Ground views of different border wall prototypes as they take shape at the wall prototype construction project near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in October 2017. Photo by Mani Albrecht/USCBP/Creative Commons Photo by: Mani Albrecht

In border wall fight, Kentucky congressman mixes compassion with concern  

U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., at a 2018 hearing in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Guthrie's office

 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

(RNS) — As a Christian, U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie worships with a bilingual congregation that shares the gospel with Spanish speakers and feeds the hungry without concern for immigration status.

As a congressman, the Kentucky Republican points to a definite “crisis at the border” and supports President Trump’s push to build a $5.7 billion wall separating the United States from Mexico.

The 54-year-old politician sees no conflict in his dual roles.

“I heard somebody say the other day, ‘We all have to have a heart for what’s going on at the border, but we also have to have a plan,’” Guthrie said in a recent interview, as the federal government partial shutdown that began Dec. 22 dragged on.

Ground views of different border wall prototypes as they take shape at the wall prototype construction project near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry near San Diego in October 2017. Photo by Mani Albrecht/USCBP/Creative Commons

 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The Latino ministry of the University Heights Church of Christ in Bowling Green, Ky., drew Guthrie to the downtown congregation, just a few blocks from Western Kentucky University.

The youngest of Guthrie’s three adult children, Elizabeth, speaks Spanish, he noted.

“We wanted to give her some opportunity to reach out,” the six-term congressman said of his daughter, a student at Northwestern University in Chicago. “When she’s home, she actually attends the Spanish worship, which is really nice. She’s that fluent in it.”

At the church, Brett Guthrie — who has pledged to forgo his congressional salary during the impasse over the border wall’s funding — is known as a kindhearted servant of God, leaders of the congregation said.

“He is a very dedicated, committed young man,” minister Bob Raby said. “He attends church every time he’s in town. He participates in the worship service when he’s here, leading prayers and doing other things as well.”

U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., left, with refugee Evert Saldaña, from Nicaragua, at the University Heights Church of Christ in Bowling Green, Ky. Photo courtesy of Luis Betanco

 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Spanish and English speakers meet separately most Sunday mornings. But the fifth Sunday morning of each month and every Sunday night, they join together to sing, pray and study the Bible in both languages.

A typical Sunday brings a combined crowd of about 65 souls, many of them immigrants and refugees, including a sizable contingent of Cubans, Raby said.

Luis Betanco, a native of León, Nicaragua, and a graduate of the Baxter Institute, a ministry training school in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, preaches for the Latino group.

Betanco said the church has a food pantry that serves the poor regardless of whether they have proper government paperwork.

“We feed them no matter what because that’s what Jesus told us to do,” he said. “I’m trying to do my best. We need to love them, care for them. And I believe, when we expose people to the gospel, they will figure it out: ‘I’ve been doing something wrong. I better fix my status or go back home.’”

Betanco; his wife, Claudia; and their two children, Daniel, 12, and Santy, 6, received legal authorization to move to the U.S. in 2012.

“He’s a humble man, really welcoming,” Betanco said of Guthrie, “and he and his family help the community not only as a congressman but as a Christian. His family, they have a company that employs a lot of Latinos, as well.”

Trace Die Cast, an aluminum manufacturing company founded by Guthrie’s father, Lowell, in 1988, has hired a significant number of refugees, according to a public radio report in 2017.

“The General Motors and the Fords and the GEs, you know they brought in immigrants, and they had great internal programs to train and to also do apprenticeship programs,” Chris Guthrie, the company’s president and the congressman’s brother, told NPR’s local affiliate. “So we started doing the same thing and really worked with the local refugee center to incorporate new immigrants.”

The Betanco family, who immigrated to the U.S. from Nicaragua, visits the White House in Washington. Pictured are Luis, Claudia and sons Daniel, 12, and Santy, 6. Photo courtesy of Luis Betanco

 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

After more than six years in the U.S., Betanco said he understands concerns over the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.

The Latino minister said Guthrie has no problem with legal immigration and even sent a supportive letter to help two of the Betanco family’s relatives escape the civil unrest in Nicaragua last year.

“They’re in the process of getting permanent asylum — a long process,” Betanco said of his wife’s nephews. “I would say he (Guthrie) was a great help to us.”

For his part, Guthrie said he believes in following U.S. law the way he does the Bible — as written.

“We just can’t have emergencies at the border and all kinds of chaos,” he said. “We have to have a system where people who are truly in refugee status, who are fearing for their lives, have the opportunity to come here.

“But they can’t just come here as a group and move through, like a caravan. There needs to be a system in place.”

(Bobby Ross Jr. writes for the Christian Chronicle, where this story first appeared.)


  1. And does the “good” Congressman really think that Trumps strategy to get his wall is the “moral” “right” “virtuous” way to handle this situation? If he does then he isn’t the Christian he likes to think himself to be.

  2. The wall has always been an appeal to the gullible and easily riled. It was never a serious proposition nor ever worth causing billions of dollars of economic damage to the nation.

    You want to end this empasse in the sanest method possible simply tell Trump and his supporters there is going to be an invisible impenetrable force field at the border. It will take 24 hours to set up and cost $1Trillion dollars. It can come up once Trump signs the current budget bill.

  3. Your hero’s Obama, Clinton and Schumer voted for it in 2006.

  4. Whataboutism is your argument? Because the wall itself obviously lacks such merit that you can’t defend it on its own facts.

    It was not a wall. It is a fence already in place and working just fine. No need for wasting more money on it. Not worth crippling the economy. The president is a manbaby. His supporters lack any judgment skills to speak of.

  5. Did they or did they not vote for a wall?
    The wattaboutism is the inconsistency of democrats and your contention that only trump foolishly wants a wall.
    Your people wanted a wall before trump ever got into politics. Just ask Barbara Jordan (D) TX; what she thought about the problems caused by illegal immigration especially to the black community and America as a whole after studying the issue.
    She sounds more like trump than trump. For those following along, Barbara Jordan is black.

  6. Where was that wall they voted for?

    Oh right even Republicans in Congress thought it was a bad idea at the time. The Border Patrol Union opposed it in 2012 but changed their tune with a new boss.The fence they got apparently worked just fine for everyone involved until we elected a white supremacist president.

    So now you are left with still justifying holding the country hostage for a wall. Trump can’t negotiate out of a wet paper bag. He only holds hostages. Terrorists hold people hostage. You support terrorism.

  7. If a nation exists to serve and protect its people, building a wall is “moral” “right” “virtuous”.

    How would YOU, a life-long atheist and opponent of Christianity, know whether he is a good Christian?

    In fact, how would YOU – a life-long atheist – evaluate what is moral, right, and virtuous beyond noting whether you liked it or not.

  8. John McCain ran on building a fence across the border.

    We’ve walls coming out the ying-yang on every interstate highway in the USA and did not cost $1 trillion.

    Do you have ANY facts at all?

  9. Every “fact” in your second paragraph has been pulled apart repeatedly in the past.

    Why not just put in a file and post it verbatim every time the wall comes up, someone else can do the same for the rebuttal, and we can that cr-p out of the way right off the bat.

  10. I’m fine. No impact to me.
    The country seems fine too.

  11. HA! Like the Rational Cut and Paste guy!!

  12. The democrats traded the union and African American vote for the illegal vote.
    Illegals above Americans.

  13. There is no illegal vote. But the liar, dupe and bigot vote are locked up by Trump. Most times they are the same people.

    Why is it that the self styled defenders of American citizenship the most useless examples of them? Seriously, I would gladly trade you for immigrants in a heartbeat. They love this country and want to be part of, you want to destroy it to get your way.

    Trump is a terrorist. One who wants to damage the country for his own amusement. America does not run from terrorists.

  14. Your lack of loyalty to this nation and its people is duly noted. You hate this country and support terrorism.

  15. You support the import of opioids, slave labor and blood money.
    I guess were even.

  16. Hardly. But you have revealed that your support of the wall comes from being a complete 1diot who knows nothing about how things get across the border.

    Walls won’t stop the tunnels, flights, and boats where drugs are smuggled in, or the labs and prescription mills. Trump (and you) supports slave labor (especially on his own properties) and blood money (Rubles being the best kind for him).

    Your ignorance is duly noted. The wall is a boneheaded idea meant to appeal to boneheads.

    You are a terrorist who wants to harm the nation.

  17. You are an 1diot terrorist who wants to harm the nation.

  18. Seriously, I would gladly trade you for immigrants in a heartbeat.

  19. Pelosi can’t negotiate out of a wet paper bag.

  20. Couldn’t Trump’s “Space Force” watch over the border?

  21. I’m sure he is a very kind and lovely man but being nice does not make up for supporting immoral policies.

  22. It would certainly give you space cadets something to do.

  23. We already have over 2,000 miles of walls along the interstates, and they cost nowhere near $25 billion.

  24. Just tell him an invisible force field is there and call it a day. It’s not like reality has anything to do with the Trump presidency.

  25. More drones with infrared night vision is likely cheaper and more effective. Sorry conservatives – no Hellfire missles.

  26. Yeah – keep linking your alt left sources that are actually 80’s music videos…
    Makes my day. 🙂

  27. Hey, Trump’s own estimate. As with most government estimates they end up too low. Check out the terrain and logistical issues involved in this.

  28. You Christians can’t even agree on what constitutes a good Christian and are constantly bickering and splintering. How would YOU recognize a good Christian?

  29. There is no alt left. There are neo Nazis entangled with the Republican Party trying to rebrand themselves “alt right”.

    You got Rick rolled! 😀

  30. If you want to really slow illegal immigration and begin voluntary repatriation, go after the employers with vicor and impose heavy civil and criminal penalties on those who hire illegal immigrants. Oh but those employers are the ones who support Republican candidates and make large campaign contributions, never mind.

  31. Check out the terrain and logistical issues involved in building the interstate highway walls.

    With a trillion dollar plus budget, the finances are a tempest in a teapot.

  32. You’ll have to explain that.

    The North Koreans are atheists.

  33. Another multi-millionaire in Congress who survives in office solely on the “social issues” who supports eviscerating health insurance for poor people. His talk about the border is completely irrelevant to what he is in Congress for.

  34. What has that got to do with anything? Atheists are as varied as Christians and all other folk.

  35. It comes from a long history of taking the lowest bid on a project and making them perform the project planned by the highest bidder. Trump properties tend to be built in a shoddy fashion and undercapitalized.

  36. So you admit your “It is because I am an Atheist.” was a non-answer.

    Atheists are MORE varied than Christians because the only core believe is a non-belief in a deity.

  37. Rep. Guthrie may be the kind of person needed to push a compromise bill in Congress. A wall/fence along the entire border would be a waste of money and a visible repudiation of Lady Liberty. On the other hand, we need secure borders. We have the right to expect immigrants to obey our laws. We have the moral obligation to help people in genuine need (“I was a stranger, and you welcomed me”). I like the idea of requiring persons wanting to enter the U.S. to apply beforehand in their home countries so as to minimize “caravans” of hopefuls who will not be admitted to the U.S. None of these steps is flaw-proof, but we are witnessing the amoral behavior of a POTUS who effectively refuses to negotiate. He undermines his own staffers/negotiators and insists on “My way or the highway”. Trumpsky is spoiled and accustomed to getting his way. We need forward movement, and if the POTUS has to be “slammed down”, so to speak, so be it. He should no longer expect to get his way as he did in the private sector. This is the United States of America, not Russia.

  38. Gosh, we wouldn’t have to go after employers if there were few illegal immigrants in the first place.

  39. The fact that it is easy for illegal aliens to find jobs only attracts more. Beside the fantasy that a wall will stop illegal immigration is a fallacy. Nearly 45% of illegal aliens are people entered legally and overstay their visas.

  40. Whether they’re attracted or not is irrelevant if they can’t get in.

    So, 55% would be stopped by a wall.

    Now we can reduce the other 45% by cutting visas down to the bare essentials.

    And of course walls work.

  41. Mark, The 55% can tunnel under, cut through or climb over the wall. Besides, there are boats and airplanes that can go around the wall.

  42. Have YOU ever tried to cut through or climb over one of the interstate noise-reducing walls?

    It’s the drug lords that use boats and airplanes, not the folks with children dying in the desert.

  43. Yes but I think George’s idea is more practical. Illegals who can’t find work during economic slowdowns often self-deport and the flow in also subsides. Those business are violating the law just like the illegals are. If we are going to be a nation of laws – the excuse used to justify the round up – then we can’t exclude the business now can we?

  44. Good point. That is rarely condemned these days. The focus is on those poor, badly educated brown people on our southern border.

  45. MaryJane
    The real end game for democrats is to impeach Trump, then go after Mike Pence. Then Speaker of the House Pelosi will become President. She will then appoint Hillary Clinton as Vice President. Then she will resign”for personal reasons” making Hillary President of the United States. This battle is all about Democrats trying to reverse the results of the 2016 presidential election. Their voter manipulations did not work, & they can’t find Russian collusion. Thus they are now opposing the Wall. If that does not work what will their next move be? Who else will they arrest after Roger Stone? Wake up! Facist Tactics are being used by the left to push the global agenda. The goal: ONE World Government.

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