Faith Leaders Push For Immigration Reform

Several faith groups, including the National Association of Evangelicals, Faith in the Public Life, and the Sojourners announced a push today for comprehensive immigration reform, with local events and prayer vigils in February and March.

100 events will be held in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, along with a push to deliver pro-reform postcards to senators, the groups announced.

The groups involved are members of the predominately Protestant Interfaith Immigration Coalition, the Catholic coalition Justice for Immigrants, and the Jewish immigration reform coalition We Were Strangers, Too.

On a conference call with reporters, National Association of Evangelicals Director of Government Affairs Galen Carey said the faith community is looking to hold the administration and congressional Democrats accountable for pledges to pass immigration reform by the end of the year.

Carey, whose group supports a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, said that "Evangelicals are speaking up, reaching out to our fellow citizens and to our legislators.  We seek a responsible, civil debate which solves real problems.  We call on all partners to join the debate in the same spirit.  We pray that our country will have the courage to do the right thing, and to do it now."

The call included faith leaders as well as Reps. Mike Honda (D-CA) and Yvette Clarke (D-NY), both of whom are members of the House Progressive Caucus.

President Obama has previously signaled that he wants comprehensive immigration reform on his desk by the end of the year, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has maintained that it's a top priority for Senate Democrats in 2010, but the politics of it will be difficult.

Democrats are trying to finish work on a jobs bill before turning back to health care reform--both of which could prove to be contentious--and if they do reach immigration reform in 2010, they will have to confront a host of divisive issues that scuttled reform the last time around.

In 2007, the comprehensive reform packages mustered by Sen. John McCain and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy failed on a series of votes that saw mixed support and opposition from both Republicans and Democrats; this time around, a recalcitrant GOP will make some of those Republican votes even hard to pick up, altering the whip calculus from the 2007 vote totals.

As with other major reform initiatives, immigration figures to depend on the Senate.

It is unclear when the White House wants to move on immigration, specifically. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus and a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said the day after Obama's State of the Union address that he had received no indication of when immigration reform would move.