An array of activists and community leaders launched a national campaign Wednesday to support President Obama before his slated meeting with Congressional leaders next week to push forward immigration reform legislation.
Leaders partaking in the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign represent labor unions, business coalitions, civil rights and religious groups, and pro-immigrant advocacy organizations.
"At the end of the day this is not a political issue but rather one of a moral and spiritual imperative," said Rev. Sam Rodriguez, Jr., president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
"Every day that passes without comprehensive immigration reform tarnishes the soul of our nation as children are separated from their parents, immigrants hide deeper in the shadows and over 12 million people live in a land without the opportunity of ever experiencing the fullness of life, embracing the hope of liberty or pursuing the promise of happiness," the evangelical leader said.
President Obama has said he plans to work on immigration reform this year. Speaking from Mexico City in April, Obama said he wants a common sense approach that would help people on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. He also wants a new system that would streamline the process for immigrants who want to come to the United States, and create a pathway for illegal immigrants already in the country to become legal residents.
The president is scheduled to meet with members of Congress on June 8 to discuss immigration reform.
"Our nation's broken immigration system isn't working for anybody – not immigrant workers who are routinely exploited by companies, and not U.S. born workers whose living standards are being undermined by the creation of a new 'underclass,'" said Arlene Holt Baker, executive vice president of AFL-CIO. "As a part of broad-based economy recovery, we need a comprehensive solution – and soon."
The press conference on Wednesday was part of a weeklong series of activities across the nation to demonstrate broad support for comprehensive immigration reform and a commitment to win the legislative battle expected later this year.
More than 40 events in 35 states are scheduled this week to support the campaign.
Nationally, more than 200 organizations have signed on to the campaign and a national summit of more than 700 advocates of the campaign is taking place Wednesday through Friday at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.
A town hall meeting with members of Congress, some of whom are expected to meet with the President next week – will take place Thursday morning.
"Families are the bedrock of our society, and a system that keeps hard-working, tax-paying, legally present immigrants apart from close family members for years and even decades is bad for America and calls for immediate repair," said Karen K. Narasaki, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center.
"Across the country, momentum is building in the Asian American community for comprehensive immigration reform," she said. "Addressing the family immigration backlog and bringing undocumented families out of the shadows are top issues for our community and we're excited to join the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign to get common sense immigration reform passed this year."
The campaign will be using new technologies such as a national text messaging system and various online organizing strategies to direct messages from constituents directly to members of Congress.