Latino Pastor: The Challenge for White Evangelicals

During these last few days President Trump has taken several steps that have further alienated the vast majority of the Latino community.

Pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio

A week ago he pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio, who served as sheriff for 24 years, was infamous for stopping any Latino that “looked” undocumented, for humiliating prisoners in his jails, and for proudly stating that the jails he supervised were concentration camps. The people of his county got tired of his actions and elected another person as county sheriff.

On various occasions the courts demanded that Arpaio discontinue stopping Latinos without probable cause, but he ignored their rulings. He was found guilty of disobeying a judge’s orders and was going to go before the judge to be sentenced when he was pardoned by President Trump.

In his announcement of the pardon, the president praised Arpaio for his work in controlling undocumented immigration and called him a great patriot. Though the pardon is legal, it was strongly condemned by both Democrats and Republicans. They all stated that the pardon gave public officials the message that they do not have to obey the law or judicial injunctions. For the vast majority of Latinos, the other message we got through this action is that implicit racism against Latinos is acceptable, if it is considered necessary to control undocumented immigration. The message Latinos are hearing: implicit racism against them is acceptable. Click To Tweet

Ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

On top of this, the White House today ended the DACA program. This executive order, established by President Obama, protects young people who arrived in this country without documents, but as minors. The logic of President Obama was that these young people were brought as children, not by their own decision, and that they had been brought up in this country as Americans. The DACA program has allowed these young people to continue their university studies, to join the military, and to work legally. During the early part of his administration the president gave the impression that he might support a continuation of DACA, but his administration has now ended the program with a six month sunset clause. The vast majority of the young people that will be adversely affected are of Latino descent.  [For more on how another immigrant population may be affected, click here.]

In the midst of these decisions there is a continuing negative policy toward immigrant communities. One can see the contrast by comparing the crimes for which Joe Arpaio was pardoned while people like Pastor Noé Carías, an Assemblies of God pastor, is detained and under threat of deportation. Contrast the criminal actions of Arpaio against the criminalization of a detained pastor. Click To Tweet

Complications for Latino Evangelicals

This environment is particularly complicated for Latino evangelicals. Many white evangelical leaders have defended President Trump, and very few have been willing to question his actions, even when these are hurting immigrant evangelicals and many others. We are still waiting for strong and clear statements from some white evangelical leader denouncing the decision to end DACA, to free Pastor Carías and many others whose crimes are of lesser magnitude than those of Sheriff Arpaio.

How much time do we have to wait for evangelical leaders to speak on behalf of their Latino sisters and brothers? When will they use their prophetic voice to speak against the anti-Latino attitudes of the President?

The Challenge for White Evangelicals

The challenge for Latino evangelicals is knowing how to deal with our white brothers and sisters that are sure that Trump is the man of God no matter the damage he is doing to the immigrant community and many others.

I want to walk with my white evangelical sisters and brothers. But I also need for them to be willing to walk with us.

  • It is time to speak for those already born as strongly as we speak for the yet unborn. It is time to defend the rights of immigrant families as strongly as we speak for the defense of marriage.
  • It is time to denounce the implicit racism of those who enforce immigration laws as a way to mistreat U.S. citizens because they “look” undocumented.
  • It is time to speak like the prophets of old and recognize that a country will be judged by how it treats the foreigners in its midst.

Many white churches and denominations are growing because of Latinos. White evangelical leaders want to count on the support of Latino evangelicals. We are now appealing to our white sisters and brothers. We need for you to join with us to respond to the challenges affecting our community. Can we count on your support? I want to walk with white evangelicals, but I also need them to walk with me. Click To Tweet


Editor’s Note: A version of this document was first published in Spanish in Protestant Digital, September 3, 2017

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