Michael Gerson

There are many problems with this argument, not least of which is that about a fifth of Hispanics in America are Protestants, mostly evangelical Pentecostals and Baptists. Almost all of Bush's political gains among Hispanics have come from this group, which gave him 44 percent of their vote in 2000 and 56 percent in 2004. Hispanic Protestants tend to be conservative on social policy. And many conservatives, I'd be willing to bet, would feel more cultural affinity with Hispanic Baptists in their church pews than they would with Huntington's colleagues in the Harvard faculty lounge.

Yet these are precisely the people that Tancredo Republicans are alienating. Not all Hispanics view immigration favorably, but 100 percent resent being targets of suspicion. When I talked this week with the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez Jr., a prominent Hispanic evangelical, he said of congressional Republicans: "This is a party closing its door to us, hijacked by extremists."

"All I hear," he told me, "from conservative leaders I work with, very socially conservative people, is, 'I can't continue to vote for a party that is exposing threads of bigotry and racism.' " Conservatives need to be reminded that Latinos -- Protestant and Catholic -- are, in some ways, different from the mainstream culture. Higher percentages attend church regularly. Higher percentages of Latino immigrants are married; lower percentages are divorced. "The elephant in the room," says Rodriguez, "is the Latinoization of America. What are the results? America will be a more religious nation. America will continue to be a nation that promotes family values. Wow, that really turns American culture upside down."

For Rodriguez and others, religion adds an element beyond politics and culture to the immigration debate. The Christian faith teaches that our common humanity is more important than our nationality. That all of us, ultimately, are strangers in this world and brothers to the bone; and all in need of amnesty. This belief does not dictate certain policies in a piece of legislation, but it does forbid rage and national chauvinism. And this is worth a reminder as well.


Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson writes a twice-weekly column for The Post on issues that include politics, global health, development, religion and foreign policy. Michael Gerson is the author of the book "Heroic Conservatism" and a contributor to Newsweek magazine.
 
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