Religious Groups Urge House to Act on Immigration Reform

Tuesday, 09 Jul 2013 04:28 PM

By Dan Weil

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A foursome of religious groups that include many conservatives is pressing the House to approve immigration reform.

"For those of us who are Christians, we must heed the direct commandment of Jesus to welcome the stranger," Jim Wallis, the president of Sojourners, said in a letter. "That is why evangelicals are praying for every member of the House and will continue to speak out publicly in support of Congress taking action."

The Senate passed a reform bill last month, but House Speaker John Boehner said he won't bring that proposal up for a vote, given strong opposition among the Republican conference. Boehner said on Monday that the House will come up with an immigration overhaul of its own.

The four religious organizations include the Sojourners, National Association of Evangelicals, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Politico reports.  All of those groups include conservative elements, except the Sojourners.

The groups are keeping the focus of the immigration issue on compassion and are peppering House members with letters on the issue.

The four groups support the possibility of citizenship for illegal immigrants, a policy that many conservatives reject. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, wrote in his group's letter "a solution that respects the rule of law, treats undocumented immigrants in the nation compassionately, and provides them a tough, yet achievable, earned pathway to citizenship is necessary."

Meanwhile, three major secular conservative groups urged House Speaker John Boehner Tuesday to push ahead with immigration reform, The Hill reports.

American Action Forum President Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, and American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas said in a letter to the speaker that their groups back many provisions of the Senate bill, including a citizenship pathway.

But the conservative leaders want any House bill to embrace more conservative principles.

"The U.S. Senate passed a bill last week that we consider progress," the letter reads.

"But members of the House will correctly pursue their own legislation. This will ensure that any final product has considerable conservative input, and that certain aspects of the Senate bill are markedly improved. Whether a comprehensive bill or a piecemeal approach, we support an immigration reform package that reflects the economic contributions that immigrants make to our country."

Holtz-Eakin, Norquist and Cardenas cited three GOP amendments rejected by the Senate that the House should approve.

One proposed by Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania would limit visas for low-skilled workers. One offered by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas would offer more high-skilled visas. And one from Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida would mandate a five-year waiting period for green card holders to apply for federal healthcare benefits.

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