Immigration Reformers Look to Evangelicals, Children Left Behind by Deportations

The Chicago Tribune:


NORCROSS, Ga. — On a recent afternoon, 15-year-old Marlon Parras stood on a stage in front of 3,000 people and talked about the hardships he and his 13-year-old sister, Emiely, have faced since their parents were deported to Guatemala.

He wept as he spoke softly of their parents' decision to leave the children, both American citizens, with relatives and church members so they could continue their education in suburban Atlanta.

"This is not a family," Parras told the crowd that rose to its feet during his emotional testimony. "This is not fair."

Two years after a sweeping Immigration reform bill failed in Congress, Latino leaders have revitalized the effort, positioning children who were left behind when their parents were deported as the new face of the movement. The campaign is designed to place pressure on President Barack Obama to make comprehensive Immigration reform a priority.

Borrowing a page from the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Latinos have taken their cause to churches, drawing upon the growing population of evangelical Latinos who are strong advocates of family values. While Hispanics overwhelmingly remain Roman Catholics, nearly one in six in the U.S. identify as evangelicals, the second largest religious group in the Latino community, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

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