As originally published by The Hill, March 28, 2014, 3 p.m.
By refusing to bring immigration reform up for a vote, Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) perpetuates an immigration system that is broken, immoral, and hurting this country. As a Christian and as an American, I am outraged that House Republicans value delay tactics and partisan fears over family unity and community wholeness. This is why I applaud Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (Calif.) introduction of a discharge petition to bring immigration reform to a vote in the House of Representatives. H.R. 15, the House counterpart to the Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform bill, deserves a vote. Anything less is a distortion of our democracy.
To successfully reach the floor, the discharge petition will need 218 signatures. This shouldn’t be a problem, as more than 30 Republicans and 200 Democrats have publicly stated their support for immigration reform and a path to citizenship for our undocumented community members. So why does it seem like such a long shot? Politics.
Even though more than 30 Republicans have stated publicly that we need to reform our nation’s broken immigration system, it presently seems highly unlikely that any Republicans will sign this discharge petition. This is shameful cowardice and partisan negligence. The real costs of inaction are families separated, communities torn apart by deportations, and the untapped potential of millions of aspiring Americans, with no clear future due to Congress’s perpetual delay and lack of moral courage.
The American people want immigration reform, with more than 68 percent of Americans supporting a path to citizenship for undocumented individuals. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that H.R. 15 would reduce the deficit by $900 billion, including by $200 billion in the first decade of implementation alone. H.R. 15 includes numerous border security provisions authored by Republican Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas) and mirrors legislation supported by both sides of the isle in the Senate, making it a truly bipartisan piece of legislation. And still, House leadership is more concerned with playing partisan politics and undermining the administration’s attempts to keep undocumented youth from being deported. Never in our nation’s history has the House so blatantly disregarded the will of the American people. This outright refusal to enact much needed and principled reform represents an unconscionable sin of omission.
But as a pastor, my message is one of hope – even given these frustrating realities. This discharge petition is the most recent demonstration of the growing support for meaningful action to end the injustice of our current immigration system. The Fast for Families tent on the national mall and bus tour across the country – building on the growing momentum within faith communities and immigrant rights groups – all signal that consensus for reform is stronger than ever. Congress would be unwise to ignore the across-the-aisle, diverse call for action on immigration reform.
People of faith and good will across this nation are outraged by House leadership’s failure to engage in bipartisan solutions to reform our immigration system. Our collective conscience and the will of the American people demand that the House act on immigration reform.
Therefore, I call upon every Representative who has voiced support for immigration reform to sign this discharge petition today. I include in this plea the 30 House Republicans who are on record as supporters of immigration reform. Statements of support mean nothing without action. I implore House Republican leadership to end the political climate that makes the opportunity to vote on this issue of conscience apparently untenable within the Republican Party. Our nation and our families deserve better and this moral stain on the soul of our nation must come to an end.
This discharge petition offers an opportunity for Congress to address the moral stain that our broken immigration system has left on the soul of this nation. House leadership must follow the examples of strong Republican leadership in the Senate who worked across the aisle to introduce and enact immigration reform. We call on members of both parties to reenergize the immigration reform dialogue in the House and act with conscience and moral courage to do what is right and enact immigration reform.
Rev. John L. McCullough is President and CEO of CWS.