HOUSTON, April 29, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Gov. Jeb Bush, presumed 2016 presidential candidate, today addressed The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC)/CONEL annual convention of more than 1,000 Latino Evangelical leaders in Houston, Texas. As his parents, President and First Lady George H.W. Bush looked on, Gov. Bush spoke about the importance of faith and the Latino culture on issues of education, immigration, religious liberty and the economy.
"Jeb Bush is a blessing for our nation," Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of NHCLC/CONEL, said in introducing him from the platform. "He speaks the language of faith, family, religious freedom and entrepreneurship. And he agrees we don't want our children to have multi-generational dependence on Uncle Sam ... we don't want to survive, we want to thrive."
Gov. Bush shared about the importance of meeting his wife Columba, a native of Mexico, converting to Catholicism, and the valuable lessons he learned from his first unsuccessful run for governor in 1994.
"Life is full of disruptions and learning from failure---we need to restore that in America with the right to rise," said Gov. Bush. "It doesn't matter where you come from, where you are from, the color of your skin or the income of your family, every American should have the right to rise up and pursue your own dreams."
Gov. Bush continued by sharing about the importance of raising education standards in our nation, providing examples from his own state of Florida, which is now the national leader in education. The Governor also addressed the topic of immigration and ensuring an immigration policy that made it easier to immigrate legally, rather than illegally.
"Immigration is a key element of our country's success. We are nation of immigrants. This is not the time to abandon something that makes us special and unique," said Gov. Bush in his remarks. "Only America, a country of scale, has the chance to become young and dynamic again. We have the ability -- because of immigration -- to be an emerging country again, to believe our future is brighter than our present. We have to fix a broken immigration system, and we have to do it in short order."
Earlier in the day NHCLC/CONEL hosted a panel to discuss the issue of immigration. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez emphasized that programs through his office are not substitutes for comprehensive immigration reform.
"I am a patriot, I believe in America, and I believe that anything that is broken in America can be fixed," Director Rodriguez said during his remarks. "And what needs to be fixed right now is immigration reform. Besides the political speed bumps we have encountered, I believe we can still get this done."
Believing immigration reform is as much a religious, as it is a policy, issue, NHCLC/CONEL leaders have been actively rallying support from the Evangelical Christian community, which was once hesitant to embrace reform but now believes it is necessary to heal communities, usher in peace and promote righteousness and justice.
"Sometimes the first reaction when discussing immigration is that it is a political issue, but as Christians we should be looking at it through Scripture, and there are very many verses that call us to love others, seek justice, show compassion and also respect the rule of law," said Matthew Soerens, U.S. Church Training Specialist for World Relief. "We've seen research that shows attitudes toward immigration change when someone knows someone who is personally impacted. It is really important that we share our stories – not just in the local church but in your community, because when people hear stories, it changes their perspective."
NHCLC/CONEL supports reform focused on three main elements that puts an end to all illegal immigration. First, increasing border protection, including using infrared, satellite, and other technologies in addition to border patrols. Second, creating a market-driven, guest-worker program that provides clear avenues by which millions of undocumented families can obtain legal status in a manner that reflects the Judeo-Christian value system on which this nation was founded. And finally, developing standards for undocumented residents without a criminal record who are earning citizenship status to go to the back of the citizenship line and receive a financial penalty, while acquiring civic and language proficiency and serving the local community.
"We are all created by the same God. We all equally possess the image of God and that alone should be enough to cause us to call for immigration reform," said Barrett Duke, vice president of The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of The Southern Baptist Convention.
NHCLC/CONEL leaders, including President Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, have held numerous meetings with The White House and Congress working within the legislative system toward comprehensive immigration reform.
Gov. Mike Huckabee will join the evening session of the Convention as a special guest for the dinner and awards presentation. A full list of sessions and press conferences for the remainder of the Convention and further media information can be found at http://alarryross.com/newsroom/nhclc/2015nhclcconvention/.
NHCLC/CONEL is the world's largest Hispanic Christian organization. It serves as a representative voice for the more than 100 million Hispanic Evangelicals assembled in over 40,000 U.S. churches and another 500,000 congregations spread throughout the Spanish-speaking diaspora. For additional information, visit http://www.nhclc.org.
SOURCE National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference