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President Obama on Friday met with over a dozen faith leaders at the White House who urged quick action to pass immigration reform. After speaking with the president for around one hour, participants came away hopeful that Obama could sign a comprehensive immigration overhaul into law this year. “This is the year,” Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, told ABC/Univision after the meeting. “I walked out of that meeting with a greater sense of optimism, with the strong chance of passing comprehensive immigration reform this year.” Rev. Gabriel Salguero, the president of the National Latino Evangelical Association, echoed that sentiment. “The urgency of immigration reform is now. We recognize there is a narrow political window and there is strong support for it,” Salguero said. “We want to see strong bipartisan support, we don’t want it to suffer inertia from partisanship or scoring political points.” Fourteen leaders attended the meeting, representing Catholic, evangelical, mainline Protestant, and Mormon churches as well as Judaism, Hinduism and Islam. Senior White House aides Valerie Jarrett and Cecilia Muñoz were also present. The meeting came as bipartisan groups of lawmakers continue to draw up an immigration reform legislation. Obama and lawmakers have said they want a bill to pass Congressas soon as this summer. “The president reiterated his strong commitment to a pathway to earn[ed] citizenship for undocumented immigrants as well as his administration’s emphasis on cracking on down on employers … who exploit immigrant workers and undermine American workers, and continuing to strengthen our border security,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters after the meeting on Friday. Religious groups have played a key role in organizing public support for immigration reform, especially from conservative churchgoers who may not otherwise support the effort. Clergy members who attended the meeting said the president appeared committed to working with Republicans in Congress to pass an immigration overhaul that contains a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. They stressed that another key element is reforming the visa process to make it easier for immigrants to reunite with their families in the U.S. “I heard a president that is willing to cooperate with the other side of the aisle,” Rodriguez said. “I saw a president who basically committed himself to doing what it takes to pass comprehensive immigration reform.” Evangelical leaders said they would continue to appeal to worshippers to support immigration reform. Salguero said that evangelical groups have launched an effort to preach about the religious and moral imperative for immigration reform and have organized a campaign to call members of Congress to urge them to support a bill. The president’s message was that “there is more than politics involved here, there are moral issues involved here and that is what the faith community is lifting up. He thanked us for that,” said Jim Wallis, head of the Christian group Sojourners. “The faith community is becoming a political game changer on this issue.” Rodriguez said that his hope is that evangelical churches could convince both conservative worshippers and lawmakers to back an immigration overhaul. “Our role is not necessarily to speak to the Nancy Pelosi’s of the world,” Rodriguez said. “Our role is to speak to the other side, to folks who have opposed comprehensive immigration reform…The Republican Party and the conservative movement must cross the Jordan of immigration reform to enter into the promised land of the Hispanic vote.” READ MORE:… More News Coverage AP: Obama meets with faith leaders on immigration Politico: Obama talks immigration with faith leaders CNN: Obama pushes expedited timetable on immigration reform in meeting with faith leaders Salt Lake Tribune: Mormon leader: Obama’s immigration plan matches LDS values Washington Post: Methodist bishop Minerva Carcano on front lines of immigration battle Bloomberg: White House Said to Expect Immigration Plan in April RTTT News: Obama Meets With Faith Leaders To Discuss Immigration Reform Christianity Today: Obama Affirms ‘Evangelical’ Principles for Immigration Reform Christian Post: Evangelical Leaders Optimistic After Meeting Obama on Immigration Reform World: Faith leaders meet with President Obama to add their voice on how to fix the broken immigration system EFE: Obama pide elevar oraciones para la aprobación de la reforma migratoria en el Congreso Univisión: Obama y líderes religiosos hablan de reforma migratoria La Opinión: Líderes religiosos apoyan reforma migratoria Telemundo: Obama reune a religiosos por reforma Univisión 48: Presidente Se Reúne Para Hablar Sobre La Reforma Migratoria  

Evangelical, Other Faith Leaders Press for Immigration Reform in Meeting with President Participants Stress Urgency of Bipartisan Action by Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Members of the Evangelical Immigration Table and other faith luminaries met with President Obama today to discuss the need for commonsense immigration reform and the building momentum for it in Congress. The meeting took place as evangelical leaders and pastors encourage their flocks to reflect on the Bible’s words regarding how we treat our immigrant neighbors and mobilize in support of a better immigration process. Evangelical leaders continue to support broad, bipartisan action as leaders in the Senate — four Democrats and four Republicans — develop legislation that will modernize and strengthen our out-of-date immigration process. The 40-day “I Was a Stranger” immigration prayer challenge encourages evangelicals to read a passage of scripture daily that relates to immigrants and pray for immigrants in their communities — and encourage their members of Congress to do the same. In addition, pastors are planning media campaigns in key states such as South Carolina to emphasize the urgent need for reform in 2013, including an eventual road to citizenship. The following quotes can be attributed to faith leaders who met with the president today. We specifically encouraged the President to consider the implications of passage of reform and to partner with faith-based organizations in helping immigrants in the integration process, specifically by providing immigrant legal service, and English and civics classes.” Stephan Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief: “In our meeting, we reiterated the importance of the faith community in not just advocating for immigration reform but in being a bridge to provide services to immigrants if immigration reform passes.  We specifically encouraged the President to consider the implications of passage of reform and to partner with faith-based organizations in helping immigrants in the integration process, specifically by providing immigrant legal service, and English and civics classes.”   Dr. Barrett Duke, Vice President for Public Policy and Research, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention: “I was very encouraged by the immigration reform meeting with the President today. He spoke clearly about his desire to see us achieve passage of legislation this year. While many details remain to be worked out, the big pieces are in place. Secure borders, workplace enforcement, legal status for undocumented immigrants who qualify, and a citizenship process for those who desire to be U.S. citizens are all within reach.” Jose Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles and Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration: “Our collective faith groups are prepared to support just and humane reform of a broken immigration system. With the president’s leadership and cooperation between both parties in Congress, we can achieve this goal within the year. We agree with the president and bipartisan Senate leaders who are stressing the importance of a path to citizenship for the undocumented. We should not sanction a permanent underclass in our society.” Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference: “Today’s meeting invigorated me with hope and optimism. The president’s resolve in conjunction with evangelical support facilitate the prescription for a comprehensive resolution addressing America’s immigration crisis. I am convinced that with prayer and prophetic activism we will live out Matthew 25 and welcome the stranger in the name of Jesus. The collective commitment to incorporate a pathway to citizenship as an integral part of any legislative solution secures a complete integration process. Both the president and faith leaders understand that citizenship must be earned, yet denying it will create a two-tier society attempting to live one dream: the American dream.” Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition: “Today’s meeting with President Obama is a clarion sign for Latino Evangelicals that immigration reform is possible. We need strong bipartisan leadership from Republicans and Democrats that finally creates a just and humane solution. Latino Evangelicals stand committed to see this through in ways that provide an earned path to citizenship while addressing any security concerns. Immigration reform now!” Rev. Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners: “The building momentum for immigration reform is proof that it’s still possible to lift up the common good, and not just political ideology, in Washington, D.C. The faith community has called for political action on immigration for years and is encouraged to see the leadership the president is taking. President Obama made clear how high a priority immigration reform is for him and the White House and that the involvement of the faith community will be an integral part of ensuring it passes. If the bully pulpit of the White House and the pulpits of the faith community speak to the moral issues at stake in this debate, we can accomplish a genuine, bipartisan solution to fixing our broken immigration system. I’m leaving the White House today encouraged that it can and will happen.”

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