The president of the largest Latino evangelical organization says the president has better options for turning out the vote than the inflammatory immigration language he's been using.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference and one of the president's faith advisors, acknowledged to CBN News on Thursday that the president is using the issue to activate his political base but argued for a different strategy.
"We could do better. You can't deny the fact that there's a political calculus in the president engaging the immigration rhetoric," he said. "I actually support the president in the idea of building a wall, stopping all illegal immigration."
But Rodriguez made the case that the president should campaign for the GOP using a positive message. "I don't want to stoke the worst of America. This president could actually run on one amazing platform – the lowest unemployment rate in a generation. The lowest unemployment rate ever for Hispanics and African-Americans," he said.
Rodriguez said he has personal angst over the president's election strategy focusing so heavily on immigration.
He painted a complicated picture of the caravan coming from Central America to the US border. "I'm completely aware that there are those from the hard left from Honduras that actually initiated this caravan," he said. Rodriguez said 70 percent of those in the caravan are single males and not women and children.
But he expressed empathy for them as well. "I would argue the vast majority are good, God-fearing people looking for a better life," he said.
Rodriguez called the issue of birthright citizenship that the president raised this week a "viable conversation." He said he opposes altering the Constitution to take away the right but argued that the US must build a firewall against what he described as a "birthing industry."
"There are people that are actually coming to America illegally for the purpose of giving birth – for their children to become legal citizens and for that to emerge as some sort of a continuum of individuals coming in here with the initial entry being one that's illegal in nature. How do we do that? How do we reconcile the fact that we are a sovereign nation, committed to protecting our borders?" he said.
Rodriguez thinks the heated campaign rhetoric over immigration has turned off some Latinos and will prevent them from voting. "It's unfortunate," he said, "because I would like to see more Latinos go out and vote and participate in our electoral process."