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Religious leaders call out GOP on immigration reform

As leaders of our faith communities and witnesses to the ongoing debate on immigration reform, we believe it is time for our national leaders to end their wavering and partisanship on this critical issue. The need for reform is not about a particular political party’s electoral successes — it is a serious moral issue that impacts millions of people in our churches, mosques and synagogues.

Two weeks ago, the prayers of faith leaders across the country were partially answered as our elected officials on both sides of the aisle took steps to move immigration reform forward. First, President Obama reaffirmed his support for reform in the State of the Union address, and two days later, House Republicans independently released their Standards for Immigration Reform, a general outline meant to guide the congressional GOP’s approach on this issue in 2014. These positive moves by both sides showed courage and compromise.

The GOP’s guidelines touched on many of the most important aspects of reform, including border security, internal enforcement, reforms to the legal immigration system and DREAM Act-like provisions. In addition, we were particularly pleased that the Standards included the opportunity for those living in the country without legal status to get right with the law and become participatory members of our society. Thankfully, the Standards did not close the door to citizenship for these individuals, which showed our representatives’ commitment to our nation’s founding values.

Exactly one week after the GOP majority spelled out how they would support immigration reform in 2014, however, Speaker of the House John Boehner seemed to abruptly change his mind, telling the public that immigration reform would be difficult this year. We leaders of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths were extremely disappointed to hear this backpedalling on an issue that affects millions of people in our faith communities.

Few issues in our nation’s history have brought together such diverse faith groups, but Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders have united their voices across the nation in support of reform. After all, immigrants have played a vital role in the histories of our religions, and each of our faiths calls on us to welcome foreigners and treat strangers with love, compassion and justice.

We also share a belief in the God-given dignity of each individual, and we want our country’s immigration laws and policies to reflect that belief. Reforming our broken, outdated immigration system will help keep families united, contribute to the security of our communities, benefit our economy and demonstrate our compassion.

The journey of immigration reform legislation in Congress — like the journey of many of the prophets and leaders in the Abrahamic faiths, and like the journey of the tens of millions of immigrants who have flocked to this land over the centuries — will undoubtedly face challenges and uncertainty. We will not only pray but will work together with our elected officials to turn the temporary roadblock erected by Speaker Boehner’s comments on Thursday into a minor speed bump on our nation’s path to immigration reform.

We encourage Speaker Boehner and the rest of the GOP leadership to continue with their previous push to pass immigration reform. We encourage Illinois Republican Congressmen Davis, Hultgren, Kinzinger, Roskam, Schock and Shimkus to publicly support their party’s Standards for Immigration Reform and call for a debate and vote on reform. We encourage our Democratic Representatives to work constructively with their Republican counterparts to advance this issue in a bipartisan manner. And we encourage religious leaders and people of faith to pray and advocate that our elected representatives will do what is best not for an individual political party, but for our country and all of the people that call it home.

To our elected officials: You have the support of our faith communities and the majority of American voters to pass immigration reform. We are praying that you do not waste it.

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