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The Brownsville Herald - Obama Addresses Poverty, Immigration With Religious Leaders

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The Brownsville Herald - Obama Addresses Poverty, Immigration With Religious Leaders

Sen. Barack Obama's address to Hispanic clergy Friday was more like a minister speaking to parishioners than a candidate convincing potential voters of the merit of his words.

Unlike the familiar mob scenes laid out before Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. John McCain on the presidential campaign trail, there were no cheers, no chants when he stepped toward the podium at UTB-TSC's Gran Salon.

Here, he found an attentive audience for his speech on faith and politics.

Obama cited biblical teachings and encouraged the religious to be champions for the poor and the neglected.

"Our conscience cannot rest as long as people are called "working poor' in America. If you are working, you should not be poor," he said.

Though the event didn't have the rock concert feel that his previous public events did, many in the audience were still visibly excited, pulling out their cameras and cell phones to snap a photo of the man who was introduced as " the next president of the United States."

The prayer meeting drew about 200 in the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College's Gran Salon.

During the meeting, he talked about growing up and discovering his faith as a young man. He listened to the questions and concerns of those leading those who live along the border.

"Each of us are children of God the Bible tells us to love all our neighbors no matter where we come from," Obama told the group to an applause.

Besides talking about affordable health care, affordable college, and paying teachers more, Obama also addressed the immigration problem and securing the nation's borders. He also took a few questions from the audience.

Obama spoke about giving undocumented immigrants the chance to earn a citizenship, which would include them paying back taxes, fines and waiting in line before those who came first.

Obama said he understood the concerns of some Americans that undocumented immigrants depress wages. But, he said, "what I refuse to accept is the rising current of distrust and hatred directed at all Hispanics. We have seen huge spike in hate crimes directed against Hispanic Americans. … We've seen that the dialogue around immigration has at times turned ugly."

He later added, "poverty has no place in a world of plenty and hate has no place in a world of leaders."

Rev. Victor Alvarez told Obama that residents of South Texas aren't looking for handouts, what they are looking for is opportunity, "just like the rest of America."

"We don't want fish," he said. "We have ponds here ... all we want is for the government to put some fish in the pond," Alvarez said.

Pastor Frank Cantu of San Benito, said he liked what Obama said, although he was surprised by Obama's views regarding abortion. Obama believes it is a woman's choice and one that she does not make easily.

"It kind of threw me off a little, but you've got to see the positive and not look at the negative. … Everybody has something that you do like about them, but eventually focus on the positive," Cantu said.

State Rep. Eddie Lucio III, who played a monumental role in bringing Obama to Brownsville, said the Illinois senator came to the city to listen to questions the faith leaders had concerning health care, wages and other issues critical to the area.

"He's here to listen to their questions," Lucio said.

After the prayer meeting, Obama took a brief tour along Hope Park, where part of the proposed border fence is scheduled to be built, before also making a brief stop at the Sombrero Festival at Washington Park where he shook hands and took pictures with an enthusiastic crowd.

Friday night, he stopped in San Antonio as the race for Texas delegates continues to March 4.

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