WASHINGTON – Immigration reform legislation that gives legal status to the children of undocumented immigrants, but not to their parents, would be unacceptable, Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said Wednesday in a press conference that followed a meeting with Speaker of the House John Boehner and other Republican leaders.
"Legal status for children, at the exclusion of the parents would be egregious," Rodriguez said. "We're pastors. We pastor families, not just children. We stand committed, without compromise, to family unification. So, we would be vehemently opposed to any legislative piece that legalizes children while their parents can be deported. That's anti-family, anti-Christian, anti-American. We will not accept it. Period."
At a Tuesday committee hearing, though, some Republicans suggested they would be willing to do just that.
"I do not believe that parents who made the decision to illegally enter the U.S. while forcing their children to join them should be afforded the same treatment as these kids," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said, according to Politico.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) made a similar statement.
"Attempts to group the entire 11 million into one homogenous group in an effort to secure a political remedy will only wind up hurting the most vulnerable," he said.
Rodriguez was with a group of Latino evangelical leaders who met with Republican leaders for about an hour. Goodlatte was in the meeting along with Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and a "number of other Republicans."
They did not discuss the issue directly, but the importance of family unification was stressed in the meeting.
According to Rodriguez, all those at the meeting agreed that immigration reform must include the following: no amnesty for current undocumented immigrants, border security that stops all illegal immigration, a guest worker program, and a process to integrate the approximately 11 million immigrants currently living in the United States without proper authorization.
Rodriguez added that they were "cautiously optimistic" about immigration reform after the meeting.
Another goal of the meeting, Rodriguez explained, was to dispel some of the misinformation regarding Hispanic Americans. He told the Republican leaders that, because of their devotion to faith, family and religious liberty, the Republican Party has an opportunity to garner their support if they pass immigration reform.
"There's a lot of noise in the system," Rodriguez said, "coming primarily from radio talk show hosts and other individuals committed to demagoguery – ideologues that, in my opinion, exacerbate this immigration reform conversation and take it to a level where it should not be at. ... Our message was clear – Hispanic Americans are a people of faith, family and religious liberty, so many Hispanic Americans, primarily Catholics and evangelicals, resonate with many of the core values of the Republican conservative movement."