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HOUSTON – The one thousand Hispanic evangelical leaders meeting at the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference in Houston last week offered the Republican Party a deal: Hispanic votes in exchange for a promise of “amnesty” from the Republican presidential nominee in 2016.

Speaking at the NHCLC conference in Houston, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is expected to announce his candidacy for the Republican primary this week, made clear the NHCLC is receptive to a strong position on border security as long as a “comprehensive immigration reform” policy, including legal status and a pathway to citizenship, is made a priority of whichever political party wins the White House.

“I honestly believe talking about what to do with the people [illegal immigrants] already here becomes an unnecessary controversy until people are satisfied that we honestly intend to get control of our border. I liken it to a major plumbing leak in your kitchen where water is pouring all over the floor. The first thing you do is not go to the store and shop for a faucet. The first thing you do is to stop the leak,” said Huckabee.

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Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, speaking at the NHCLC conference before Huckabee, also discussed border security.

“Fixing our broken immigration system means controlling the border,” Bush explained in his speech. “It also means making legal immigration easier than illegal immigration. But it also means dealing with the 11 million people here in the country illegally, 11 million who should come out from the shadows and over a period of time receive earned legal status, so they can work and support their families.”

“This country does not do well when people remain in the shadows,” he continued. “It does well when people come out of the shadows, and spectacularly well when everybody can pursue their God-given abilities.”

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the NHCLC, made clear to WND border security is consistent with the goals of his organization.

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“Please tell Joseph Farah and the other reporters at WND that the NHCLC is not for open borders,” Rodriguez explained to WND at the meeting. “We are also not for amnesty. We believe creating a legal status and a pathway to citizenship are not the same as just granting amnesty.”

Rodriguez said the NHCLC expects those applying for legal status to meet preconditions Congress may set to change their status from illegal immigrants to legal residency, so they can obtain work permits with the ultimate goal of becoming U.S. citizens.

Rodriguez made clear the deal the Hispanic evangelical group intends to propose to the Republican Party.

“We have been disappointed by both Republicans and Democrats,” Rodriguez continued. “Republicans must cross the proverbial Jordan of immigration reform in order to step into the Promised Land of the Hispanic electorate.

“We intend to listen very closely to what each of the Republican candidates for president says about immigration.”

Rodriquez said the organization would withhold support for a Republican presidential candidate who didn’t provide an acceptable plan for “comprehensive reform.”

“We are concerned that there are millions of people in this nation where we look the other way, and we believe it is hypocritical to separate families, to deport a mom or a dad and leave the children behind,” Rodriguez insisted. “We need to find a way to integrate as expeditiously as possible those who have been here that are not dependent on government subsidies, but are depending on the good things God has placed in each one of their lives, that are adhering to the law with the exception of entering the country illegally.”

Rodriquez acknowledged a Republican embracing “immigration reform” would have a better chance of working with Congress’ Republican majority than President Obama, who took executive action to implement amnesty. He said the group supports Obama’s amnesty action, but he is concerned the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will uphold the preliminary injunction imposed by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen.

As WND reported, Hanen granted the petition of Texas, joined by the attorneys general of 25 additional states, to block the Obama administration’s plan to have the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS, implement the November memorandum signed by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson on Nov. 20, 2014.

Also speaking at the conference was Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Illinois, known for arguing for immigration reform from the political left. Gutiérrez was even more direct about the deal he was willing to offer Republicans.

“The Republican Party finds itself in quite a predicament,” he explained in press availability prior to his speech. “The NHCLC represents thousands of Christian churches in America and the organization’s position remains in harmony with the Latino community. With one million Latinos turning 18 every year, the Republican Party cannot be a national party without Latino votes.”

“The GOP can’t forget that 45 million of the 55 million Latinos in the United States are citizens,” Gutiérrez continued. “We vote and we sit in the pews of the nations churches with those who are not citizens, documented and undocumented alike, five million citizen children in the same families with four million undocumented parents. We all sit in church together.”

“I told my own party that the Democrats had the majority in Congress the first two years Barack Obama was president of the United States and President Obama did not take the Democratic majority in the House and the Senate to pass immigration reform,” he said.

“I will work with Republicans to get immigration reform,” he continued. “When I worked with President George W. Bush on comprehensive immigration reform legislation, I applauded him because he sent Secretaries Don Evans and then Carlos Gutierrez of Commerce, along with Michael Chertoff, the secretary of Homeland Security, and those members of his cabinet roamed the halls of Congress trying to get support for the immigration bill that in 2007 was sponsored by Sen. Ted Kennedy and Sen. John McCain.”

In 2007, Kennedy and McCain sponsored the “Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act.” It failed to get cloture in a 34-61 Senate vote in June of that year.

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