- (Photo: Reuters/Gary Cameron)
Sojourners President Jim Wallis said that House Speaker John Boehner faces both a moral and a biblical choice regarding putting immigration reform up for a vote in Congress before the August deadline, or it will likely be delayed for another year.
"Fixing this broken system right now is the moral test for the common good of this Congress. One man stands in the way of that. One man can fix this system, by just allowing a vote. That's Speaker John Boehner," Wallis told The Christian Post in a phone interview on Wednesday.
"The faith community is going to be watching John Boehner very carefully, of whether he will make a moral decision here. The Catholic Church is completely clear about this. He is a Catholic, and his bishops have been clear, the pope has been clear - it's time for John Boehner to make the right moral choice. It's time for John Boehner to listen to and obey his own Catholic Church."
When asked whether Boehner is facing pressures from other members of Congress who do not want to see such a vote put on the table, Wallis, who is part of the Evangelical Immigration Table, told CP:
"We elect leaders to solve things. Of course there are pressures. There's pressures from people who have said very hateful things about immigrants, who are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Most Republicans are for this (immigration reform) but he has these people who are against it, and he has to stand up to them and do the right thing."
The Sojourners president added that Boehner is facing not only a moral choice, but a biblical one as well.
His remarks follow news that President Barack Obama has asked for a review of U.S. deportation policies to be held off until the end of the summer. Obama is hoping to push for development on immigration reform between now and August, when Congress goes into recess and then begins preparing for November midterm elections, The Associated Press reported.
In March, Obama ordered an investigation into deportation practices to see if they can be made more humane, but he has also had to respond to House Republicans who have argued that they don't trust Obama to enforce the laws.
"The president really wants to maximize the opportunity to get a permanent solution enacted, which requires Congress," said Cecilia Munoz, the director of the White House's Domestic Policy Council.
The president has previously attempted to ease deportation by offering protection by extending work permits to some immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
"President Obama would like to humanize this really inhumane deportation system, he would like to do that. But if he were to do that, even make small changes, there's no question that Republicans and John Boehner will use this as an excuse not to pass immigration reform," Wallis said.
He further suggested that Boehner needs to "take a breath;" think about what he should do, pray, read the 25th Chapter of Matthew as found in the Bible, and "understand that how we treat undocumented people is how we treat Christ himself."
Numerous evangelical groups have said that there is bipartisan support for immigration reform, and have cautioned that the longer the issue is dragged out, the more people will be hurt.
Noel Castellanos, CEO of Christian Community Development Association, Chicago, said following a meeting with Obama in April that there is a need to "end the suffering" of 11 million men, women and children caught in America's "broken" immigration system.
"We discussed the urgency for House members to take action before the August recess for the sake of immigrant families and our nation. Let us continue to pray and impress this need on our legislators to act now," Castellanos said.
Dr. Suzii Paynter, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Atlanta, added the U.S. needs to meet at the "intersection of moral conscience and common sense" to pass immigration reform.
"Congress has the tools to act and, as people of conviction, people of faith are in agreement that common sense measures can be taken," Paynter said.
"There is a place to honor the God-given dignity of persons, honor the rule of law, ensure fairness to taxpayers, and seek a path towards recognition for immigrants."
In a previous interview with CP, Wallis said that he is confident that immigration reform is going to happen.
"With a strong majority of Americans, including evangelicals, wanting leaders to fix our broken immigration system, immigration reform is going to happen. The only question is how many families will be broken up and how much our communities have to suffer until Washington acts," Wallis said.