Samuel Rodriguez calls for release of evangelical pastor being prepared for deportation

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez Jr. appears in a screen capture of a video sermon from his YouTube channel. | YouTube/Pastor Samuel Rodriguez

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), has called on President Donald Trump's administration to release a Guatemalan-born evangelical pastor who is currently detained in California and being prepared for deportation.

Noe Carias, who pastors an Assemblies of God church in Los Angeles, was arrested during a routine appointment with an immigration officer on Monday, Los Angeles Times reported. The pastor, who is married to a U.S. citizen, had been previously granted two one-year stays in 2015 and 2016, but his request for a third stay was denied earlier this year.

Rodriguez, who is affiliated with Assemblies of God, released a statement expressing his dismay over the pastor's arrest and impending deportation. He contended that Carias is a "law-abiding and productive member of his local Los Angeles community" and pointed out that Trump had repeatedly promised to prioritize the deportation of violent criminals.

"Time and again, President Trump has stated his priority would be to deport violent criminals, drug dealers, human traffickers and gang members. Pastor Carias is the very opposite of that description. We should deport pushers, not pastors," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez was one of the six faith leaders who spoke at Trump's inauguration, and he is one of the several evangelical pastors who are acting as informal advisers to the White House on various issues including immigration.

In his statement, Rodriguez expressed frustration, stating that deporting a pastor like Carias is an "assault on the sanctity of life."

"To deport any immigrant whose life is so deeply connected to the United States and whose family is comprised of U.S. citizens, is an assault on the sanctity of life and the sacredness of the family. We cannot and must not allow families to be ripped apart by an immigration system that is attempting to make up for any real or perceived inadequacies of our past enforcement policies," he said.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contended that Carias is a "repeat immigration violator" who has assumed multiple identities and nationalities in the past to evade immigration officers.

Carias was first deported from the U.S. in 1993 when he entered the country illegally. He entered the country again and ignored a second deportation order in 1995.

According to his lawyer Noemi Ramirez, immigration officials decided that the pastor is "removable because of his '95 decision."

Rodriguez stated that the NHCLC will work with the Trump administration and authorities to overturn the deportation order against Carias.

Guillermo Torres of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice said that other pastors had met with and sent letters to immigration officials about Carias' case.