The influential Hispanic Christian leader Samuel Rodriguez has expressed his support for Donald Trump over immigration reform following the president's speech to Congress yesterday.
The comments are in contrast to earlier comments by Rodriguez, who is the President of National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) and who read Scripture at Trump's inauguration.
Earlier this month, he said in response to Trump's pledge to deport illegal immigrants that his organisation would ensure 'there is no enforcement overreach, breach of due process or racial discrimination'.
He added: 'I ask the administration to enact and fulfil the promise President Trump made not to harm families and exclusively deport those involved in nefarious activities. Please, help us keep families together.'
But last night, after Trump outlined plans for a 'merit-based immigration system' while addressing Congress for the first time, Rodriguez said: 'Americans are hoping for a change of direction, for real solutions to the many issues plaguing our country, and for a better, stronger and more prosperous future. President Trump's speech reflected that hope, and now we wait to see what can be accomplished by both the White House and the Congress toward these commonly shared goals.'
Rodriguez added: 'For Latinos living in the United States, the issue of immigration reform is of obvious concern and is being carefully watched and monitored. Further, it was not only a part of President Trump's speech but was evident by the guests invited on both sides of the aisle and by one of the individuals chosen to give the Democrat response. It is evident immigration reform continues to be a divisive issue that needs to be addressed in a comprehensive way.
'Our hope is that Congress will make it their utmost priority to immediately pass comprehensive immigration reform. The legislative process is the best way to respect the people living within our borders and better protect the sanctity and security of our country's founding ideals.'
Rodriguez also appeared to backtrack on the importance of the immigration issue to his community. 'While immigration reform is important, it is not paramount to the Latino community as evidenced by recent polling and through our daily conversations with the NHCLC member churches,' he said. 'Tonight we heard the president address strengthening education, boosting the economy to create jobs and building a better America for ALL Americans. These are areas in which we have common ground with the president's vision and in which we are hopeful that real progress can be made through his administration.
'This speech set the stage, not only for this session of Congress, but for the next four years. During this time, the NHCLC will continue to work with the administration to make progress on the priorities of Latino Evangelicals including the issues of life, religious liberty, education equality, immigration reform and racial unity.'