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Before GOP Debate, Political Opposites Condemn Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric

People who fall on opposite sides of the political spectrum speak out against anti-immigrant rhetoric on the day of the debate.
Image: Robert Schumaker, Jon Klarich
University of Colorado facilities management employees Robert Schumaker, right, and Jon Klarich put up a banner outside the Coors Events Center, the venue for the Oct. 28 Republican presidential debate, at CU Boulder, Colo., Monday Oct. 26, 2015. Republican presidential candidates taking the debate stage Wednesday in Colorado are hoping to carry momentum from a 2014 U.S. Senate victory in this toss-up state where independent voters outnumber the electorate from both major parties. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)Brennan Linsley / AP

The morning before the GOP's third presidential debate, civil rights leader Dolores Huerta and the Rev. Randy Buursma raised their voices against harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric.

While civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, a liberal, was in Boulder, Colo., the site of Wednesday night’s GOP debate, Buursma, a conservative, was in Grand Rapids, Mich., sharing his thoughts Wednesday in a conference call organized by the National Immigration Forum.

“There is no way I could ever support Donald Trump. It strikes me he operates under fear. What he says doesn’t represent my core beliefs, doesn’t represent my God, doesn’t represent my country I’ve come to know and love,” said Buursma, a pastor at First Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.,

Huerta planned to participate in an event with other Latino leaders Wednesday afternoon to launch a voter registration campaign and protest rhetoric of the campaign and some proposals she considered to be anti-Latino. Former Denver mayor and Secretary of Transportation and Energy under former President Bill Clinton also planned to participate along with many Latino leaders and activists.

“The Republican candidates are not really reflecting or even addressing the needs of the Latino community or American families,” Huerta said in an phone interview with NBC News.

“In this day and age, to see somebody come out as bold as (Trump) has and get away with it – as a billionaire nobody can touch him – it’s pretty scary,” Huerta said.

On Tuesday, a group of GOP Hispanics also denounced Trump and put other candidates of the party on notice regarding anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric. The Republican Latino leaders named only Trump, but said they may name others later. They warned that those who continue the inflammatory rhetoric would not get their support.

Others expressed similar sentiments, which come as Trump appears to be slipping in the polls. A recent New York Times/CBS News survey showed neurosurgeon Ben Carson had knocked Trump from the top spot.

The Evangelical Immigration Table, a group consisting of several evangelical leaders who support immigration reform, published an open letter in the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper. The letter carried the names of 63 Colorado pastors and evangelical leaders. They told the candidates: "We expect a respectful immigration debate" in the letter.

"So many of us feel that we need to do something to stand up to the negativity around the immigration debate," Michelle Warren, an Evangelical Immigration Table leader from Colorado said in a statement. "We are desperate for a conversation that welcomes immigrants with compassion."

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Barrett Duke, vice president for Public Policy and Research, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said on the conference call that he couldn’t speak for his organization's view on Trump.

But he said his own view is that Trump “has demonstrated he has a long way to go to get my support” based on his “disregard” for the dignity of immigrants and others.

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Christian Hispanic Leadership Conference, said he’s waiting on Trump to have a “come to Jesus” moment, repent and admit he was wrong about immigrants and that they are God fearing. Once he does, Rodriguez said he’d be open to a conversation about Trump.

Some have also said other GOP presidential candidates should not get Latinos Republicans’ or conservatives' support, namely Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Rodriguez said he does not consider Cruz to be one of the candidates engaging in inflammatory rhetoric.

“Ted Cruz is not Donald Trump,” Rodriguez said.

Buursma said he has not done his “due diligence” on Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Huerta says the only weapon against the campaign’s rhetoric is to vote and do so at every level of government.

“We need for people to wake up and see what is happening and how we got to this point,” she said.

Buursma has been using his teachings on faith. He tells the story of a man named Juan who whose wife is being held in detention and was in deportation and asks for help financially and with prayer. He also tells a story about Rosa, who informs the church of her plans for her U.S. citizen children should she be picked up by immigration officers.

"We look at that as a church and go, 'Wow,'" Burrsma said. "Your faith that God's going to be with you through all of this is helping us understand a God who says, 'I love the immigrant and welcome them because in the welcoming of the immigrant you will understand who I am better.”