A bipartisan group of business, faith, and law enforcement leaders came to Washington, DC this week to push Congress for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship. Among the immigration reform supporters were Mark Curran, a Republican sheriff from Illinois; Richard Land, a Baptist leader; and Mark Shurtleff, attorney general of Utah. From Stephanie Czekalinski at National Journal today:
The group met in Washington on Tuesday to pressure Congress and the White House to make immigration reform its “first priority” in 2013.
“The country is hungry for Congress to work together,” said Jim Wallis, of Sojourners, a social-justice ministry. “Comprehensive immigration reform is that common ground.”
The coalition, coordinated by the National Immigration Forum, also called on lawmakers to modernize the country’s immigration laws, but recognized the need for border security.
Religious leaders of several faiths said that immigration reform was a moral issue. Representatives for law-enforcement officials said that the lack of immigration reform had complicated their work and made their communities less safe by driving immigrants underground and leading them to distrust local authorities. Business leaders described a need for both high- and low-skilled workers despite high unemployment levels.
In other news in immigration happenings in the nation’s Capitol and around the states:
- Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum called for immigration reform yesterday, saying that the US population will shrink dramatically without immigrants. “I think the fact that we send some of those people back and don’t give them the opportunity to participate here is wrong,” Santorum told POLITICO. “I think we need to look at a simple fact: we are not having enough children to replace ourselves. Our country is not growing in population simply by the people that are here.”
- Illinois took a major step yesterday toward granting drivers licenses to illegal immigrants, which would make it the most populous U.S. state to allow undocumented migrants to legally drive. The Democratic-controlled state Senate voted 41-14 to approve licenses for illegal immigrants to raucous cheers from Hispanics in the legislative gallery. The House is expected to vote on the legislation today.
- California’s attorney general Kamala Harris yesterday broke with an Obama Administration policy when she told local law enforcement officials that they have the power to ignore Secure Communities, a federal program that requests they hold undocumented immigrants.
- In California, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) gathered with a group of Democratic lawmakers, religious leaders and immigrant rights advocates to announce the reintroduction of the Trust Act — a proposal to bar local officials from helping federal authorities deport undocumented immigrants unless they have been convicted of, or charged with, a serious or violent felony. The Trust Act made it to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk this year but ultimately was not signed into law.
- North Georgia’s top Catholic official, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, called for comprehensive immigration reform on the eve of a national conference on immigration policy that is scheduled to take place in Atlanta this week.