Pro Trump And Pro DACA: An Evangelical Minister Shares His Views

Feb 11, 2018
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to start the program today with an issue that is at the center of some of this country's most heated and emotional arguments right now. It finally gets the attention of Congress this week. We're talking about DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects young immigrants who were brought here illegally as children. Lawmakers have until March 5 to come up with a plan for the more than 700,000 DACA recipients whose status has been in limbo since President Trump canceled the program last year. Tomorrow, the Senate will begin to tackle DACA and some hope this will pave the way for a broader agreement on immigration.

But as the deadline for action has gotten closer and the debate has gotten more intense, we thought it would be interesting to talk with people who don't fit that stark partisan divide that we've been seeing. To that end, we called the Reverend Johnnie Moore. He's been a close adviser to President Trump since the campaign. News reports say he's visited the White House some 20 times since Mr. Trump took office, and he's pressing for a more, quote, unquote, "compassionate" approach on immigration. He's with us now from Los Angeles. Reverend Moore, thank you so much for speaking with us.

JOHNNIE MOORE: Happy to be with you.

MARTIN: So evangelicals like yourself have been - I should say white evangelicals if you don't mind my putting a fine point on it - have been one of President Trump's strongest constituencies. But if - this seems to be an issue where there is some difference of opinion, at least when it comes to evangelical leaders. Do you think I have that right? Is that about right?

MOORE: I would actually say that, you know, on this particular issue, evangelicals, conservatives or progressives and everything in between, whatever their ethnicity or their denomination - we're pretty united on this front. And we're trying, I think, to demonstrate that. You know, in recent days, you know, the word evangelical has become a, you know, largely political term. But I think a lot of people fail to realize that actually it's our concern for people that brings a lot of us to the public square, whether we're conservative or progressive or wherever we fall. And this issue is Exhibit A of how we will raise our voice in unity across the aisle, and we're not going to let up until Congress does their job.

MARTIN: Well, last week, about 500 of your colleagues published a letter in The Washington Post urging the president to do a number of things - not to limit the number of refugees allowed in the country, to do something about DACA as we have discussed, and this is, I think, time to coincide with the faith breakfast - the National Prayer Breakfast that has become an annual event here. I don't think you signed that letter. Why is that?

MOORE: I didn't sign the letter because, you know, frankly, I didn't need to write an open letter. I've had plenty of opportunities to express my point of view and actually to express the point of view of a lot of people who signed that letter. You know, I think for those of us that are frequently sought-after advisers - and I want to say, you know, it's not us beating down the door of the White House. We're not lobbying anyone. It's that they're frequently asking us our opinion, and we've expressed our opinion on this issue.

And I think that one clear example of the influence of that is the fact that to the great surprise of nearly every Republican in America and lots and lots of people on the right wing, you know, when the president engaged in this conversation a few weeks ago, he wasn't talking about 700,000 DACA recipients. He was - he nearly tripled the number of all those who qualify. And so again, you know, the White House, we feel like, is moving in a positive direction. It's Congress that needs the attention. They need the pressure. Here's the point, OK. We live in the United States. In the United States of America, we have an elected form of government. Our politicians aren't meant to be celebrities or to represent their point of view and be on the news every night. They are to do the job of the people.

And half of America is saying, we need to pay attention to security, and half of America wants a much more liberal immigration policy. But everyone nearly - nearly every Republican, every Democrat, every faith leader I know - we all agree on DREAMers. Now it's the job of the Congress to sit down and do their job and say, we're representing lots of Americans with different points of view, so how can we reconcile this? And as part of that reconciliation process, one thing that must be included above everything else, and that is for these young people. They didn't break the law. Their parents broke the law for sure. You know, and this is a land of laws with a rule of law. But they didn't, and they deserve the compassion of this nation. And again, we're not going to let our voice stop screaming until Congress steps across the aisle, doesn't check their party at the door and tries to do something productive.

MARTIN: So do you think that you are having an influence - you and others who share your views on this issue are having an influence?

MOORE: I'm not the type of person that takes credit for things because you never know who else is in the conversation. But I am pretty confident that the faith community is showing the best of faith right now in a time period where all over - all around the world, we see a lot of the worst of religion and yet, you know, Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and progressives, evangelicals and all across the aisle and faith communities broad of all religions are on one wavelength on this issue. And I know we're making a difference. And I not only know because over the last year, I mean, I've had the opportunity to be on the front row in a lot of private conversations.

And I can say this is something that we all ought to be celebrating - the change of opinion in the country. Now Congress needs to reflect that in legislation. We need righteousness and justice in this country. We need immigration policy that works. We can't have a haphazard rule of law here, where we enforce some laws and not others, and nobody knows, and it's everywhere and twisted up and all around. And we need abundant compassion. And the beautiful thing about this tragedy with the DREAMers is that at an incredibly divided time of America, it's brought a unique coalition to the table. And a lot of us are hopeful that this isn't the last thing that we work on together but just the first.

MARTIN: That's the Reverend Johnnie Moore. He was co-chair of the Trump campaign's Evangelical Advisory Committee. He is the CEO of KAIROS, a marketing firm based in Los Angeles. And we spoke to him there. Reverend Moore, thank you so much for speaking with us. I hope we'll talk again.

MOORE: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.