Conservative Leader Ralph Reed Wants Citizenship for Some -- Not All

Reed, who has had his own past legal troubles, said it would be wrong to keep undocumented immigrants in a state of limbo because of their past actions.

"Leaving millions of people in the shadows with undetermined legal status isn't a good public policy," he said. "For those who want to step forward ... if they want to play by rules and get right with the law, we believe that public policy ought to allow them to be a part of the American Dream."

Reed first rose to prominence in Republican circles as a Christian conservative activist in the 1990s, and he cites moral and Biblical guidance for his support for immigration reform.

"Remember that in the Bible, the Israelites were commanded by God and the law of Moses to welcome the alien and the sojourner among them," he said. "So it is a biblical principle that you treat the alien and the stranger with kindness."

But there is also a political imperative. Reed believes that immigration could help solve the GOP's problem among Asian and Latino voters. The latter group includes a growing number of evangelicals, who were turned off by the party's strident rhetoric on immigration in past elections.

"This issue has been festering for another eight years since Congress last dealt with it and I think everybody recognizes that it's time to bite the bullet, make the tough calls to get this problem solved," he said.

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