Latino Immigrants Are the Moderates Who Could Stabilize Our Politics

Some Americans fear that large waves of legal as well as illegal immigrants are changing the nation's identity. Along with that fear comes the worry that Americans will end up living in parallel cultures. Native-born Americans will live in one culture, while immigrants live in one or more separate cultures.Ruben Navarrette, a syndicated columnist and Bush Institute Education Reform Fellow, and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, discuss these questions via email with William McKenzie, editor of "The Catalyst," a George W. Bush Institute journal. How do you see Latinos shaping religion in America, arguably one of the most important cultural forces in the nation?Rodriguez: As the fastest-growing religion demographic in America, Latinos will not only define American evangelicalism but also American Catholicism in the 21st century. That said, our commitment to life, religious liberty, biblical justice, immigration and educational equality will have political ramifications when it comes to courting this religious demographic.Navarrette: It's happening in many different ways, in many different corners of America. You have some Latinos -- who are most often baptized as Catholics -- joining Protestant and Mormon churches. You have others sticking with Catholicism and trying to revitalize it. Still others are backing away, and attending church less often. But overall, the effect is profound and extremely positive.You each mentioned religiously minded Latinos having a profound, positive and even political impact. Could you expand upon the likely impact on our social, civic and even political life?Rodriguez: The Latino ethos facilitates and invites collaboration, cooperation and compromise.Let me explain. Latinos are not extremists. You will be hard-pressed to find a measurable amount of Latinos on the hard left or on the hard right of America's political ideological spectrum. I have stated this before, so permit me to reiterate: We are both the theological heirs of Billy Graham's message and the spiritual descendants of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s march. Therefore, our righteousness and justice platform repudiates extremism on both sides. I believe this to be incredibly positive in a nation so divided.Navarrette: To our credit, Latinos are usually very religious. We have no trouble making room in our lives for God, and we're humble enough to ask his help in our darkest moments. That spills into the wider society because Latinos are completely integrated and assimilated into that society. We learn about Thomas Jefferson and Cesar Chavez. Eighty percent of us speak English, or a combination of English-Spanish. We get our news from the same networks that everyone else does. So we're going to impact the local Rotary Club and, to a lesser degree, the political parties. What happens to us, happens to America. Because we are America.Rodriguez: Amen Ruben. My concern is that instead of becoming engaged with the American political process, many Latinos of faith are so turned off with the current discord that it may serve as a deterrent in engaging our community.  Continue reading...

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