Immigration Reform Important to Evangelical Latinos

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WASHINGTON -- How to deal with illegal immigration and improve the path to legal American citizenship was a hot topic at Tuesday night's GOP debate in Las Vegas.

Latinos are the fastest growing segment of American voters and they are listening to the candidate's plans closely.

"This is an issue that tears at the fabric of us Christians who believe that we're to reach out to our brother or sister in the manner in which Christ would reach out," Pastor Jim Rolle said.

Rolle pastors La Iglesia en El Camino, an hispanic evangelical megachurch in California. Many of his parishoners have been deported.

"Arguably, immigration reform may very well be the most important issue in America's evangelical setting today," Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, explained.

Rodriguez said the fastest growing segment of America's evangelical church is in the immigrant community.

"So if you wake up in the morning and you identify yourself first and foremost as a Christian, as a born-again, Bible-believing Christian, then you should have a comprehensive biblical optic as it pertains to immigration reform," Rodriguez said.

One that he says reconciles compassion for the stranger with respect for the rule of law.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been booed in several debates for his decision to allow undocumented teenagers to receive in-state college tuition.

"We need to be educating these children," Perry said to mixed applause and boos.

"The boos and the "ahas" that you heard in that debate, simultaneously across households in America you had Hispanic conservatives saying "Hallelujah" and "Praise the Lord," Rodriguez pointed out.

Rodriguez said he understands that the presidential candidates are against illegal immigration and amnesty.

But he's asking them to sign a pledge that makes it clear they're for legal immigration and would be a president for Hispanic Americans.

"These are pro- life, pro-biblical marriage, limited government, biblical worldview Hispanics who voted 44 percent for Bush in 2004," he explained.

"We have to do a better job as evangelical Christians and as politicians on both sides of the aisle to be able to bring about healing on this. We need to enter into a dialogue to solve this," Tolle said.

The immigration debate is an issue the next president of the United States will be pressured to address.

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Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.