On September 23, The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), the world’s largest Christian Hispanic Organization welcomed Pope Francis to the United States with requests for loosened U.S. immigration policies.
NHCLC President Dr. Samuel Rodriguez joined President Barack Obama in welcoming Pope Francis at the White House reception last week. Rodriguez also participated with the NHCLC as it held a conversation at the National Press Club on faith and immigration reform.
“Obama reminded us of a city on a hill,” said Tony Suarez, the moderator of the press conference. “’If the city must have walls, let it have doors’. What we have is a door problem.”
This introduction set the tone for the conference, which discussed concern for America’s alleged resentment toward and unwillingness to accept immigrants – a cultural attitude which lends itself to legislation not salutary to the foreigner.
Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum also offered perspective on American attitudes towards immigrants. “It all boils down to a simple debate,” said Noorani. “Do you believe in and do you support mass deportation? That’s where some candidates would like to take this debate. However, faith leads many people to realize that they do not support mass deportation, but that they support compassion. So if you don’t support mass deportation, what is your solution?”
The argument that Mexican immigration will hurt the economic standing of the black community was addressed by Bishop Harry Jackson Founder of Higher Impact Leadership Coalition and The Reconciled Church.
“Undocumented immigrant workers are the new slavery,” charged Jackson, “Equal footing will create justice. Morality is colorblind.”
John Hewitt, CEO of Liberty Tax Services purported that the American virtue of capitalism is fully in line with supporting immigration reform. “America is great because it is a melting pot and because it fosters capitalism,” said Hewitt. “In my experience, minorities are better workers and better performers.”
Rodriguez expressed his disgust with Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump’s opinions regarding immigrants, particularly those from Mexico, which the NHCLC President asserted were “un-Christian”.
“I don’t think Donald Trump is racist,” said Rodriguez. “I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt there. I do think he’s an entertainer.”Jackson echoed Rodriguez’s opinion: “We need to understand that politicians are like street walkers. They want people to buy what they’re selling and they don’t care who it is. They’ll do anything for you to buy them.”
Rodriguez went on to note that he believes the visit of a Latin American Pope to the United States shortly after Trump’s comments could be “Heaven’s pushback.”
As the conference progressed, Rodriguez grew more passionate about the need for action to achieve the goal of immigration reform.
“We need to rebuke the idea that this [immigration reform] is not doable, but it requires Christians to fight hateful political rhetoric,” said Rodriguez referring to columnist Ann Coulter. “We cannot be silent; we must call the news outlets and confront them.”
At the end of the conference, all participants joined hands as Southern Baptist Pastor Ed Stetzer led the room in prayer to a God who he believes offers sanctuary to those seeking refuge.