Holding Congress accountable for moving forward with immigration solutions

In the wake of Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R) historic loss to Dave Brat in Virginia's 7th District primary election, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) wishes to affirm not only our biblically informed position on immigration reform, but the perspective of conservative Hispanics nationwide on the enormous importance of this critical issue. Make no mistake. Our communities are in crisis, and we will fully hold Congress accountable if they fail to do their part in addressing this urgent reality.

Interpreting Cantor's loss as a collective conservative clarion call opposing immigration reform stands as both a political miscalculation and an indication that Republicans continue to suffer from ethnocultural myopia. Simply stated, without immigration reform, the GOP cannot and will not successfully engage the Hispanic American electorate. Republicans have a choice to make as it pertains to this critical demographic. They can either build a bridge by passing conservative comprehensive immigration solutions or continue to construct a wall alienating a constituency that supported President George W. Bush with 44 percent of the vote.

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As conservative Americans of faith, the NHCLC and the millions of Hispanic members that attend our 40,118 churches across America will continue to stress the need for members in Congress to vote their values. It is important to note that on issue after issue, from the sanctity of every human life from conception to natural death, on the biblical definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman, and on many other conservative issues, our member's values line up significantly with those articulated by conservatives in Congress.

However, we urge our conservative brothers and sisters in Congress to please understand just how deeply we value the need to solve the immigration crisis in our nation. Therefore, while we do agree with the Republican platform on most of their issues, and have voted in the past very much along party lines based on those values, our members cannot in good conscience continue to vote against one of our most scared and fundamental values: fixing our broken immigration system.

Therefore, we wish to urge the members of Congress, be they Democrat or Republican, to please not overreact to Cantor's loss. It had much more to do with the frustration of his constituents regarding the gridlock in Washington across the board, and on his failure to articulate a coherent vision on how we can solve the many intractable problems facing our nations's economy, educational system, foreign policy and many other issues completely unrelated to immigration. In poll after poll, and in election after election, voters are rewarding representatives that stand for solutions, and then act on those commitments, including those that support a complete revision of our broken immigration system.

In conclusion, members of Congress that ignore the problem of our broken immigration system will defy the wishes of the large and growing Hispanic electorate at their extreme peril. Hispanics have not been supportive of opponents of immigration reform in past elections. However, if Republicans are seen as blocking or obstructing immigration reform now, when the Senate has already passed an immigration reform bill, the Republican Party will cause irreparable harm to themselves with an electorate that has a long and unforgiving memory on those that have crossed them and disrespected them. The Hispanic community will hold the Republican Party accountable if they fail to address the crisis in our communities. Therefore, we urge our Republican friends in the strongest possible terms to stand up for biblical and moral values and pass legislation that secures our borders, workplaces and values. Our community does not need amnesty, and we are not asking for amnesty. All we are asking for is an earned opportunity to pursue our American Dreams.

Gittelson is vice president for governmental affairs of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.