The Rev. Felix Cabrera looks out into the pews of his Oklahoma City ministry, and the faces of those affected by America's immigration laws stare back at him.
Because of his multicultural congregation — he estimates half are undocumented — the local pastor is taking to the national airwaves as part of a high-dollar radio advertising campaign urging Congress to make broad changes to U.S. immigration laws.
Cabrera, pastor of Iglesia Bautista de Quail Springs, the Hispanic ministry at Quail Springs Baptist Church, recently recorded an ad for the Evangelical Immigration Table's latest radio ad campaign launched this week. The ads are set to run on Christian and talk radio in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa markets.
Cabrera, 34, said about 50 percent of his congregation at the Oklahoma City church, 14613 N May, are U.S. citizens or legally in America, while the remainder are undocumented. The Puerto Rico native said his congregation's makeup puts him at the forefront of the immigration reform issue.
“I could be a voice for the voiceless in my church,” Cabrera said of his motivation to participate in the ad campaign.
“I'm not doing this because I'm Hispanic. I'm doing this because I'm a Christian.”
About the campaign
Barrett Duke, a leader with the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the $400,000 ad campaign is timed to coincide with the current congressional recess.
In a news teleconference Tuesday, Duke, the commission's vice president for public policy and research, said the ads will run in 56 congressional districts in 14 states, including Oklahoma. Other states are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin.
Evangelical Immigration Table is made up of evangelical leaders and organizations working together to urge Congress to make comprehensive modifications to U.S. immigration laws. Group leaders said the new ads bring the total amount spent on the “Pray 4 Reform” radio ads in every region of the country to about $1 million.
The group's immigration reform push also has included meetings with congressional leaders. Leaders said more than 60,000 people across the country have signed up as prayer partners in the effort to encourage Congress to pass immigration reform legislation.
Cabrera said his connection with the Evangelical Immigration Table came through his ties with the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, part of the evangelical immigration reform movement. Cabrera said he is a member of the Latino evangelical coalition's board, plus he has ties to the Southern Baptist Convention through his leadership at Quail Springs Baptist, a Southern Baptist church.
He said his Hispanic congregation meets at 11 a.m. Sundays in the fellowship hall at Quail Springs Baptist, and members represent South America, Central America, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
Cabrera said the immigration reform campaign seeks to create conscience and to remind the nation's leaders that the Bible has numerous Scriptures about the importance of coming to the aid of the “stranger.”
Cabrera said most Hispanic immigrants come to America to work and make a better life for themselves and their families. He said the Bible calls him to love, receive and care for immigrants, not judge them because they entered the country illegally.
The Evangelical Immigration Table's campaign calls for legislation that would include a path to citizenship and border security. Tuesday, Duke, with the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the group is not calling for a “special path” or an “automatic path” to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but its leaders do think Congress needs to come up with a way these immigrants may rectify their status.
Cabrera said the radio ad campaign is a way to show “that immigration is not only a political and economical issue. It's a biblical issue.”
Cabrera said Christians have no problem confronting the government on issues like same-sex marriage, legalization of drugs and abortion, but aren't as united regarding immigration.
“Why are we together on the other issues but we are divided on immigration?” he said. “I don't see the same passion when we talk about immigration.”
Meanwhile, aside from Cabrera, other pastors who recorded ads for the campaign include Bob Lowman, missionary and director of Metrolina Baptist Association in Charlotte, N.C.; the Rev. Mike McClenahan, pastor of Solana Beach Presbyterian Church in Solana Beach, Calif.; and the Rev. Stan Coffey, senior pastor of The Church at Quail Creek in Amarillo, Texas.
Other organizations included in the evangelical Immigration Table include the National Association of Evangelicals, Bread for the World, Sojourners, Esperanza, Christian Community Development Association, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, National Latino Evangelical Coalition, World Relief and World Vision.
Galen Carey, vice president of government relations with the National Association of Evangelicals, said the coalition has high hopes for the new radio campaign.
“We pray that these radio messages amplify the evangelical witness to God's love and care for the immigrants whom He has brought to our shores,” Carey said Tuesday.