James Robison and Samuel Rodriguez Discuss the Migrant Caravan

A father carries his daughter across a river as part of the caravan of migrants en route to the U.S.
A father carries his daughter across a river as part of the caravan of migrants en route to the U.S. (REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez recently spoke with The Stream founder James Robison about the caravan of migrants on their way to the United States border. Pastor Sam is senior pastor of New Season Christian Worship Center in Sacramento, California. Rodriguez, a prominent Latino faith adviser to the White House, is also president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and an author and speaker. He is recognized as "one of America's leading Christian and Latino voices and as the leader of the Latino evangelical movement."

James Robison: Can you tell me what you believe America must hear about what's happening with this caravan? How should wise, caring Americans see it and respond to it?

Pastor Sam Rodriguez: Let's lay it out. Let's outline it.

1. We are a sovereign nation. As a sovereign nation, we not only have a mandate, we have a responsibility and a clarion call to protect our borders and protect the sovereignty of our nation. We are not anarchists. We cannot embrace the idea of lawlessness or chaos.

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2. Fourteen thousand people headed toward our borders without an invitation from the United States of America is a recipe for chaos. It's a recipe for confrontation that can and should be avoided.

Let me explain. I do believe the vast majority of individuals coming up are good-hearted people. But, they are good-hearted people being exploited by political operatives from Honduras. We are privy to the fact that a leftist leader in Honduras initiated through social media the first caravan. So the purpose and timing of it to coincide with the midterm election is not in any way a coincidence. There is an intentional political objective behind this caravan coming up at this precise moment.

Yesterday, border officials reported 70 percent of those coming are not women with children, they are single men. This is critical. These are individuals that have the physical wherewithal and fortitude to seek employment, if not in Honduras or Guatemala, in Mexico.

3. The Mexican president offered them asylum in Mexico. He said, "If you can work, we want you to come to our country and work. If you are fleeing poverty, you can come and work here in Mexico." Mexico is not as impoverished as Honduras or Guatemala. Honduras is one of the most impoverished nations in the Western hemisphere, right next to Haiti. The Mexican government offered asylum, and as of yesterday, only 2,000 of the 14,000 accepted. So there is a political objective here that stems from political operatives in Honduras and Central American countries who I personally believe have an objective to embarrass President Trump and his administration.

James: Could they have been assisted or encouraged in any way by the liberal, leftist, socialist mindset here in the USA? Is that even possible?

Pastor Sam: I don't have anything to substantiate the idea, but it wouldn't surprise me. One more time, there are women and children. There are innocent people—people who just want a better day for their family, but it's not all of them!

The Mexican ambassador in the past 48 hours confirmed on NPR that the Mexican government has fully confirmed there are violent individuals amongst those involved and embedded in the caravan. So the idea that 14,000 angels are coming up to the border, that's a misnomer. The idea that 14,000 demons are coming up to the border, that's a misnomer too.

The fact of the matter is, the vast majority of them are good people looking for a better day, but they are coming here the wrong way. If you want to seek asylum, come with your family and present your case to a legal port of entry. But do not bombard our border and then say, "Come hell or high water we are coming in— legally or illegally." That's not the way to seek asylum in the USA in any shape or form.

I have compassion for those who are coming in that have viable asylum or refugee imperatives that drive them. For those, my heart breaks. I would have loved for those individuals to have sought asylum the legal way and not in a mass of 14,000 additional individuals where there may be some criminal elements embedded. And right now, we're so conflated that it would impede our bureaucracy from handling them appropriately through the vetting process.

Regarding the caravan—does the president have every right to send troops to the border? Yes! As a matter of fact, he not only has every right, we as Americans should have every expectation that our commander in chief will protect the sovereignty of our nation.

James: As surely as we have to protect our own homes from wrong individuals coming into our homes, the nation is also our home, and we have to protect it. The biased media tries to make it look like lack of compassion. It wouldn't be lack of compassion if you kept a trespasser or a pedophile or some dangerous person from coming into your home. The same thing applies to the nation.

Pastor Sam: Absolutely. But as a Christian leader who has worked with several presidential administrations, I really want to reconcile the rule of law with our compassion. I don't believe it's either or.

James: Protecting the innocent is compassion too!

Pastor Sam: Even protecting the immigrant community in America from those coming in who may not have the best of objectives.

Here's the point: the Mexican government offered asylum. If the 14,000 are seeking a better day for their families—I would argue the vast majority are. If they are seeking a better day and employment and a viable economic stream for the well-being of their family, I hear that side and it breaks my heart.

But the Mexican government has said, "We'll help you. Come into Mexico right now." The moment you continue to come up north and you do not accept the offer ... if you are naked, and the first person says, "I'd rather continue to be naked, because I want someone else's clothing," then we have issues. The objective is no longer to be clothed, or to receive the appropriate attire or clothing. The objective here is something different.

James: If you allow foolishness to organize you, even if you're a needy person to come into an area that you perceive is one that can alleviate your suffering, but you come in such a way as to disrupt that person's property or stability and security and ability to produce income opportunities, you have just blown away your own hopes by your foolish attempt to come in the wrong way. You've damaged the whole potential for anyone's improvement. That's common sense.

Pastor Sam: Don't come here illegally. Not a question mark or comma. Don't come to America illegally. If you are legitimately fleeing persecution of any sort, come to our port of entry legally, not in masses or caravans.

The president has made a very powerful, affirming declaration that I thought was very redemptive. He said if these individuals do come in illegally, we're going to take care of them better than they probably experienced in their country as we process them. (Not in "catch and release.") We will process them and make sure they are healthy, properly clothed, given every single ounce of human dignity they deserve because they are human beings. I commend and applaud him for that. That's the sort of rhetoric I would like to hear more of from both sides of the aisle.

I am in favor of legal immigration. I am in favor of Ronald Reagan's admonition and exhortation, "Yes, if we build a wall, we will build some amazing doors where people can come in legally at our discretion as a nation." Meaning if we need to tweak the numbers to reflect our socioeconomic needs in particular sections of our economy—construction, agriculture, services industry and so forth. I want us to continue to be a nation open to the immigrants, and I do agree it should be more merit-based, but not exclusively.

This article originally appeared on The Stream. Reprinted with permission.

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