- (Photo: Reuters)
President Barack Obama and evangelical leaders have pledged to make the issue of immigration reform the top national priority following months of delays due to the Syria crisis and government shutdown.
"President Obama is not alone in making immigration reform a top priority. Across the country, local and regional conservative leaders continue to showcase their considerable support for members of Congress who back commonsense and bipartisan reform," Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said in a statement.
Obama pledged on Tuesday in an interview with Univision that "the day after" the fiscal crisis has been resolved, he will push for a vote on immigration reform. On Wednesday, political leaders finally reached an agreement on a temporary government funding bill and a temporary extension of the nation's debt limit, which will at least delay further decisions on the topic until the beginning of 2014.
Obama's re-election bid in 2012 was strongly backed by Hispanics, Reuters reminded readers, partly beause the president has promised reforms addressing the concerns of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
The Senate and House of Representatives have not yet found common ground on passing comprehensive immigration reform, however, something which Obama blamed House Speaker John Boehner for.
"We had a very strong Democratic and Republican vote in the Senate. The only thing right now that's holding it back is, again, Speaker Boehner not willing to call the bill on the floor of the House of Representatives," Obama said on Tuesday.
Evangelical groups across America have continued pushing for such reform, however, framing it not only as a political discussion, but a theological one as well.
"As evangelicals, we don't believe there are second class images of God, and therefore we don't believe in a second class status for people who are willing to follow and earned path for citizenship," said the Rev. Jim Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners, which is part of the Evangelical Immigration Table
The EIT has suggested that undocumented immigrations should be allowed to work toward citizenship as long as they embrace all the responsibilities that come with it, and be willing to undergo a three to five year waiting period.
Noorani added in NIF's statement that there have been over 400 "Pray4Reform" gatherings in 40 states this past week where evangelical leaders and their congregations have expressed their moral urgency for immigration reform.
"On October 29, Republicans in the House of Representatives will feel that support in person when Illinois sheriffs, Texas preachers, South Carolina farmers and Indiana business owners come to Washington for the Americans for Reform Day of Action. These leaders will echo what's been heard on Main Street over the last 18 months – those who hold a Bible, wear a badge or own a business are ready for reform," Noorani continued.
"Immigration reform is the only truly bipartisan issue that the House of Representatives has on its docket – it's a priority for an overwhelming majority of conservative faith leaders, law enforcement officers and business owners. It must become the top priority for the House of Representatives as soon as possible."