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Major Christian groups praise Trump’s decision to maintain Obama-era DACA program

The Christian humanitarian organization World Relief as well as the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference have praised President Donald Trump for maintaining an Obama-era policy that protects young, illegal immigrants.

On Thursday, Trump officially rescinded the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which was passed in 2014, but never went into effect, while he kept intact DAPA’s sister program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

To date, the DACA program has allowed some 800,000 young immigrants who illegally entered the U.S. as minors to remain in the country, protecting them from the threat of deportation and enabling them to obtain employment authorization.

“We’re very grateful that President Trump and his administration have made this decision,” Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief, said in a statement obtained by TheBlaze. “It’s a huge relief for many young people whom we serve. It was a wise and compassionate decision, consistent with the biblical values that compel us to pursue just and compassionate treatment for immigrants and to have a particular concern for children.”

World Relief, which criticized Trump in January for seeking to implement a travel ban that has since been blocked from implementation, provides legal services to several illegal immigrants who apply for so-called “Dreamer” status.

“As we interact with DACA applicants on a day-to-day basis, we hear the individual stories of lives transformed by this program,” Courtney Tudi, director of immigrant legal services for World Relief, said.

And the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference offered similar acclaim for the White House’s decision.

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the NHCLC, commended Trump “in the highest possible terms” for maintaining his predecessor’s policy regarding those brought to the U.S. as children.

“These young men and women were brought to this country not by their own choice,” he said, “but they grew up in this country and have become as American as any other American.”

He went on to describe the president’s decision to maintain DACA as “exhibit A of the administration listening to and cooperating with the Hispanic community, and we commend him for it.”

In late January, NHCLC Vice President Tony Suarez told TheBlaze that the White House arranged a phone call with Hispanic leaders of several different Christian denominations to discuss how the Trump administration would address “Dreamers.”

And in a phone interview Friday afternoon, Suarez, who said he was “very encouraged” by this week’s decision, highlighted the importance of keeping families together, urging Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill to come together to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

“[Maintaining DACA] places the priority on families,” he told TheBlaze. “That we cannont separate families. … We have to remember that these ‘Dreamers’ are not here because of any fault of their own. They didn’t choose to cross the border, they didn’t choose to come without a passport or without proper documentation.”

He said the Obama-era policy “protects” children and families from being torn apart. Ultimately, though, he said keeping DACA isn’t enough — the White House needs to implement a policy, not unlike DAPA, to protect parents.

“This is the beginning of several steps that need to take place for a true immigration reform to fully be executed,” Suarez noted.

Moving forward, the NHCLC leader said it is up to Congress to take action, to pass a bipartisan, sweeping immigration reform.

“In the same manner that an executive action by President [Barack] Obama could not dictate immigration policy — we’re still left waiting for Congress to act [under Trump],” Suarez said. “And they have promised for — at this point — decades to act. For the last 30 years.”

“It’s time,” he added. “[T]hey need to get this done.”

Trump’s decision to maintain the DACA program marks a shift from his campaign promise to “immediately terminate” the policy, which — at the time — he described as an “illegal executive amnesty.”

Since taking office, though, the president had been softening his perspective on the issue. During a February press conference from the White House, Trump vowed to treat DACA immigrants “with heart.” He said dealing with DACA is “a very, very difficult subject for me.”

“To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids — in many cases, not in all cases,” Trump said. “In some of the cases, they’re having DACA and they’re gang members and they’re drug members, too. But you have some absolutely incredible kids — I would say mostly — they were brought in here in such a way. It’s a very, very tough subject.”

Original post can be read here: http://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/06/16/major-christian-groups-praise-trumps-decision-to-maintain-obama-era-daca-program/

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Samuel Rodriguez Urges People to Look at Facts Behind 23-Y-O Dreamer’s Deportation to Mexico

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, one of six faith leaders who spoke at President Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony and the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, has issued a statement regarding the widely reported deportation of a 23-year-old Mexican dreamer.

(Photo: Reuters/Mark Makela)A sign is displayed in support of Angela Navarro, an undocumented Honduran-born immigrant with a deportation order, who moved into West Kensington Ministry Church with her family – her husband and two U.S. born children, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 18, 2014. Navarro, who has “always lived in fear” of deportation said on Tuesday she moved into a Philadelphia church as part of a national civil disobedience action aimed at pressing President Obama on immigration reform. Navarro is the ninth undocumented immigrant who has taken refuge in a church recently as part of what activists are calling the New Sanctuary Movement. Organizers offer sanctuary in churches because federal guidelines prohibit arrests in sensitive areas unless there is a threat to public safety or national security.

Last week, it was reported that federal immigration agents may have “ignored” President Donald Trump’s pledge to protect undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children from deportation and deported a man named Juan Manuel Montes-Bojorquez, who had lived in the U.S. since he was 9 and received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status under the Obama administration.

According to USA Today, Montes-Bojorquez’s deportation was the first documented case of a dreamer being deported under the Trump administration.

Rodriguez, the lead pastor at New Season Church in California, issued a statement following the report that said he is “hugely alarmed” by the reports of Montes-Bojorquez’s deportation and separation from his family. Montes-Bojorquez is now believed to be staying with his aunt and uncle in Western Mexico.

“As the investigation on this incident remains unresolved, we must wait until we have the facts and not jump to conclusions,” Rodriguez said.

(Photo: The Christian Post/Sonny Hong)Rev. Samuel Rodriguez on the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission panel on “Hobby Lobby and the Future of Religious Liberty,” at the Southern Baptist Convention, Baltimore, Maryland, June 9, 2014.

“I will reiterate my position that the Trump administration has promised to not touch our Dreamers’ or separate good families,” Rodriguez added. “As such, I ask our leaders to get to the bottom of this issue to determine whether the deportation of Mr. Montes-Bojorquez violated this promise, and, if his deportation was indeed unwarranted, to immediately reunite him with his family.”

According to the San Diego Tribune, Montes-Bojorquez filed a federal lawsuit last week that claimed he was deported twice in February.

The lawsuit claims that the first deportation was when he was approached by a border officer in Calexico and the second came when he tried to re-enter the U.S. a day later.

The lawsuit also claims that Montes-Borjorquez was first apprehended in Calexico when he was leaving a friend’s house and approached by an officer on his way to a taxi stand. The lawsuit claims that he had forgotten his wallet with his authorization card in his friend’s car and was prevented from going to get it and was later deported.

A statement released by the Department of Homeland Security last week states that there are no records to verify Montes-Borjorquez’s claim that he was first apprehended on Feb. 18 and deported through the port of entry in Calexico. Records only verify that Montes-Bojorquez was apprehended as he climbed the border fence in downtown Calexico on Feb. 19. DHS said that “he admitted to agents that he had illegally entered the United States and was arrested.”

“There are no records or evidence to support Montes-Bojorquez’s claim that he was detained or taken to the Calexico Port of Entry on Feb. 18,” the statement reads.

Montes-Bojorquez was approved for DACA in 2014, with an expiration date of Jan. 25, 2018, the DHS statement acknowledged. However, the statement claims that Montes-Bojorquez “lost his DACA status when he left the United States without advance parole on an unknown date prior to his arrest by the U.S. Border Patrol on Feb. 19.”

“According to his interview with the Border Patrol, conducted in Spanish, he entered the United States on Feb. 19 and he acknowledged that he understood the questions that he was being asked,” the statement reads. “Departing the country without advance parole terminates the protections Montes-Bojorquez was granted under DACA.”

Additionally, DHS claims that Montes-Bojorquez never informed border agents of his DACA status during his interviews and was repatriated to Mexico on Feb. 20.

The Daily Caller reports that Montes-Bojorquez was convicted of shoplifting last July and sentenced to probation. Additionally, he has also received three convictions for driving without a license.

Although Rodriguez is in favor of stopping illegal immigration and opposes offering amnesty to illegal immigrants, he has criticized the Trump administration earlier this year after reports indicated that a large percentage of undocumented immigrants targeted in ICE raids earlier this year hadn’t committed any serious crimes.

He told The Christian Post in March that conversations he had with the Trump transition team led him to believe that God-fearing and law-abiding undocumented immigrant families would not be affected by the deportation policies.

“[T]here was a percentage, a number of great God-fearing, hard-working people who were not criminals who don’t even have a traffic violation that were deported,” Rodriguez said. “These are egregious stories.”

“We are looking at, for example, a mom whose kids were born here and whose kids don’t even speak Spanish. The mom who came here legally with a visa and the visa expired and she never got a deportation order was deported,” he continued. “These kind of egregious stories are the stories taking place. That is why I oppose it. I really want our president to fulfill his entire promise.”

Rodriguez’s church in Sacramento implemented a “safe haven” program this year that offers anyone in the community, including illegal immigrants, who feel like they are in need of safe haven a place to take shelter.

“The safe haven is for everyone in the community — those who are victims of domestic violence, those that are fleeing gang activities, any family that believes their family is threatened. It could be internally or externally,” he told CP. “I want to distinguish that from sanctuary churches that are explicitly committed to opening up their doors to people that are undocumented. We are not going to ask you if you are documented or undocumented. If you are coming to our church and say, ‘I need safe haven,’ without asking you any questions, we are going to provide safe haven.”

Original article can be read here: http://www.christianpost.com/news/samuel-rodriguez-23-year-old-dreamers-deportation-mexico-181800/

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What does comprehensive immigration reform mean in Trump’s America?

Do we enforce the letter of the law regarding people who have entered our country illegally, or do we compassionately assimilate undocumented peoples seeking a better life despite the laws they broke getting here in the first place?

Since the Gang of Eight bill was first passed in the Senate in 2013 – and later stalled in the House of Representatives – it’s safe to say that much has transpired both socially and politically.

Like any expression that is often used but seldom defined, what politicians and immigration advocates actually mean by Comprehensive Immigration Reform is up for interpretation, and is usually more rooted in political party and ideology rather than any agreed upon baseline policy measures.

Politically speaking, comprehensive immigration reform is perhaps the ultimate Catch 22. Do we enforce the letter of the law regarding people who have entered our country illegally, or do we compassionately assimilate undocumented peoples seeking a better life despite the laws they broke getting here in the first place? In America, the answer must be yes and yes.

President Trump has indicated that now is the time to once again pursue immigration reform and it’s critically important that the Hispanic Community assume a leading voice in the debate. In fact, I believe there are 5 essential policy points that must be included in any serious, comprehensive immigration reform bill that seeks to bridge the two sides’ seemingly incompatible goals.

1. Secure Border:
As a sovereign nation, the U.S. must reserve the right to determine who crosses our borders and who is allowed to stay. We must establish a clearly defined certification process that once satisfied, would enable those that are here in an undocumented capacity to have the opportunity to get permanently right with the law. In the meantime, improved border security and enforcement will help to disincentivize future migration surges as well as slow human and narcotics trafficking.

2. No Amnesty:
We should not simply allow the undocumented population to have a free pass, or amnesty, which would enable them to stay here in America ahead of people that are lawfully in line to immigrate to the United States. However, we understand that this large population will neither be deported, nor will most self-deport.

Therefore, we must legislate a process by which these people can admit to their wrongdoing, submit to and pass rigorous state and federal background checks, pay a fine to get right with the law, and prove their financial viability.

If they meet all these criteria, they would be able to stay legally as Guest Workers, but they will not be able to adjust their status to permanent resident or citizen unless and until all of the legal immigrant applications already in process have been adjudicated, (they would go to the end of the line for immigration purposes).

3. Guest Worker Visas:
Currently undocumented individuals should initially be able to adjust their status to that of a Guest Worker. They could choose to remain in the United States as Guest Workers indefinitely, so long as they passed the requirements as listed above, and remain current on their tax liabilities.

However, should they choose some day to pursue permanent residency or citizenship, they must pay additional fees, and would not be able to adjust their status unless and until all legal applications previously filed by aspiring immigrants are adjudicated.

4. Deport Serious Criminals
Any and all undocumented individuals engaged in nefarious activities such as murder, rape, assault, drug trafficking, and gang related activities should and must deported as expeditiously as possible.

However, a clear distinction must be made between these individuals and others who illegally obtained driver’s licenses, social security cards and other documents necessary for employment and basic survival.

The latter, with families raised in America and currently employed, should be protected from deportation as promised by President Trump in interviews with both 60 Minutes and TIME Magazine in addition to phone conferences we at the NHCLC have had with the transition team.

5. Integration process:
Newly legalized undocumented individuals must be encouraged to assimilate into the mainstream of American society. They must learn English, as well as American Civics.

As a nation of immigrants, we know that immigrants arrive in our country seeking opportunity and liberty. As long as these people obey the laws going forward, they must be treated fairly, and with the dignity that God has bestowed upon all people equally.

There will be some on both sides of this contentious debate that will disagree with me because I’ve either gone too far or not far enough.

As a leader in the Hispanic Community who is personally and professionally tied to this incredibly emotional issue, I have had to confront the simple truth that there are no easy answers – at least none that have a real chance of being passed into law. But if we honor the rule of law as well as the sanctity of all life, we can find a way forward together.

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. He has been named by CNN and Fox News as “the leader of the Hispanic Evangelical movement.”

Faith and Education Coalition is an initiative of the National Hispanic Christian Leaders Conference (NHCLC) and advocates for high-quality education options for all of America’s children.

Original post can be read here: http://www.univision.com/univision-news/opinion/what-does-comprehensive-immigration-reform-mean-in-trumps-america

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Pro-Life, Pro-Immigrant

It has been a discouraging week for evangelical Christians and others who are steadfastly devoted to protecting unborn life.

Last Thursday, as I joined with approximately 100,000 others at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., the ostensibly pro-life Republican leadership of the House of Representatives called off a scheduled vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act. This legislation, which would prohibit abortions of unborn children past 20 weeks in their gestation in most cases, is a matter of conscience. Scientists believe that unborn children at 20 weeks are sufficiently developed so as to feel pain while abortion terminates their life. That’s why most Americans, both women and men—including many who support the right to choose an abortion earlier in a pregnancy—support this bill. But in an apparent betrayal of the many pro-life evangelical and Catholic voters who just helped their party to gain control of both chambers of Congress, Republican leaders in the House decided against even offering a vote on the legislation.

Christian engagement in public policy is driven by the fundamental biblical conviction that all human life is made in the image of God and is thus to be cherished. Regardless of gender, ethnicity, legal status, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, disability, or any other qualifier, human life is sacred, and our faith requires us to advocate in particular for those who cannot speak up for themselves. Children still within their mothers’ wombs certainly meet that definition.

That’s why Christians—including the vast majority of Latino evangelicals represented by the tens of thousands of local churches within our nation who form the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference—are so adamantly pro-life. In fact, a recent poll finds that Hispanic immigrant evangelicals are among the most pro-life constituency in the nation: fully 73% oppose abortion in all or most cases, compared to 43% of the general population and 65% of our white evangelical brethren.

Latino evangelicals feel betrayed by the House Republicans’ failure to vote on this basic legislation. Unfortunately, such betrayal seems to be becoming a trend.

Just two weeks ago, after assuring evangelical leaders both privately and publicly for more than a year that they were committed to finally reforming our antiquated immigration laws as we have urged them to do, House Republicans leadership pushed forward a bill to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which since 2012 has allowed certain individuals who were brought into the U.S. as children, not of their own volition, to be granted temporary work authorization and be relieved of the fear of deportation. That administrative policy has meant hope for tens of thousands of ambitious young people within Hispanic evangelical churches. The House’s effort to remove these young people’s work authorization and put them at risk of deportation is an offense to most Latino evangelicals (and to many other evangelical Christians as well).

It also should be deeply troublesome to all who support the pro-life cause, because the vote to end DACA—and the failure to advance the commons sense immigration reforms that are popular with most Americans as well as most evangelical Christians—is political suicide, setting up a scenario where it becomes nearly impossible for a pro-life president to be elected in 2016.

That’s because it is nearly impossible for a pro-life Republican presidential candidate to win the Electoral College without improving their standing among Latino voters from the paltry 27% that Governor Romney received in 2012, after vowing to dismantle the DACA program if elected and endorsing an immigration policy of “self-deportation.” Latinos—and particularly Latino evangelicals—are eager to vote for a pro-life, pro-immigrant candidate in 2016, but the GOP’s recent actions in the House of Representatives convey to Latino voters that it is uninterested in either label.

It’s not too late though. Congressional Republicans should quickly take up both the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act and a series of immigration bills that would secure our borders, reform our dysfunctional visa system, and establish a process by which immigrants present unlawfully could earn permanent legal status and eventual citizenship if they’re willing to pay a fine, pass a criminal background check, and work over the course of several years for those privileges.

If they fail to do so, Latino evangelicals, for whom the pro-life cause and immigration reform are two key policy concerns, will take note. As was the case in 2012, when a majority supported President Obama’s re-election, most will likely vote for Democratic candidates whom they trust will act on at least one of their key priorities.

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Hispanic Evangelicals could determine GOP nominee

Based on the performance on display in Iowa last weekend by several of the Republican presidential hopefuls, none of them seem to be paying attention to what could deliver the keys to the front door of the White House: Latino voters. Hispanic populations have grown by an average of 77 percent in nine presidential battleground states since 2000.

Both Republicans and Democrats would be wise to pay very close attention to how they navigate two issues in particular: immigration and education. While Hispanic evangelicals traditionally support social conservatives, polling indicates they are willing to depart from party orthodoxy to support candidates who share their beliefs on these two issues. Nearly nine in 10 Hispanic voters supported President Barack Obama’s use of executive action late last year to protect undocumented workers from deportation. Fifty-seven percent of registered Hispanic voters call education an “extremely important” issue, putting it ahead of the economy and healthcare.

As a pastor, I’ve witnessed the suffering of those living in the shadows of our immigration system. I’ve counseled families torn apart by the legal status of a loved one. Our system begets broken families, poverty and a dependence on government that often gets passed from one generation to the next. We can and must do a better job of putting an end to the cycle by establishing a path for undocumented immigrants to earn U.S. citizenship without amnesty, which would require paying back taxes, passing background checks and demonstrating a comprehensive knowledge of U.S. civics.

Likewise, leaders must continue to champion high education standards, greater academic accountability and school choice. Over the past year, efforts to implement high, comparable academic standards have drawn a great deal of scrutiny. I’m often baffled by criticisms that focus largely on political dogma and little on the value of setting rigorous expectations for our children.

As Christians we are called to confront America’s education crisis with both conviction and compassion. Young people with a fundamental understanding of core knowledge are more likely to hold good jobs, invest back in their community, and stay out of trouble with the law. Sadly, for too long we have let the bar gradually slip, especially for low-income and minority students.

Non-federal, comparable standards ensure at each grade level children will develop the skills and knowledge to graduate from high school prepared for college-level work or a competitive job. That’s important for Hispanic students, only about half of whom complete high school on time, if at all. More than 58 percent of Latinos entering a two-year college require remediation, and just one in 10 college students in remediation will graduate. For most, the result is debt with little to show for it.

We have a responsibility to hold all young people to rigorous academic expectations, regardless of race or where they grow up. Failing to do so ignores the worth of every child and effectively systematizes the notion some students just aren’t “smart enough,” reinforcing cycles of poverty and inequality. Similarly, young people who are gifted should be liberated to learn at their own pace and reach for the stars. We can have a system that respects the needs of every child and their unique talents.

Fortunately, a few likely presidential candidates have shown the courage not to back away from their support for high standards. Govs. Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich and Chris Christie are among those who have stood by their call for rigorous classroom expectations. Polling finds more than two-thirds of voters favor high education standards. Among minority families, support is even stronger.

As the representative of 40,000 churches across the country, I encourage the presidential candidates to make clear their positions on high education standards and fair immigration policy. The Hispanic faith community will be listening closely to where candidates stand on reforms that align with the word of God and respect the dignity of all his people.


REV. SAMUEL RODRIGUEZ is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which serves as a representative voice for the more than 100 million Hispanic Evangelicals. This was distributed by InsideSources.com

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‘McFarland USA’ Is the Prophetic Voice the Immigration Reform Debate Needs

Seated behind an elderly Mexican American couple, my wife and I stood moved and motivated as we watched Kevin Costner’s latest movie, “McFarland U.S.A.” The story of immigrant young men, who worked in the fields picking fruits and vegetables in addition to attending High School and running in cross country competitions, re-ignited our commitment to immigration reform.

With discretion so as to not reveal the ending of this true story, the film confirmed for me a simple truth: that in spite of recent actions and inaction by our elected officials, the issues surrounding our nation’s immigration policies will not go away. Immigration reform is, at the risk of sounding overly optimistic, inevitable. A powerful and transformative assurance of this inevitability exists, what I call the “prophetic imperative.”

This biblically based impetus has solidified in the hearts of the emerging Christ-following generation as the following truths: that silence is not an option, truth must never be sacrificed on the altar of expediency and today’s complacency is tomorrow’s captivity.

In other words, how can we be so certain that immigration reform will take place? Simply stated, as long as God’s word lives, Matthew 25 stands preached, and God’s Spirit moves convicting us to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before him. Immigration reform will take place because the Bible-believing evangelical community understands that the future of American Christianity lies in how to serve the fastest growing segment of our churches: the immigrant community.

How can I come to such conclusions on the heels of an attempt by Congress to defund the President’s executive action expanding deferment to approximately 5 million additional undocumented, hard working individuals created in God’s image? Simply stated, from a practical standpoint, immigration reform will inevitably take place because — by all accounts, including acquiescence by the most animated opponents of reform — mass deportation will not and can never happen.

Furthermore, America’s political landscape assures us that immigration reform will take place because without it, Republicans will never acquire the necessary 32 to 35 percent of the Latino vote necessary to retake Pennsylvania Avenue. In essence, the party of Lincoln and Reagan must cross the Jordan of immigration reform in order to enter the promise land of America’s Hispanic American electorate.

At the end of the day the immigrant community, so beautifully depicted in “McFarland U.S.A.,” reveal to us all the certainty that these hard-working, God loving, family-embracing individuals stand poised to enrich the collective American experience.

As the film came to an end, my wife nudged me and pointed to an elderly Mexican American man in front of us who was quietly weeping while on the screen the immigrant teens sang the national anthem. For his sake, and for Americans, I still believe that one day the challenges our current immigration policies pose will be reformed, and the following biblical truth will be affirmed: what we sow in tears we will reap with joy.

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Candidates must put human beings 1st at National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

When the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) gathers in Houston this week, we are united by a simple symbol: a cross. And like that cross, our shared mission is both vertical and horizontal. Vertically, we stand connected to God and His kingdom. Horizontally, to our left and to our right, we stand connected to family, culture, society and community. The members of our 40,000 Hispanic Evangelical churches in the U.S. care deeply about issues that lie along both these planes, issues such as faith, life, family, religious liberty, education and immigration.

I would like to propose something different for prospective candidates vying for a presidential nomination and courting the Hispanic vote or the Evangelical vote: don’t talk about diversity, talk about inclusion. Don’t talk about opting out, talk about opting in. It’s time to remind Americans that we are not only one nation under God, but we are also a nation of liberty and justice for all.

This Wednesday, over 1,000 Hispanic Evangelical pastors at our national convention will have the opportunity to hear from two Republicans who embrace the Christian conservative ethos of the NHCLC — Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee. While there are any number of “wedge” issues that candidates and their campaign supporters use to distinguish themselves from others, where the candidates stand on immigration and education reform will be critical not just to secure the support of the NHCLC but to reach the constituents of the more than 40,000 Evangelical Hispanic churches we represent. What I would like to hear is how candidates plan to reclaim the mantle of compassionate conservatism in which families and faith come first, and political orthodoxy provides a path to success rather than circles of division.


Our faith requires us to honor the imago dei in every person, enabling each to fulfill the potential God has given them. This holds true for students as much as adults, which is why I support non-federal high education standards which can be compared across states. Hispanic students graduate high school at a rate 10% lower than their white classmates. So many Hispanics fight to make it to the United States, and to see the education system failing our children is unacceptable.

While everyone seems engulfed in a debate over the semantics of the term Common Core, we need a common sense solution to address the educational disparity in America. The patchwork of academic standards across states has not been adequately preparing high school graduates for career or college. Research shows that 28 to 40% of enrolled college students need at least one remedial course; for a working student struggling to afford tuition, having to pay to learn material he or she should have learned in high school is just wrong. With nearly 40% of U.S. employers saying they have trouble finding workers with the job skills they need, the labor situation is dire.

Schools must be held accountable for the quality of education they provide, and high academic standards which can be compared across states are a key step toward educational equity. High academic benchmarks are the path to a high-quality education; individual district and school curricula are the steps on that path. And the end of the journey is a bright future for all students, where a high school diploma means as much in Ohio as it does in Iowa, Alabama or New Hampshire.

What I find most disappointing is hearing respected leaders reverse themselves because a political poll tells them to do so. We cannot expect to remain the world’s only superpower leading from behind polls. Strong, compassionate leaders understand that it is the right decisions, not the ones made on the altar of political expediency that will benefit our country for the future.

Just as our faith demands that we do better for Hispanic students, justice demands that we reconcile the rule of law with a process that does not tear families apart. Current immigration laws promote unjust working conditions and even human trafficking by making it near-impossible coupled with exorbitant costs to wait for legal means to enter this country.

Immigration reform is quickly becoming one of the most divisive issues our country has seen in generations, and it threatens to tear us apart. Inflammatory rhetoric leading to an “us vs. them” environment gets us nowhere, and does nothing to help the millions of Hispanics who live in fear of selective enforcement that makes a mockery of the law. This is dehumanizing, and denies people the ability to thrive as God wishes us to do.

I pray that the candidates who emerge from the 2016 presidential primaries will model themselves as compassionate leaders who put human beings first and politics a distant runner-up to last place. Common-sense immigration reform that prioritizes families, and education reform that starts with common goals of preparing all students to succeed in college and in the workplace, should be among the first steps taken. As the president of the NHCLC, I look forward to walking alongside a candidate who has the strength to take this path.

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC/CONEL) and the Hispanic Evangelical Association.

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Jeb Bush just made his most direct pitch to evangelicals

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) used some of his boldest religious language yet this year in his speech Wednesday to the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference in Houston, Texas.

In light of the spiritually laden messages coming from some other Republican presidential contenders, Bush has been comparatively less vocal about his personal faith.

But in his speech of Wednesday, Bush delved into his spiritual journey, calling it “one of the most important times of my life, the conversion to the faith of my wife.”

Bush converted to Catholicism in 1994, after his defeat in the Florida gubernatorial race.

“When I joined the church, like millions before me and millions who will come after me, I discovered in Christ the grace to do the Lord’s work,” he told the crowd, praising the powerful and liberating influence of  “Christian conscience in action.”

“In America today it is important to respect and to protect Christians acting on their faith, not just talking about their faith but there is a constitutional right and more importantly, for a loving society Christians need to have the space to be able to act on their conscience,” he added, comments timed just one day after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutional right of states to ban gay marriage.

Bush switched back and forth between English and Spanish in his remarks to the Texas crowd, that included his parents, former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush.

Gov. Bush admitted he was “very intimated” to speak before the pair.

“The looming presence of my mother will make it hard,” he joked.

Wednesday marked Bush’s second major outreach to the Hispanic community this week.

On Tuesday, he traveled to Puerto Rico for a series of town hall style events and in his remarks on Wednesday, he highlighted the importance of upward mobility for all in the U.S. “no matter where you come for.”

“It doesn’t matter if you have a vowel at the end of your name … every American, every person in this country has the right to rise up.”

Bush also stressed his belief in the need for immigration reform: “we have to fix a broken immigration system and do it in short order.”

“It also means dealing with the 11 million undocumented workers that are here in this country, 11 million people that should come out from the shadows and receive earned legal status. This country does not do well when people lurk in the shadows,” he said, prompting applause.

“This country does spectacularly well when everybody can pursue their God-given abilities.”

At the conclusion of his remarks, Samuel Rodriguez, Jr., head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, took the stage and led the crowd in a prayer for Bush.

“You are a very important person. We do not know what God has for you, it could be something very significant in regard to the nations of our nation only God knows,” Rodriguez told him.

The Republican, who has not formally declared a presidential campaign, will travel to Washington, D.C. for events on Thursday and will be in North Carolina on Friday.

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Hispanic evangelicals give hearty welcome to Jeb

’11 million undocumented in this country who need to come out’

HOUSTON – Accompanied by his famous parents, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush received an enthusiastic welcome Wednesday at the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which made it clear he is the leading GOP contender for the Hispanic vote.

“Historically, President George W. Bush had it right on immigration, and I do believe that Jeb Bush’s personal (story) shows he has a strong affinity with Hispanics, understands the context of immigration reform,” the NHCLC’s president, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, told WND prior to Jeb Bush’s speech.

Rodriguez clarified, however, he was not endorsing Bush either personally or on behalf of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

“I do believe Gov. Jeb Bush would be a better candidate to work with for the purpose of finding a solution to the immigration crisis,” he said, nevertheless.

Rodriguez said, however he “would not discard” former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

“He is an evangelical with a strong Christian faith, and I have had discussions with Gov. Huckabee on this subject, and he is a very compassionate man,” Rodriguez said.

Huckabee is scheduled to be the group’s dinner speaker Wednesday evening.

“Governors Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee, as well as Sen. Marco Rubio, are the GOP presidential candidates that provide space for a discussion on immigration reform.”

Excluded from Rodriguez’s favorable comments were Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who emphasize border security as a precondition to establishing a path to citizenship in any comprehensive reform legislation.

‘Super honored to speak’

Jeb Bush began his speech to the more than 1,000 assembled Hispanic evangelical leaders speaking in Spanish.

“I am super honored to speak with you today, first, because you represent the new wave of hope for this country, and second, out of respect for speaking here today in the presence of my parents,” he said, according to a WND translation, referring to former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush.

In the 25-minute speech, Bush told how he met his Mexican wife, Columba, and discussed the importance of his conversion to Catholicism. He avoided any mention of his support for the controversial Common Core education standards and addressed border security only in the context of passing comprehensive immigration reform.

“We should have a country in which it doesn’t matter where you come from or where you were born,” Bush told the evangelicals. “Every person in this country should have the right to rise up.

“Let me speak about immigration, because it is a key element of our country’s success,” he said. “We’re a nation of immigrants. This is not the time to abandon something that makes us special and unique. Because of immigration, America has the chance to become young and dynamic again, to be an emerging country again, to be of optimism, believing our future is better than our present.”

But, first, he said, “we have to fix a broken immigration system and do it in short order.”

“That means controlling the border,” he said. “That means making legal immigration easier than illegal immigration.

“But it also means dealing with the 11 million undocumented in this country who need to come out of the shadows and receive earned legal status.”

As WND reported earlier Wednesday, Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez, addressing the group Tuesday, singled out Bush from among the GOP presidential hopefuls as the candidate with the most favorable personal and family history on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform.

“I’m going to vote for Hillary Clinton for president, because, in the reality of politics, I can’t get elected to Congress as a Republican in the 4th Congressional District of Illinois,” Gutierrez said, responding to a question from WND.

But if Bush wins, he said, he is “going to need me if he wants to get comprehensive immigration reform passed through the Congress.”

“My support might just be the kiss of death for Jeb Bush when conservatives get wind that ‘radical, socialist Gutierrez’ might get together with Jeb Bush, because then there would be open borders in the U.S.,” Gutierrez quipped.

The congressman said he will work with Republicans to “get immigration reform.”

“When I worked with President George W. Bush on comprehensive immigration reform legislation, I applauded him,” the congressman continued.

Gutierrez recalled that George W. Bush sent his Commerce secretaries, first Donald Evans and then Carlos Gutierrez, along with secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to “roam the halls of Congress” and garner support for the immigration bill sponsored by Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Gutierrez stressed that U.S. demographics strongly suggest no GOP presidential candidate has any chance of winning the White House in 2016 without getting more than the 22 percent of the Hispanic vote that Mitt Romney got in 2012.

“One million Latinos turn 18 every year and there’s nothing anybody can do about it,” he said. “The GOP can’t forget that 45 million of the 55 million Latinos in the United States are citizens. We vote and we sit in the pews of the nations churches with those who are not citizens, documented and undocumented alike, citizen children in the same families with undocumented parents. We all sit in church together.”

The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, or NHCLC, represents an estimated 40,000 evangelical Christian churches in the U.S. This year, the organization has joined CONELA, a Latin American-based organization that serves more than 487,000 Latino churches worldwide.

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April 28 NHCLC/CONELA Hispanic Christian Leadership Convention Focuses on Current Cultural Issues

HOUSTONApril 29, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC)/CONELA today announced a new name – NHCLC/CONEL – and began its annual three-day convention of Latino Evangelical leaders in Houston, during which the following issues were discussed:

Supreme Court Oral Arguments on Same-Sex Marriage, Prayer for Nepal & Baltimore
During the opening session of the Convention, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of NHCLC/CONEL, challenged the hundreds of attendees to earnestly pray for the Supreme Court to uphold the traditional, biblical definition of marriage.

“As we are speaking, something critical is taking place right now at the Supreme Court of the United States,” Rodriguez said. “We could be politically correct and have everyone love us, but there is no such thing as a ‘comfortable Christian.’

“We believe in the biblical message and the spiritual covenant of one man, one woman,” Rodriguez continued. “At the same time, we repudiate all vestiges of homophobia. We open our churches to welcome every person on the planet. We are not a social club; rather, we are called to minister to the suffering and the hurting.”

In addition, Rodriguez led attendees in praying for the individuals in Nepal who were impacted by the April 24, 2015 earthquake as well as the current unrest in Baltimore, Maryland following the death of Freddie Gray.

In a later afternoon session, Dr. Russell Moore, president of The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, also addressed the issue of protecting the family and traditional marriage.

“There are some people that would tell us [Christians] that if we want to reach the culture around us, we have to stop talking about the Gospel… the only way that we can reach culture around is with an authentic Gospel,” Moore said. “If we hold to what Scripture teaches, that marriage is between one man and one woman and that marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church, they will tell us we are on wrong side of history; but the Christian church started on the wrong side of history.”

Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) spoke to the attendees during the evening session, addressing the issue of immigration, specifically protecting innocent children.

“The [immigrant] community is hungry for information, and the only community centers to which they can go is the Church, so I came here to say, ‘Thank you,’ said Gutierrez. “You influence the way people live their lives and navigate the world, and how to raise their families. Speaking for the stranger was not easy for Jesus and it is not easy for you.”

Gutierrez went on to explain his parent’s own journey of immigrating to the United States in 1952.  “My mother came here from Puerto Rico,” he continued. “She came with no job, no clothes and no money, and it was the Church that gave her a coat and a job.”

Prior to Gutierrez’s address at the Convention, Jesse Rincones, executive director of the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas, joined him at a press conference and also recognized the Church’s role in caring for immigrants.

“There are things our congregations can do that the government cannot do,” said Rincones. “The government can pass laws and write a check, but it cannot love.”

Pro-Israel Coalition Launch
NHCLC/CONEL officially launched the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition (HILC) during today’s convention, which will create the world’s largest and most influential Pro-Israel Latino entity.

HILC’s vision is to build bridges of reconciliation between Jew and Arab, to create a firewall of protection against the persecution of Arab Christians throughout the Middle East, to educate the church about the Christian persecution and to spread the Gospel to the Muslim Arab World.

Mario Bramnick, senior pastor of New Wine Ministries Church in Cooper City, Florida, will serve as President of HILC, working alongside NHCLC/CONEL President Rodriguez.

“This coalition is critical for Hispanics and our nation,” said Bramnick at a press conference announcing HILC. “Those who curse Israelwill be cursed. As biblical believers in the Word of God we must be pro-Israel. The day America turns its back on Israel will be day God’s judgment comes down.”

New Organizational Name

In reference to the new organizational name, NHCLC/CONEL, Dr. Gus Reyes, chief operating officer, explained that “con el,” Spanish for “with him” better reflects the dual mission of NHCLC working with Christ to make an impact around the world.

A full list of sessions and press conferences for April 29 and further media information can be found athttp://alarryross.com/newsroom/nhclc/2015nhclcconvention/.

NHCLC/CONEL is the world’s largest Hispanic Christian organization. It serves as a representative voice for the more than 100 million Hispanic Evangelicals assembled in over 40,000 U.S. churches and another 500,000 congregations spread throughout the Spanish-speaking diaspora. For additional information, visit http://www.nhclc.org.

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SOURCE National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

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