Hispanic Church leader condemns deportation of LA minister: 'We should deport pushers, not pastors'

The arrest and looming deportation of US evangelical pastor has stirred up outrage and fear in the Los Angeles latino community. Latino leader Rev Samuel Rodriguez has condemned the move, saying 'We should deport pushers, not pastors'.

Rev Samuel Rodriguez has been vocal in his support of vulnerable undocumented immigrants.Rev Samuel Rodriguez/ Facebook

Rev Noe Carias leads an Assemblies of God evangelical church near Echo Park, Los Angeles, but was arrested during an appointment with an immigration officer on Monday, according to the Los Angeles Times. Carias, a Guatemalan native, was deported in 1993 after entering the US illegally; he later returned to the US, ignoring a second deportation order in 1995.

His lawyer, Noemi Ramirez, said that after two one-year stays allowed in 2015 and 2016, a third stay was denied earlier this year. Officials were now deporting him 'because of his '95 decision', Ramirez said.

Carias' wife Victoria Carias said: 'He's a good man, he's a pastor, he's been a good citizen. He's never done anything wrong. The only thing he did was come here illegally.' The couple, who met and married in the US, have two children, both US citizens, and will celebrate their 14th wedding anniversary tomorrow. 

Ramirez reported an immigration officer as saying: 'Sorry, he's deportable.... We've removed people even if they have [deportation orders] since the '80s.''

The high-profile voice of Hispanic-evangelical leader Rev Samuel Rodriguez has raised his voice in support of Carias, saying he was 'dismayed' at the news.

Rodriguez, who is the President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) and who read Scripture at Trump's inauguration, said in a statement: 'Time and again, President Trump has stated his priority would be to deport violent criminals, drug dealers, human traffickers and gang members. Pastor Carias is the very opposite of that description. We should deport pushers, not pastors.

'We have worked tirelessly with the White House and the Trump Administration precisely in order to avoid this kind of result. To deport any immigrant whose life is so deeply connected to the United States and whose family is comprised of US citizens is an assault on the sanctity of life and the sacredness of the family. We cannot and must not allow families to be ripped apart by an immigration system that is attempting to make up for any real or perceived inadequacies of our past enforcement policies.'

He added: 'Reconnecting Pastor Carias with his family and church community is now the priority of the NHCLC and I will personally work with the Trump Administration and other appropriate authorities to rescind his deportation order with hopes no other family is forced to endure such unnecessary heartbreak. Please pray for our political leaders as well as our enforcement officers that they would act justly and compassionately and that we would find a swift conclusion to this case.'