House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi cited Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan and praised evangelical leaders during her record eight-hour speech on the House floor Wednesday.
“The Three B’s — business, badges … bibles — are imploring Congress to pass the Dream Act,” Pelosi, a California Democrat, said of legislation that would cancel deportation orders and grant lawful permanent resident status to about 700,000 young immigrants brought to the United Sates as minors who face losing their right to work lawfully.
The 77-year-old Pelosi told her colleagues that if the Dream Act were brought up for a vote, it would pass “immediately” through House with “strong bipartisan support.”
She then informed them that she was going to speak for as long as she could under the “magic minute” privilege for those in House leadership.
“This is a human plea to the Speaker [of the House Paul Ryan], a prayerful human plea to the speaker,” she said. “[From] this morning when I first met with my colleagues in our meeting at 8 [a.m.], it was exactly 40 hours until midnight tomorrow. Forty is a number fraught with meaning in our religious lives.”
Pelosi reminded her colleagues that Christ was in the desert for 40 days and also shared other religious connections to that number.
“Therefore, 40 hours is a Catholic devotion that many of us grew up with and we have that same 40 hours — from 8:00 this morning until tomorrow night at midnight — to be prayerful,” she continued. “And to show our purpose and to show why we are asking the speaker for this vote.”
Protections for “dreamers” were removed last September when President Donald Trump rescinded the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that offered two-year deferrals of deportation and the work permits.
Considering that the current budget deal does not include protections for dreamers, Pelosi’s goal was to stall long enough to hopefully force a vote on the Dream Act. The legislation has over 200 cosponsors and is supported by a number of Republicans.
At the beginning of her speech, Pelosi cited the words of Luke 10.
“I’d like to speak to the Bible in Luke 10:25-37 — the parable of the Good Samaritan,” Pelosi said at the beginning of her speech. “On one occasion, an expert of the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘What is written in the law,’ [Jesus] replied. ‘How do you read it?’ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.’
“‘You have answered correctly, Jesus replied. Do this and you will live.’ But he wanted to justify himself so he asked Jesus, ‘and who is my neighbor?'”
Pelosi went into further detail about the story of the Good Samaritan.
“The parable of the Good Samaritan is one that has been used over and over again to welcome strangers,” she said. “Samaritans were not friends to the person the Samaritan saved. But was a man of justice.”
As Jesus explains, the hated Samaritan who stopped to help the man who was attacked and left for dead on the side of the road by robbers on his way to Jericho was much more of a neighbor than the priest and the Levite. Both the priest and the Levite ignored the wounded man and simply passed by him to get to where they needed to go.
Pelosi also shared the real stories of dreamers that had been sent to her office. Additionally, she praised religious bodies who have called for the protection of dreamers. She referred to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Southern Baptist Convention and evangelical leaders like National Hispanic Christian Leadership Coalition’s Samuel Rodriguez.
“The people of faith are people of faith,” she said. “They believe that we have obligations to each other. They’ve spoken out in a courageous way.”
While Pelosi was giving her eight-hour speech, evangelical leaders gathered elsewhere on Capitol Hill Wednesday for their own press conference organized by the evangelical refugee resettlement agency World Relief.
At the press conference, it was announced that Trump and congressional leaders received a letter signed by several prominent evangelical leaders, such as author Max Lucado and Russell Moore, who called for the protection of dreamers.
“Our prayer is that these young people would be allowed to continue contributing to our society without fear of deportation,” the letter reads.
As of Thursday, over 2,000 Christian leaders have signed onto the letter.
Additionally, Pelosi met last month with evangelical leaders who serve as advisers to the Trump administration, such as Rodriguez and Bishop Harry Jackson, to discuss dreamers.
Pelosi’s showing Wednesday was rebuked on the House floor Thursday by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas.
“I would note that as the minority leader quoted the Bible frequently throughout her speech. It reminds me of Isaiah 1:18, ‘Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord,'” Hensarling said. “Yet, President Trump stood right there in the State of the Union address with his hand out, with an olive branch extending an open hand to work with members of both parties on an immigration reform package.
“He offered a fair compromise. Instead, the minority leader slapped his hand and called it insulting, Mr. Speaker. She called it lame, she called it dangerous. This is not someone who has come to this chamber, the people’s house, in order to make law.”
Hensarling reminded the House that Trump’s offer to protect dreamers went above and beyond the call to protect 700,000 dreamers and vowed to protect up to 1.8 million dreamers.
“He offered it to 1.8 million and he said, ‘Let’s secure our borders and let’s make sure that immigrants who come to this country come legally and come with their sleeves rolled up, coming to work and build America,'” he explained.
Trump proposed a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children. His proposal also called for a massive increase in border security.
The initial immigration framework proposed by Trump earned the praise of the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of multiple evangelical organizations.
In a statement, the coalition said it was “encouraged by President Trump’s embrace of an opportunity for Dreamers.”
“We stand at the precipice of achieving a permanent solution for Dreamers, and both sides of the immigration debate must be willing to make a compromise to get the job done,” Rodriguez said in a statement.
“While there are certainly aspects of this proposal either party may disagree on, there is also much they can celebrate. Let us accomplish a bold and lasting solution for childhood arrivals, and yes, let us deliver enhanced border security too. In the spirit of compromise, with so many lives and families hanging in the balance, I strongly urge Congress to not let this historic opportunity slip away, but instead embrace a compromise that history will record as a righteous victory for our nation.”