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Bush Urged to Quickly Fix Derailed Immigration Bill

Bush Urged to Quickly Fix Derailed Immigration Bill

Christian leaders are urging President Bush and Congress to quickly bring the immigration bill back to the floor after the deal was pulled last week from the Senate agenda.

The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference called on the White House to "immediately intervene" on behalf of the derailed bill by lobbying Republican Senators who played a major role in the bill's collapse.

NHCLC is the sister organization of the National Association of Evangelicals, representing 15 million Hispanic Evangelicals and 18,000 congregations.

"Political expediency, xenophobia and extremism defeated reason, compromise and reconciliation," NHCLC's president, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, said in a statement following last week's failed cloture motion.

Rodriguez warned that unless the bill is quickly reintroduced and passed, 12 million illegal immigrants will hide deeper into the shadow of society, the nation will become more polarized, immigrant animosity will increase, and the nation's borders will continue to be vulnerable.

The chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration also called upon the U.S. Senate to reconsider the immigration bill as soon as possible.

"Our nation cannot afford to wait to resolve this important humanitarian issue," Bishop Gerald R. Barnes said. He noted, however, that the Senate should improve the legislation's treatment of the immigrant family with greater emphasis on family unity.

President Bush, meanwhile, declared from Bulgaria that he plans a rare visit to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to lobby for the immigration bill. The legislation is Bush's top domestic priority and he told reporters in Europe that the bill will survive, according to The Associated Press.

"The fact that he's coming to the Hill is kind of dramatic and shows his dedication to this issue," Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), who also serves as general chairman of the Republican National Committee, told USA Today on Sunday.

Other Christian leaders, however, focused on calling Bush and Congress to draw up a new bill with more emphasis on family preservation rather than calling for the revival of the current bill.

"Now is the time for President Bush and Congress to enact a bill that is truly humane and pro-family," said Ralston H. Deffenbaugh Jr., president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), in a statement.

"After painstaking deliberation, we opposed the Senate bill," said Deffenbaugh. "While it would have some positive impact in the short term, such as providing documentation to undocumented people and reducing the family backlog, the long-term consequences would have been to abandon family unity as a cornerstone of U.S. immigration law.

"Overall, it was not the comprehensive fix that our broken immigration system requires."

The comprehensive immigration reform bill was the product of a bipartisan group of Senators and White House negotiators. It would essentially provide a way for 12 million illegal immigrants to become citizens, boost up border security, enforce new and stricter laws banning employers from hiring illegal workers, and give citizenship priority to job skills over family ties.

"Immigration reform is not a political, Democratic, or Republican issue; it is above all a moral issue," Rodriguez declared. "Congress said no to treating the immigrant in a humane and biblical manner and to applying the rule of law."

The Hispanic NAE is mobilizing some 18,000 churches to contact members of Congress to pass the Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation.

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