’Need for immigration reform is now,’ U.S. faith leaders tell White House and Congress

’Need for immigration reform is now,’ U.S. faith leaders tell White House and Congress

March 23, 2010
Written by Gregg Brekke
Immigration reform rally in Washington, D.C., March 21, 2010.
Photo Gregg Brekke

Building on the momentum of Sunday's massive comprehensive immigration reform rally in Washington, the head of humanitarian agency Church World Service, CWS advocacy staff, and a diverse group of U.S. faith leaders met Monday with
representatives at the White House, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and staff of other lawmakers on Capitol Hill, to press for major immigration reform legislation this year.

It was an issue that gained major public and media attention over weekend- despite the final fiery health care debate that was still roiling at that moment in the House.

President Obama made his support for immigration reform visible on the big screen in a video message to the thousands of activists on the National Mall on Sunday. He restated his "unwavering" commitment to achieving comprehensive immigration reform and pledged "to do everything in my power to forge a bipartisan consensus this year on this important issue."

In a bid to reinforce the administration's commitment and discuss best approaches, the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries executive minister the Rev. Linda Jaramillo, Church World Service executive director and CEO the Rev. John L. McCullough and fellow faith leaders met Monday with Cecilia Muñoz, White House director of intergovernmental affairs in charge of comprehensive immigration reform for President Obama; from the White House office of faith-based and neighborhood partnerships, Josh DuBois, executive director, Mara L. Vanderslice, special assistant to the President's advisory council, and Paul Montero, deputy director of religious affairs for the White House office of public liason; Stephanie Valencia, associate director, White House office of public engagement addressing immigration issues; and Felicia Escobar, senior advisor for immigration policy to the domestic policy council.

"Following Sunday's rally and being with hundreds of thousands of Americans who are behind fair and humane immigration policies, we were doubly heartened by the clear support from the White House and Majority Leader Harry Reid," said CWS's McCullough.

"Many of the president's staff attended the March for America immigration reform rally," CWS associate for immigration and refugee policy Jen Smyers said. "They really heard the stories of the people there. They asked that we encourage immigration reform advocacy groups to use the video of President Obama's message to let people know the President is on board and behind reform legislation," she said.

"The momentum is in favor of immigration reform now and not the other way around," said McCullough after Sunday's rally.

The Rev. Troy Jackson of University Christian Church in Cincinnati discusses immigration reform with the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners following their meeting with Senator Harry Reid, March 22, 2010.
Photo Gregg Brekke

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the immigration reform policy issue wasn't "fun and games, not just politics, but real lives impacted by our broken immigration system." Reid believes Congress can "get something done this session," that there was now increased energy.

CWS and its coalition partners are calling for fair, balanced and more humane policies that support family unity, reduce  undocumented immigration, stop worker exploitation, and allowing undocumented immigrants to rectify and earn their legal status.

A recent Center for American Progress report indicated that legislation that reforms the visa system and provides a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants would dramatically increase the Gross Domestic Product by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. That projection includes increases in tax revenue, wage growth, job creation and investments.

Earlier this month CWS asked Congress to move on immigration reform before the summer recess.

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