Latino evangelical leaders are looking forward to the possibility that after years of raising awareness and lobbying Congress, lawmakers could pass immigration reform legislation next year.
National Hispanic Christian leader Rev. Samuel Rodriguez says he's very optimistic about passing reform measures in 2017.
"I believe this is the year — 2017," he told CBN News.
Rodriguez said he's encouraged by a softening in President-elect Donald Trump's language on immigration since the election. Specifically, Rodriguez said Trump's comments in a recent Time magazine interview about "Dreamers" — immigrants whose parents brought them to the U.S. without documentation — were important.
"Donald Trump, being a parent, knows very well that we should not be punishing these innocent kids," Rodriguez said. "They had nothing to do with coming to this country without documentation. Their parents brought them here."
Rodriguez noted that Trump will have the ability to work with a Republican-controlled Congress and said he thought that House Speaker Paul Ryan "is very inclined" towards making immigration reform a priority.
Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, also told CBN News that he's optimistic about the opportunity for immigration reform. "Although during the election cycle the rhetoric about immigration reform was ominous, I remain hopeful for bi-partisan legislation," he told CBN News.
Rodriguez spoke positively about a recent conference call with the Trump transition team.
"I remain impressed, maybe astonished, by the accessibility and responsiveness of the president-elect and his senior team to our leaders within the Hispanic, Christian community," said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez is pressing the new administration to create a sustainable policy for "Dreamers" that would allow them to live and work legally in the U.S. Under the Obama administration's "DACA" program, many have been able to obtain temporary work permits.
Rodriguez also said he's committed to integrating the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. At the same time, he supports Trump's plan to deport illegal immigrants with criminal records and he backs Trump's plan to build a wall along the Mexican border.
However, Rodriguez said he doesn't expect the Trump administration to build an actual physical wall across the entire Mexican border.
"The physical wall may very well emerge and evolve into a hybrid — virtual areas where a virtual wall would kick in," Rodriguez said. "Geographically speaking there are parts of the border that are just difficult to build a wall, a physical wall. You can't build a wall in the middle of the river."
Salguero spoke of similar priorities for Congress and the Trump administration.