WASHINGTON – Roughly three weeks ago, Speaker Nancy Pelosi picked up the phone. Weighing heavy on her heart was both a presidential tweet and multiple news reports suggesting that millions of illegal immigrants would soon be deported by the Trump administration. She figured her voice on this sensitive topic wouldn’t move the needle with this White House so she turned to, at least on the surface, what may seem an unlikely choice: the conservative evangelical community, specifically her friends (that’s right, friends) at The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. On immigration, the influential NHCLC has pulled off a miraculous feat: they’ve become both the ‘Trump Whisperer’ and the ‘Pelosi Whisperer.’
As reported by CBN’s Heather Sells, in her press conference Thursday, Speaker Pelosi mentioned this phone call that took place weeks ago, saying she, “called some people of faith.”
A source with knowledge of the immigration discussions between House leadership and the Hispanic evangelical community tells CBN News that the Pelosi phone call was to top leaders at the NHCLC with a desperate plea to have them convince the White House to pull back on the impending raids, which at the time was reported to involve millions of deportations. The NHCLC did indeed pick up the phone and dialed 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. A source close to the White House acknowledges that the NHCLC discussed the impending raids with administration officials and they were assured that the activity by Immigration and Customs Enforcement would be limited in scope, targeting a few thousand illegal immigrants who had defied court orders to deport, not millions.
“We have been extremely involved in conversations with both House leadership and the White House regarding the need for a definitive solution to our immigration crisis,” Tony Suarez, the group’s executive vice president, tells CBN News. “We were thankful to assist in seeing the proposed raids delayed.” Pelosi echoed that sentiment in her press conference saying, “I think their calls to President Trump made a difference.”
Those raids are indeed set to go into effect this Sunday. Many of the thousands that are targeted for deportation are those that missed their orders to appear in court and have come to the United States in the last four years. According to someone close to the Speaker’s office, even though these raids are about to take place, since her press conference Thursday, she has been having continued discussions with NHCLC leadership here in the last moments before the Sunday deadline.
The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference identifies themselves as, “America’s largest Hispanic Evangelical organization” with the purpose to, “unify, serve and represent the Hispanic Evangelical Community with the divine (vertical) and human (horizontal) elements of the Christian message all while advancing the Lamb’s agenda.” They represent more than 40,000 Hispanic evangelical congregations. Their president, Samuel Rodriguez gave one of the prayers at President Trump’s inauguration and is very close with The White House. His passionate pro-life views range from those in the womb to all of us who are heading to the tomb. It’s the expression we hear often: “womb to tomb.”
On immigration, he and the NHCLC have been fervent supporters of both a comprehensive immigration plan that respects the rule of law and also furthers the biblical commandment for humane compassion. Those views have led the NHCLC into uncharted territory where they have the ear of both conservative immigration officials inside the White House and progressive Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives. They support keeping ‘Dreamers,’ younger undocumented immigrants who came to America as youngsters beyond their control, from being deported. It was this issue that brought the NHCLC and Nancy Pelosi together about a year ago.
In January of 2018, Rodriguez and NHCLC leadership headlined a press conference with Speaker Pelosi demanding protection for Dreamers. It was at that event where the developing bond between Nancy Pelosi and the group was on clear display. As he took the podium that day, Rodriguez remarked, “Thank you Madame Leader for your exemplary unwavering commitment to the immigrant community…you have always taken the lead. Your commitment to the immigrant community, to the Dreamers is second to none so America is a better place for your prophetic leadership on this matter.”
Since then, the relationship has only gotten better and a trust has developed, despite the closeness that Rodriguez and the NHCLC have with The White House. For Pelosi, she’s hoping the NHCLC will be able to be a compassionate faithful bridge to the Trump Administration. She trusts them and the feeling is mutual.
As for a comprehensive solution, that’s trickier. The NHCLC has made clear to Democrats in House Leadership positions that Congress must come up with the ultimate solution. “Our hope was (and continues to be) that Congress would pass a solution to finally bring an end to this crisis,” says Tony Suarez. “At the end of the day, the ‘onus’ is solely on Congress. The American people have waited for three decades for immigration reform. Time and again politicians have used the issue to win elections and then punt the issue to the next election without being held accountable for their inaction. We can no longer tolerate this type of behavior from our elected officials. Should these raids occur they will be limited in scope and the blame will be at the hands of Congress.”