a dozen events across the country in 2013.

The Evangelical Immigration Table, founded in June 2012 by nine heads of evangelical organizations, is networking with evangelical leaders from across the spectrum to support immigration reform. Founders include the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, a large umbrella group representing many denominations and associations; Richard Land, an outspoken conservative and Southern Baptist leader; and Jim Wallis, bestselling author and leader of the left-leaning social justice organization Sojourners.

In June 2012, the Table released a wide-reaching, seven-point plan for immigration reform that included a call for secure borders, protection of family unity, and a path toward legal status or citizenship. It also left out many of the thorniest details, such as what steps a pathway to legal status would include and who would be eligible.

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