Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at the Esperanza National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
“Good morning everyone.
Audience. Good morning.
“Esperanza. What a beautiful word, what it means. People say to me from time to time: ‘Where is hope?’ And I say: ‘It’s where it always has been, sitting there right between faith and charity.’ Our faith gives us hope and the charity of all of us to do the right thing. So, what a beautiful word to bring us all together over and over again. Hope in the future; hope in our own personal aspirations; and hope for our families.
“Thank you, Reverend Luis Cortes, for your tremendous, tremendous leadership of Esperanza. I consider it a great honor to be invited back again and again. And I’m very privileged to be with you this morning to return to this prayer of breakfast that is so important. It’s, I think, very special to be here with, in a bipartisan way, Senator Cornyn and Congresswoman McMorris-Rodgers showing that faith overcomes even political differences – and that’s, of course, the way it should be.
“I congratulate your honorees. Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institute of Health, I think we can truly say that he is a blessing to our country, a blessing from heaven.
“He is truly a place where science is an answer to our prayers, where good – bringing the miracle, of really of the bible, the biblical power to cure, to bear on the lives of America’s families. Thank you Dr. Francis Collins. Congratulations to you for receiving this award so important – and to Tony Plana and to Bob Mayo, again the issue of health coming together with faith. It’s a – really congratulations to you, Mr. Mayo, for the Treatment Centers of America, Corporate Partner Award; public-private partnerships, very important.
“Our presence today, here today, of some of us comes at a time where our country is engaged in a very important debate. Who are we as a nation? We are, by and large, a nation of immigrants, blessed by our Native American friends as well, but by and large a nation of immigrants. And then the history of that country, every immigrant who has come here, whether 200 years ago or two generations ago or two years ago, comes with determination, courage, hope, and optimism to make a better life for the future.
“And when immigrants come with that hope, that determination, it strengthens America. And so I’m here to say to all of you from the Hispanic community: thank you for the contribution of that over centuries you have brought here with principles of faith, family, community, a commitment to make a future better for your families. That hope, that determination, those principles with all of that – our Hispanic immigrants who come to America make America more American. And I thank you for that.
“I am – I want to say a few things about immigration, but first I want to say something about the fact that I represent the city of San Francisco in the Congress of the United States. It is a city that is named for St. Francis of Assisi. His prayer of St. Francis is the anthem our city: make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there darkness, may we bring light; where there is hatred, may we bring love; where there is despair, may we bring hope, Esperanza.
“We are so thrilled that the Pope, the new Pope, has taken the name of Francis and really committed to ministering the needs of the poor as St. Francis did. And we are absolutely thrilled that he is from the Western Hemisphere and brings a Latin American perspective to our faith.
“That is the purpose of your theme this week: ‘Faith in action’ is an excellent one. Actually, St. Francis, our patron saint said something similar. He said: ‘Preach the Gospel, sometimes use words.’ ‘Sometimes use words.’ So, I thank you for all that you do to preach the Gospel by your actions, an effective way to give meaning to all the work that we do and value to the lives of all the people whose need you minister, too. In churches, in houses of worship, from your pulpits to the floor of the House of Representatives, it is faith that reminds us, it’s this that we acknowledge the dignity and worth of every person. That there is a God-given spark of divinity contained in each person – each person no matter how exalted, no matter how new to our country, everyone for, in the world for that matter. That spark of divinity – and we have to remember that we have that spark of divinity ourselves and it holds us to a high standard on how we treat people.
“It is faith that inspires us to work with the Hispanic clergy to shelter the homeless and the less fortunate, to lift those from poverty and to care for the sick here and abroad. It is faith that drives us to secure strong education for every child, to ensure that [they] achieve their God-given potential, regardless of means, race, religion, or background. It is our faith, our common devotion to make God’s work our own – President Kennedy said in his inauguration: ‘To make God’s work our own’ – that must always bind us together; that must enable us to see past our differences and unite around a shared purpose of who we are.
“Yesterday, many of you brought your advocacy and your message – your purpose – to lawmakers on an issue near and dear to the Latino community, an issue I addressed briefly at the beginning: the issue of immigration. Moving forward, our faith must guide us to ensure fairer, more humane, more equitable treatment of our nation’s newcomers. This isn’t just about, again, who we are as a nation and what the constant reinvigoration of America immigrants are. That’s why we’re so strong as a country, constantly renewed by that hope, determination, and optimism that I spoke of earlier. Of course it’s good for our economy. But, in my state, in my district, which is a minority-majority district, the beauty is in the mix. The beauty in our country is in the mix, the diversity, the enthusiasm for the future.
“As Scripture tells us, ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.’ The angels are out there. From generation to generation, America has been a beacon of opportunity for families worldwide. We have not always shown hospitality to strangers; yet, as an Italian-American, I can attest to the opposition or whatever resistance my ancestors faced coming here. Yet, over time, we have become aware of the angels in our midst. And many of you, in this room, see those angels every day and you bring their spirit to Washington on this subject. We are, by and large, a nation of immigrants.
“So, what would we like to see happen in the next few days and weeks and at Christmas to celebrate even sooner than that. We would like to see, and work for, and your presence here today will advance, comprehensive immigration reform.
“We have had principles established in our House Democratic Caucus that have said, certainly, we must secure our borders. We must protect our workers and that means not exploiting workers coming into the country because that is not good for them or for American workers. Family unification has always been a part of our founding principles and we’d like to see strong family unification, but if not, it’s weaker we want to make up for it in other ways in the legislation. So that family values which are essential to America, are recollected in this immigration legislation, and of course essential to respecting the dignity and work of all people in our country. We want to see a path to citizenship and we want to see it with certainty and in a time frame that makes sense.
“There are many things of implication of the policies that are – for example, you have heard and you know, that there is in the bill important legislation, important provisions for H1B visas. These are the high tech visas. I bring that up because with that, is a provision that says: ‘For these high tech visas, there’s a fee that will be served, paid, and part of that fee will be used for STEM education, mostly for our Hispanic-serving institutions, historically black colleges, and our Native American schools.’ So, that we can spread the opportunity of education and training so that our country no longer has to depend on scientist and engineers and mathematicians, etcetera coming from other countries well as they are.
“But that defend our communities here, who have not had the same kinds of opportunities, that those resources will be used to bring science, mathematics, technology, engineering, all of those subjects, to that community. And that’s important for reason beyond getting a job for an engineer. It’s important to the health that will be provided in a culturally and appropriate way to all of America’s people.
“When I have been meeting with some Members of the Hispanic community about the Affordable Care Act, and going to the immigration bill, they’re saying: ‘Let’s make sure that money for science is also directed to the education of health care professionals so that the needs of our communities are met linguistically, culturally, in every way.’
“So, we have an opportunity to do a couple of things here. That is to say by passing comprehensive immigration reform, make our country true to who we are with respect to every person in our country, with opportunity that grows, some of it springing from this bill. Let’s not have it be a waste[d] opportunity. One of the debates is going now is: ‘Do you take some of that money and increase border security?’ Well, we want to have the border security that we need. But, we must respect the purpose of that money to begin with, which was to provide funding for Hispanic-serving institutions, historical black colleges and universities, and colleges that permit the needs of our Native American population as well.
“So, it’s a great opportunity and it goes back to Dr. Francis Collins coming here to talk about science and how important it is to have the community, which is in the lead of so many ways on these subjects. But, we want more. That you would honor Dr. Francis Collins and I’m sure in his remarks we will be given information, inspiration, and Esperanza.
“So, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to share some thoughts with you. We are very determined that the legislation will elevate the debate about immigration to not just the technicalities of border control, and numbers about HB-1 Visas, and the rest. But it’s a debate that we hear from pulpits and I’m sure you have preached it: about our values as a country, the respect we have for people, the future that is brighter because of so many newcomers to America, not just about American rules and regulations, but more about American values, but more about American values.
“So, let us work together to find that hope. Faith gives us hope, it really does. So, I thank you for how you strengthen America with faith, with commitment to family, to family values, and how you give us hope by the charity that we preach.
“It’s my honor to be with you this morning. I thank Reverend Cortes once again for his leadership, for all of your good work, and for the hospitality extended this morning.
“Comprehensive immigration reform, Esperanza, let’s get to work together.”