Is Immigration Reform Dead? Not If Evangelicals Can Do Anything About It

"These are the lives of real people and according to the CBO can really help our economy," Salguero said. "Dr. King once said, 'Justice delayed is often justice denied.'" Moore said he was "disappointed," but that he reserved hope "the House will pass legislation that reflects the principles we care about in fixing this broken system of amnesty by inaction and injustice by neglect." Rodriguez said that "by delaying passage of CIR, Republicans in the house sacrificed political courage and long term viability on the altar of short term political expediency."

Rodriguez said his political message to House Republicans on July 24 will be simple: "Do you want to alienate the most faithful voting constituency supporting Mitt Romney in the 2012 election? If we had 78 percent of evangelicals supporting Mitt Romney, that is the base of the base. Do you alienate that in order to acquiesce to parts of the party that don't speak to the future of the country, but suffer from cultural myopia, sacrificing the very viability of the Republican Party?"

Immigration backers like Karl Rove warn that Republicans will struggle to win presidential elections without greater Hispanic support. But there are potential repercussions at the state level, too. Democratic strategists are lining up to take advantage of the fallout if a bill fails. Jeremy Bird, the field director for Obama's reelection campaign, is working on a push to take advantage of changing demographics and political allegiances to turn Texas blue. "People of faith support a fair pathway to citizenship -- many Texans can see the broken immigration system's impact on other families in their own congregations," said Bird, a former Harvard Divinity School student. "This is one more issue where the Republican Party in Texas says one thing but their actions speak differently - opposing common sense immigration reform is completely out of line with the evangelical teachings I grew up with in the Southern Baptist church."

Over the coming weeks and months, Republicans are going to be asked by evangelicals the same question Bill Hybels asked President Obama three years ago: "Are you serious about this?" As Republicans worry about making gains among constituencies that opposed them in 2012 -- women, youth, Latinos, African-Americans -- they would be wise to not discount the chance that they stand on the precipice of losing the support of one of the strongest elements of their base: evangelicals.

At the close of our interview, Hybels told me his message for the House of Representatives: "The sense I received from country is that once Senate passed something was a sense of relief. If the House reneges, or decides to delay putting good legislation together, the frustration level will go over the top. There is a consensus nationwide that we need a new plan. The Senate was responsive to that; I have to believe the House will do the right thing."

Evangelicals across the country working for reform are praying that is the case.

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Michael Wear is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He previously led faith outreach for President Obama’s 2012 election campaign and worked in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

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