Latino Evangelical at MLK Memorial Keynote: People Are Not “Illegal”

Jan 21, 2013
3:52 PM

During his keynote address the 45th Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Commemoration Service today in Atlanta, the controversial Rev. Sam Rodríguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, specifically addressed immigration reform, saying that the 11 million undocumented in this country are not “illegal” because “anyone made in the image of God cannot be called illegal.”


The following clip shows the conclusion of Rodríguez’s keynote, the first one ever given by a Latino at the King Commemoration Service. Not only did Rodríguez make it a point to tell his audience that the world “illegal” should not be used because it goes against their beliefs, he also said that comprehensive immigration reform is consistent with King’s legacy.

Rodríguez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, is one of the country’s top Latino evangelicals, and even though he has always pushed for immigration justice, his stances on marriage and abortion are more in line with the country’s conservative sector. However, we don’t know many conservative national voices that are also talking about immigration reform and the need to stop demonizing the undocumented.

The uneasy alliance between those in Rodríguez’s camp and more progressive immigration voices is clearly a one-issue occurrence, but here is hoping that more evangelicals begin to call out those people who insist that the undocumented are criminals. It is the Christian thing to do, right?

You can see Rodríguez’s entire keynote at this link. Overall, it is filled with religious symbolism and principles more in line with institutionalized religion than with the halls of Congress.