Vice President Mike Pence will give the keynote address at this year’s National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference (NHPBC) in Washington on June 14th.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are also set to speak to the crowd of around 500 evangelical Latino faith leaders about what’s being done on Capitol Hill to address major issues facing the country today, like immigration and religious freedom.
“We are blessed that we have both sides of the aisle,” Rev. Luis Cortes, host of the NHPBC and president and founder of the Hispanic faith-based group Esperanza told CBN News. “As people of faith, our job is to talk to power and to leadership and to say to them Jesus believes this.”
A major thing the pastors are focused on discussing with lawmakers this week in DC is protecting religious freedom for faith leaders through a repeal of the Johnson Amendment.
“We have freedom of religion and freedom of speech. How do you put those two together and say well if you say something from the pulpit we’ll punish you by taking away your tax status?” said Cortes. “We think that’s wrong.”
A White House official told CBN News that the Vice President plans to thank the pastors for their commitment to standing up for religious liberty in his speech and reiterate the administration’s support of the constitutional right of Americans to live out their convictions in the public square.
According to the source, Pence also plans to touch on the record low unemployment rate for Hispanic Americans under the Trump administration, and their promise to fight to empower Hispanic Americans to contribute even more to our country’s future.
Cortes, who has worked with every administration since Clinton’s on immigration reform, will introduce the Vice President at the event. Cortes says while they haven’t been able to get anything across the finish line yet, he hopes that at least a permanent fix for DACA recipients is on the horizon with many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressing strong support for protecting the dreamers.
“The Israelites were 40 years in the desert, and this is our desert. So we will continue and push forward and push forward,” continued Cortes. “We know that one day there are going to be hundreds of thousands of Christian people hitting their knees and thanking God because the miracle has happened – you know what the miracle is? That we actually got a bipartisan bill passed in the United States of America.”
Speaker Ryan announced Tuesday he will bring two bills addressing a solution for the dreamers to the House floor next week. One bill is a more conservative immigration bill introduced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). The other bill that is still being finalized is said to be a more moderate, compromise bill.
Cortes says he does not think the Goodlatte bill will pass, but he looks forward to Ryan giving the crowd more details on this proposed GOP compromise bill Thursday morning.
“We’re very hopeful,” said Cortes. “We have no idea what that is, but we’re praying that it would be the answer or the solution that we could forge something where enough people from both sides of the aisle – we could actually get something bipartisan to address the young people that are here.”
Cortes says ultimately he would like to see a bill passed that offers the dreamers a chance to stay in America permanently but also strengthens border security.
“I am hopeful that we will be able to stand outside the White House and give a great cry to the Lord when Donald Trump signs that legislation,” said Cortes.
Another big issue the pastors are advocating for is an end to the new policy of separating families at the border.
“We feel that the new policy of taking a child away from a parent as they come to the border, we think that’s a little bit too harsh,” Cortes told CBN News. “We also think that’s trauma inducing to the children.”
“We think we need to keep these kids together and then do whatever we need to do in terms of do we prosecute them or do they have the ability to stay in our country,” continued Cortes. “Whether they’re refugees or not – those are political decisions we have to make, but we want to focus on the family.”
Cortes tells CBN News he believes Christians on both sides of the aisle should call their lawmakers and advocate against separating families.
“We believe that we have no choice but to keep parents and their children together,” said Cortes.