WASHINGTON — Immigration reform is "about the only public policy issue upon which there is great unanimity across the Christian spectrum," says the Rev. Rich Nathan, of the Vineyard Church of Columbus, Ohio, to a forum of conservative evangelical leaders working for comprehensive reform.

"Abortion divides us, gay rights divide us, war and peace divides us -- comprehensive immigration reform unites us," Rev. Nathan said in a press conference at the Capitol, shortly before participants had meetings with congressional leaders and the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

The meeting was "truly historic," group founder Juan Hernandez said.

"We've never had all these groups sitting at the table favoring comprehensive immigration," Hernandez said in a June 10 phone interview with Catholic News Service.

Johnny Young, executive director of Migration and Refugee Services for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said "the evangelicals are a significant portion of the U.S. population, their numbers can't be ignored."

Approximately 26.3 percent of the U.S.'s adult population are evangelicals. About 23.9 percent of U.S. adults are Catholic.

The evangelical leaders' constituencies are "important because they are a primarily Republican constituency, and they can push Republicans to support the Catholic approach."

The USCCB has expressed support for comprehensive immigration reform that secures U.S. borders and takes into account people's rights to emigrate to support themselves and their families.

The faith leaders collectively represent more than 60 million evangelicals in the U.S.

The coalition has been shaping up for about four years, but it's been only in the past year that the group's structure and mission has become more concrete.