A leading evangelical spokesman for Hispanic Christians has urged Democrats to drop their opposition to President Donald Trump's demands for funding to build a border wall and end the government shutdown.
Parts of the US government have been shut down in an impasse over funding the wall, a key Trump campaign promise which is nationally unpopular, with only 38 per cent in favour of it.
Rev Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, urged both sides to compromise. He said Democrats should agree to the $5 billion Trump needs to build the wall, and that the Republicans should provide a 'permanent solution' for 'Dreamers' – people who have lived undocumented in the US since arriving as children and face being deported to countries of which they have no knowledge. Many conservatives strongly oppose them being granted a path to citizenship.
Rodriguez said: 'First, we must stop oversimplifying the immigration debate into right and wrong and 'us' versus 'them'. We are unified as a nation not when we agree on specific policies, but rather when we hold fast to the same civic rules on how to reach conclusions to our most difficult questions. Both sides of this debate believe they know what's best for America, and both believe they know how best to get us there.
'In that spirit, and in joining with millions of Hispanic Americans all across the country, the NHCLC urgently calls upon both Democrats and Republicans to end our current impasse. We urge Democrats to fund the president's calls for increased border security, and we likewise call on Republicans to provide a permanent solution for Dreamers.'
Referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, he said: 'The time is now, fund the wall and give us DACA!'
Trump is due to address the nation today on the issue in a broadcast from the Oval Office, arguing that the US faces a crisis on its border with Mexico. It has been suggested he may attempt to declare a 'national emergency' in order to bypass Congress and build the wall without its backing. However, this would be open to legal challenges.
Around 800,000 public sector workers are without pay until the shutdown is resolved.