In Florida, Latino evangelicals mobilize against DeSantis’ crackdown on immigrants

Publication: Religion News Services
Author: Alejandra Molina
Date: March 2, 2023

– After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered state regulators to deny licenses or renewals to those sheltering unaccompanied migrant children, more than 200 faith leaders and evangelical pastors of Spanish-speaking churches made their way to downtown Tallahassee last year in February to protest the governor for preventing them from doing the “work that God has called us do.” Now, as DeSantis prepares for a possible 2024 presidential bid and as he’s unveiled an immigration package that seeks to impose stiffer penalties for Floridians who “knowingly transport, conceal, or harbor” unauthorized immigrants, some Latino evangelical leaders say they’re willing to break
the law if it’s enacted and are mobilizing their flocks — this time in larger numbers — to “fightagainst DeSantis.”

– “Allowing politics to interfere in the decision-making of congregations,” said Carlos Carbajal, who pastors an immigrant evangelical congregation in Miami, would be a “betrayal of the
– To Agustin Quiles, a director of government affairs for the Florida Fellowship of Hispanic Bishops and Evangelical Institutions, DeSantis’ proposed immigration package “is the issue that is really going to wake up the Latino evangelical community.”
– “Even though DeSantis uses some of our conservative values to gain the support of our community, when you touch the heart of our churches and the people that we love and care for …
our pastors will not stand for this,” Quiles said.
– The Rev. Esteban Rodríguez, with Centro Cristiano Pan de Vida in Kissimmee, a city in central Florida just south of Orlando, said he’s willing to not only break the law if DeSantis’ immigration package takes effect, but also ready to stand up against it.
– DeSantis’ proposed immigration measures “harm humanity” and “don’t align with what we preach,” said Rodríguez, who also serves as the secretary for the Florida Fellowship of Hispanic Bishops and Evangelical Institutions.
– The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, who serves as president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said “there is angst in the Latino evangelical community” over DeSantis’
immigration proposal.
– “The governor knows that the fastest growing church is the immigrant church. When he declares radical anti-immigrant mandates, he is declaring war against the church,” they said.
– “We know that he (DeSantis) is trying to run for office as a candidate of the extreme right … and for that reason we are educating our people that he is a bad governor who is using our people forhis own political tendency,” Rev. Rubén Ortiz said.



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