The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez — a political and theological conservative who regularly shares his views on contentious issues like immigration and the death penalty — is backing President Barack Obama's sweeping executive action that will allow nearly 5 million illegal immigrants to register for background checks, pay back taxes and not have to worry about deportations for three years.
Rodriguez told TheBlaze Friday that he is "uber-reluctantly supportive" of the plan that some of his fellow conservatives are openly decrying.
"It's not the modus operandi — the preferable delivery mechanism," Rodriguez admitted. "The preferable choice — the one that renders a permanent solution — is a Congress that drafts the legislation and the president signs it."
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference speaks during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday commemorative service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, in Atlanta (AP)
Rodriguez, who has long been a voice advocating for immigration reform, said that Obama's plan offers bandaids that will "stop the bleeding," but that he wants to see a more permanent solution.
"My commitment is to end suffering. That's what drives me. The people in my pews — I've experienced this first hand," he said. "The suffering of people living in the shadows."
But while Rodriguez is standing behind Obama and even plans to meet with the commander-in-chief Friday afternoon, he admitted being conflicted, especially considering his small-government worldview.
"As one who is committed to limited government, I have great problems when any president engages in executive actions on these major issue," he said, noting that Ronald Reagan, too, took similar action in 1986. "There's a tug in my spirit on this."
Rodriquez also openly admitted that the executive action could have negative consequences.
In addition to sending a poor message to immigrants who have taken legal avenues to come to America — and those who are currently in the process of doing so — he said that a potentially dangerous signal could also be sent to Central and South America.
"It's [a message] that says, 'Yes, we are granting mercy to those that cut in front in you,' but let me digress. I think it's a tourniquet," Rodriguez reiterated. "It may be a necessary message to save the lives of those living in the shadows."
The preacher also said that he's hoping and praying that Obama balances the executive action with a strong message to Central and South American, telling parents and families that — despite helping 5 million illegals here in the U.S. — the borders will be tightened to stop additional illegals from crossing.
Rodriquez said the president needs to ensure that the executive order is not seen as "a green light or yellow light [telling people] to come over."
Despite these qualms, though, Rodriguez believes Obama is doing the right thing with what he deemed a "middle-of-the-road, modest executive action." The preacher said that the president could have taken it further by offering similar sentiments to additional illegal immigrants beyond the 5 million.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez (NHCLC)
He noted that he knows conservatives — in addition to a reverence for the rule of law — have fears that an increased Hispanic population could mean a larger Democratic voting bloc, but dismissed this concern, claiming that Latinos actually embrace many socially conservative threads.
Rodriguez said that he wants Christians and conservatives opposed to the order to realize that the 5 million illegals are primarily "God-fearing, 99.7 percent Christian" individuals who unfortunately came to the U.S. illegally.
"Their children are born here, they share our values when it comes to life … the primary model for marriage and family [and] on religious liberty," he said. "These are not individuals who are married to a political ideology. They love faith, they love family and they love freedom."
In a past interview with TheBlaze, Rodriguez claimed that many of the 11 million illegals who are estimated to be in the U.S. actually came to the country legally at some point, but some “overstayed their VISAs”; a Wall Street Journal report corroborated that 40 percent of illegals likely did enter the nation legitimately at some point.