Ahead of the third Republican presidential debate, conservatives are challenging the GOP candidates to support immigration reform.

National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) President Samuel Rodriguez, during a press call organized by Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform, said, "I believe it's time to engage and encourage our political officials to exhibit prophetic courage to exhibit that they have the intellectual and spiritual fortitude and wherewithal to address an issue where in essence has held many God-fearing, hard-working individuals captive for too long."

Rodriguez said the conservative movement "stands at a crossroads" at addressing immigration reform. He said the Republican presidential candidates' approach on immigration reform will determine if the conservative movement is built on the ideologies of former presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan or "a movement that suffers from cultural and ethnic myopia."

The NHCLC president said the anti-immigrant rhetoric does nothing to advance the calls to save families and freedom, and, as a Hispanic leader, said he's deeply saddened by the dehumanization of the immigrant community.

"Today's complacency is tomorrow's captivity. It's time to act now (on immigration reform," said Rodriguez.

James Lopez, retired division chief for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department who considers himself a conservative Republican and second-generation American of Mexican descent, said the goal is to encourage Congress to "continue and push" for immigration reform. Lopez said he doesn't believe the rhetoric made during the campaign trail has been helpful and the candidates' "values" are not necessarily compromised if they seek reform.

The press call comes as Latino Republicans organized in Colorado to denounce the anti-Latino and anti-immigrant rhetoric made during the campaign trail -- specifically remarks by Trump. Massey Villarreal, one of the organizers and former United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) chairman, has been criticizing Trump as the GOP presidential hopefuls prepare for the Boulder debate.

The USHCC, however, was quick to distance itself from Villarreal. In a statement sent to Latin Post on Wednesday morning, USHCC communications director Ammar Campa-Najjar acknowledged that Villarreal has not been affiliated with the organization for more than a decade.

"His [Villarreal's] opinions do not reflect the position of the Chamber, and should not be attributed to the association," Campa-Najjar said.

"As you know, we are a non-partisan organization. I understand there is an effort by conservative Hispanics to challenge a few GOP candidates in Colorado today. While we are engaging candidates from both parties in our own fashion, the activities of this conservative coalition are independent of the USHCC as we are neither a conservative or a liberal group."

Latin Post asked Rodriguez about the Latino Republicans' protests in Colorado, and he noted the NHCLC was also in attendance. Rodriguez said, as a pastor, he speaks about redemption, which requires repentance, and he's open to the possibility of Trump having a "come to Jesus" moment.

"But as it pertains to immigration reform -- a 'come to Jesus' moment -- if Donald Trump says, 'You know what, I really messed up. I repent. My rhetoric was totally inappropriate. It was wrong,'" Rodriguez said.

"If he would redeem the narrative of it, and he would repent and demonstrate repentance ... I'm open to a conversation. Stranger things have happened. But nevertheless, right now, I don't see that happening. I'm not a betting man, but if I were a betting man, I wouldn't be betting on it."

Meanwhile, a coalition of 63 Colorado evangelicals purchased advertising space urging the Republican presidential candidates for a "respectful immigration debate." The evangelicals' letter, published on the Boulder Daily Camera, says the immigrant community is the same and is "one" with the rest of the community. The letter noted the evangelicals "have come to a shared conclusion" that immigrants must be treated with dignity and respect and are vital to their communities.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Colorado's Latino population surpasses the U.S. average. As of 2014, Colorado's Latino population is 21.2 percent, higher than the 17.4 percent national average.

The third Republican presidential debate will air on CNBC on Wednesday evening. The business channel has confirmed the debate will focus on the economy.


For the latest updates, follow Latin Post's Politics Editor Michael Oleaga on Twitter: @EditorMikeO or contact via email: m.oleaga@latinpost.com.