Central Fla. pastors embracing immigration reform



ORLANDO, Fla. - As Congress gears up to debate overhauling the immigration system, the pastor of one of central Florida's largest churches is traveling to Washington, D.C., to weigh in on Capitol Hill.

Channel 9 found out that there is a change taking place among conservative evangelicals when it comes to legalizing immigrants.

It was an emotional moment for Raul Almanza as he finally became a U.S. citizen.

"This is the most important day of my life. I am an American citizen right now," said Almanza, who is from Cuba. "Right now, in this moment, I am a free man."

But for many others, citizenship seems unattainable.

Caps placed on certain countries mean someone who wants to live in American legally can be on a waiting list for 20 years.

Pastor David Uth of First Baptist Orlando said it creates a hard decision for people.

"'Do I stay? Do I just become illegal? Because I've done everything I know to do.' I don't think they need to make that choice," Uth said.

Now there is a new voice weighing in on the immigration debate. Evangelical Christians coming out in support of a path to citizenship.

Uth, who leads a congregation of 16,000 people, is among a group of pastors spearheading a movement called the Evangelical Immigration Table.

"For some, it is the ‘ah-ha’ moment when they read the scriptures and understand the Bible really does speak to this," Uth said.

Uth said Christians have a responsibility to take a stand.

"What would Jesus have to say on this? I think he would have a question for us: ‘Why aren't you doing something for people I love?’” Uth said.

A bipartisan group of senators will file an immigration reform bill Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

The bill drafted by the Gang of Eight senators stipulates that the border with Mexico must be secure. Without it, there will be no path to legal residency for migrants.

The bill makes exceptions for law-abiding immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors and completed high school in the U.S.

It also includes allowances for certain immigrants who work in agriculture.