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As Congress moves forward with immigration reform, we take a look at how this issue connects to culture, business and families in the Northwest.Our region is home to a unique blend of immigrants who work in all parts of our economy — from high-tech to agriculture. This population already has a deeply-rooted history here. And its ranks are expanding rapidly.Proposals for comprehensive immigration reform address border security, employment verification, guest-worker programs and pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US.

What Would Jesus Do About Immigration Reform?

Flickr Photo/DickMorgan

When it comes to immigration, people from all over the political spectrum seem to agree on one thing: the system is broken. Now, support for immigration reform is growing among an unexpected group.  Religious conservatives in Washington state, as well as all around the country, are coming out in support of immigration reform.

The Evangelical Immigration Table is a national coalition of evangelicals who support immigration reform.

In a public service announcement created by the group and posted to their website, Reverend Luis Cortez says, “As evangelical leaders, we are called by Christ to be people of compassion toward everyone. This is why we must speak out on behalf of all those affected by our broken immigration laws.”

The Evangelical Immigration Table is attracting support from the left and the right. They have created a 40-day challenge, the “I Was a Stranger” challenge. Each day you’re assigned a Bible reading about strangers. One day’s reading is Exodus 12:49: “The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you.”

Supporters of the I Was a Stranger challenge see the word “stranger” in the Bible as a sort of code word for “immigrant.”

“The bible doesn’t have any patience at all for mistreating strangers in your country,” said Dr. Joseph Castleberry, president of Northwest University, a Christian college in Kirkland, Washington.

Dr. Castleberry was quick to point out that his views on immigration are his own, not those of the school. Castleberry is an evangelical and a conservative -- he hasn’t voted for a Democrat since Jimmy Carter.

Part of the reason he supports immigration reform is practical; 30 percent of his church’s members in the United States are Latino. “If I want my church to flourish, I ought to be in favor of immigration because that’s were the new members are coming from,” said Castleberry.

Evangelicals have become big supporters of the Washington Compact. The compact outlines five principles to guide immigration reform in Washington state. It has garnered support across the political spectrum, from left-leaning advocacy groups to evangelical leaders like Dr. Castleberry.

This story is part of our series, "Culture Shift," where we are looking at how the issue of immigration reform connects to culture, business and families in the Northwest.