By: Matthew Brown, Deseret News
Evangelical leaders are adding daily group prayers outside the U.S. Capitol to their lobbying efforts for immigration reform.
Beginning Monday, pastors and other leaders will gather at the Peace Circle, near the Senate side of the Capitol, for prayer. Following these gatherings, the billboard bearing the message “Praying for Immigrants. Praying for Congress” will make its way around Washington.
The demonstrations will take place the same week the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on a comprehensive immigration bill that would offer U.S. citizenship to millions.
The prayer campaign follows a letter-writing campaign by hundreds of pastors to their senators and representatives from 10 states: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.
"The letters speak to the urgent need for reform that respects the God-given dignity of every person, protects family unity, respects the rule of law, guarantees secure national borders, ensures fairness to taxpayers and establishes a path toward earned citizenship for those who qualify," stated a press release from the National Immigration Forum
The prayers, letter writing and advertising are all part of a 92-day "Pray for Reform" campaign organized by the Evangelical Immigration Table
, a group of Evangelical churches, leaders, universities and organizations working together to build support for the immigration bill introduced in the Senate by the so-called "Gang of Eight."
Choosing a 92-day time period was no accident.
"A key emphasis of the Evangelical Immigration Table has been to encourage Christians across America to read the 92 references in the Old Testament on immigrants," said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. "We've picked up on that number 92 and we've asked people to pray for God's help and direction over a 92-day period, with the hope and prayer that this will result in legislation."
The prayers may be working, according the Associated Press, which reported Friday that support is building for the bill.
"A test vote was set for Monday on the bill, which calls for a military-style surge to increase security at the U.S-Mexican border. At the same time it sets out a 13-year pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants living in the United States unlawfully."
Enough Republicans are expected to support the measure to produce 70 votes or more and easily overwhelm its critics.
"Some Democrats said a heavy show of support at the end of next week could alter the bill's trajectory in the House, where majority Republicans strongly oppose citizenship for immigrants who came to the country illegally or overstayed their visa," AP reported.
But the bill's most consistent critic in the Senate isn't giving in.
"I just hammered the bill, pointed out the problems day after day and the opposition grew," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., told the Tampa Bay Times
. "I think it can happen again. Although I'll acknowledge the forces are there. The odds are different this time. But I'm going to oppose it with all the ability I have."
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