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Rev. Samuel Rodriguez was "full of indignation" when he saw the reports and heard from politicians about the deplorable and inhumane conditions for illegal immigrants at an El Paso County, Texas migrant detention center. But what he saw at the same facility toured by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. with a group of pastors was "drastically different."
The president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the world's largest Hispanic Christian organization, and senior pastor of New Seasons Christian Worship Center in Sacramento shared his firsthand experience touring a migrant detention center during a press briefing Monday.
“I read the reports, saw the news clips. I just wanted to see what was actually happening in order to better enable our efforts to find a fair and a just solution to our broken immigration system," Rodriguez, who has advised President Trump and both Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush on immigration reform, noted. “To my surprise, I saw something drastically different from the stories I’ve been hearing in our national discourse. Even as a veteran of immigration advocacy in the U.S., I was shocked at the misinformation of the crisis at the border."
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The group of pastors saw a very different picture described by Ocasio-Cortez and other politicians and media outlets.
“We found no soiled diapers, no deplorable conditions and no lack of basic necessities,” Rodriguez remarked, adding he specifically asked border agents if they staged the facility in response to the negative press. “They unequivocally denied it — we were witnessing the identical conditions the attorneys saw when they toured the facility days earlier."
In fact, some told him the sources from whom the negative coverage originated “never toured the areas of the facility that we toured” and speculated they might have had political motivations.
The pastors left encouraged by the commitment and dedication of America’s Border Patrol and immigration officers, “many of which are Latinos, by the way.” He said one emotional Border Patrol agent turned to him and said, referring to the vilification: “Pastor Sam, what they’re saying about us is completely false. We care about these kids and have a passion for our calling.”
Pastor Carlos Moran, NHCLC board member and immigrant, said, “we, as evangelical leaders that serve in different segments, are very committed to helping children regardless of their status and we commend those officers that are trying their very best to serve and fulfill their duty at the border. However, we do call on our political leaders to set aside their personal agendas and begin focusing on resolving this immigration crisis.”
Rodriguez points blame for that broken immigration system at consecutive White House administrations and especially both Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress and implored each to “address the system they created.”
“What's heart-wrenching is that we have both Republicans and Democrats alike in Congress, who can't come together for the purpose of doing the right thing and finding a solution to our immigration crisis,” he said. “Please, President Trump, please White House, work with the Republicans and the Democrats [and] please, please, please, please, Nancy Pelosi, Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, please come together to solve this crisis, immediately.”