US churches press Obama and lawmakers for immigration justice

By staff writers
27 Mar 2010

Building on the momentum of a massive ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ rally in Washington DC last weekend, the head of the US-based humanitarian agency Church World Service, CWS advocacy staff, and a diverse group of American faith leaders have met with representatives at the White House, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and staff of other lawmakers on Capitol Hill, to press for major reform legislation this year.

It is an issue that is now gaining major public and media interest— despite the final fiery health care debate that was still going on in the House at the time.

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 last 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, Church World Service executive director and CEO, the Rev John L. McCullough and fellow faith leaders met the White House director of intergovernmental affairs in charge of comprehensive immigration reform for President Obama; and from the White House office of faith-based and neighbourhood partnerships, Josh DuBois, executive director, Mara L. Vanderslice, special assistant to the President’s advisory council, Paul Montero, deputy director of religious affairs for the White House office of public liaison, 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 added.
“The momentum is in favour of immigration reform now and not the other way around,” said McCullough after Sunday’s rally.

The Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (Democrat, Nevada) said the immigration reform policy issue was not “fun and games, not just politics, but real lives impacted by our broken immigration system.” Reid believes Congress can “get something done this session,” now that there was 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 allow undocumented migrants to rectify and earn their legal status.

A recent Center for American Progress report indicated that legislation which 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, Church World Service asked Congress to move on immigration reform before the summer recess.

[Ekk/3]

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