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Christian leaders have their fingers crossed for a good speech from President Obama at American University this morning, making the case for comprehensive immigration reform.

This is a highly relevant debate for Catholics and evangelical Protestant groups with growing Latino memberships. But beyond that, a range of Christian leaders involved in the interfaith call for immigration reform cite biblical motives — “What Would Jesus Do” kinds of things, like loving your neighbor and helping the less fortunate.

Religion Link has more on why this issue matters to faith-based groups, including their reactions to Arizona’s new law cracking down on illegal immigrants.

In addition to denominational lines, this issue transcends some color barriers: “black” and “brown” clergy held a conference call yesterday to publicize their emerging coalition’s efforts, including sending a letter to Obama and members of Congress urging for legislation to help the estimated 12 million undocumented people already in the United States. One of the organizers, the Rev. Luis Cortez Jr. of Esperanza for America, a Hispanic evangelical network, said people of faith “are called to care for the poor and to welcome the stranger.” A new law should “compassionately” address the millions of people already here — including undocumented parents with American-born children — while recognizing the need for border security and enforcement of legal hiring practices, he said.

While lobbying Congress, the coalition, which includes members of the National Baptist Convention USA, the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Progressive National Baptist Convention, has started recruiting more clergy and planning joint education programs for African-American and Hispanic congregations. (They may also try to get some Native Americans involved, which could make things mighty interesting…)

Obama’s speech is scheduled to start at 10:45 a.m. EST. Check back for updates, and share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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