Megachurch pastor Rod Parsley teamed up with the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference to co-sponsor a delegation of about a dozen pastors who visited the nation’s largest border detention facility in Texas last week as the Trump administration’s border policy continues to receive criticism.
The visit last Friday was among three border visits for pastors organized in four weeks by the NHCLC, an organization with over 40,000 member congregations run by prominent Hispanic evangelical leader and megachurch pastor Samuel Rodriguez.
The visits were facilitated through the Department of Homeland Security and began in the aftermath of a media firestorm surrounding a report of troubling conditions facing immigrants held in detention facilities.
The Trump administration argued in court that it's not required to provide basic hygiene, such as soap and toothbrushes, to children being held in Border Patrol detention facilities. A federal appeals court dismissed that argument last Friday.
Rodriguez, who was one of six pastors to speak at President Donald Trump's inauguration, said in a statement Monday that the border facility visits have made it possible for pastors to “observe with our own eyes the scale of this humanitarian crisis” as well as the “actual facts” surrounding the crisis.
It was reported earlier this summer in The New York Times that migrants in detention centers at the southern border lacked access to basic hygiene items like soap and toothpaste, while some couldn’t bathe for weeks. After the first tour of a border facility in early July, Rodriguez slammed the media for providing “misinformation” on the conditions in the centers.
Speaking on behalf of Rodriguez outside of a facility in McAllen, Texas on Friday was NHCLC Executive Vice President Tony Suarez, who said that it was his 12th time visiting the border. Friday's visit was organized in coordination with Todd Lamphere of Paula White Ministries.
“I’m back at the border, and — you know what? — the humanitarian disaster continues,” Suarez said. “The only thing that is different is that while this humanitarian crisis continues, Congress is on recess. They get a summer vacation. Border patrol agents are not on summer vacation. The president of the United States isn’t on summer vacation but Congress and Senate are in recess while pointing their fingers at the White House, which is still working.”
The first NHCLC visit to the border facility happened around the same time that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrat members of Congress visited border facilities in Clint and El Paso, Texas. Ocasio-Cortez contended after the visit that migrants were being kept in cells with no water and being told to drink from toilets.
After visiting the facility in Clint, Rodriguez said he was “baffled” by Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks and called on Congress to work on reforming America’s immigration laws.
Parsley, the senior pastor of World Harvest Church in Ohio and host of the syndicated “Breakthrough” television program, said in a statement that he did not visit the border facility last Friday for “political reasons.”
“I came to pray and to provide pastoral care. I’m here because Jesus calls us to love and serve our neighbor — all our neighbors, wherever they are from,” Parsley said. “That’s why whenever our Bridge of Hope ministry arrives at a place in need, the first question we ask is not ‘Who is right?’ or ‘Who is wrong?’ It is — ‘Who needs our help?’”
“Each of these dear people, regardless of where they are from or how they ended up where they are today, is made in the image of God, and we recognize their inherent dignity and value,” Parsley added. “They need our help. They need more help.”
Parsley, who also leads the Bridge of Hope humanitarian charity, praised the border patrol agents he came in contact with, saying that many of them have given “their entire lives” to keeping the nation safe and caring for those in need.
“I was touched by meeting many of them today as I was heartbroken to see so many immigrants caught between their personal dreams and our rule of law,” Parsley stressed. “I do pray that members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, alike, can finally do what needs to be done to resolve this humanitarian crisis. In the meantime, the church of Jesus stands ready and willing to help fill the gap for those in need.”
Parsley said that he left the nation’s largest border patrol facility “humbled, hurt and outraged.”
He said he was “outraged” by the “three decades of inaction” displayed by Congress on the immigration issue.
“While you’re on vacation, in 104-degree weather, the border agents are here,” Parsley stressed. “And I can tell you I have been in many prison facilities across the United States, state and federal. I have never seen a better facility than this facility.”
As the Trump administration has been criticized by the media for the rough and overcrowded conditions in border detention facilities, Parsley assured that the migrants are “being cared for.”
“We talked to several of them. All of them said, ‘I’m happy here. I’m well treated here. I’m fed here. I’m clothed here. I’m safe here,’” Parsley said. “And it’s time for the United States Congress and the administration to end the gridlock.”
In his speech outside the McAllen facility, Suarez said that Congressional inaction over the last two months doesn’t surprise him since Congress hasn’t passed any comprehensive immigration bill since Ronald Reagan was president.
“This is not Donald Trump’s fault. This is not Barack Obama’s fault. This is a failed Congress and Senate that fails to act,” Suarez stated.