Immigration reform has mandate, momentum and movement

Rev. John L. McCullough | February 27, 2013

People of faith for immigrant justice rally in Washington, D.C. Photo: Carol Fouke/CWS

People of faith for immigrant justice rally in Washington, D.C. Photo: Carol Fouke/CWS

Elections matter – and no more so than when a pressing issue that the two parties can’t agree on hangs in the balance.  At issue is the matter of comprehensive immigration reform, which gained major traction following the demographic truths unveiled by the results of the 2012 presidential election.

We can’t allow that issue to be derailed or detoured now, even by the looming draconian spending cuts that could be triggered by the sequester on March 1.

Those of us who have been close to the immigration reform issue, and who have been advocating for years for comprehensive immigration reform, refuse to be distracted from the task. We will not be distracted from getting a bill that includes a path to citizenship written, debated and passed.

It’s that simple – and we hope members of Congress will give that task fresh, rational consideration. We know it is possible for them to multi-task.

It matters little whether the final bill is one sent over by the White House in the absence of such proposed legislation from the Senate.  Since the election the president has said repeatedly that if the Senate process falters he will have a bill ready.  He has made public the outlines of his administration’s proposed bill.  The portions recently leaked are consistent with his earlier statements.

The important thing is not the politics that have clouded this issue from the very beginning but the fact that at a time when the need for comprehensive immigration reform has gained momentum in both the White House and in Congress we dare not let politics give any of the players reason – or excuse – to walk away.

When we talk about immigration reform we are not talking about some abstract notion.  We are talking about people, about families, about children. The hoped-for legislative debate on immigration reform should move our country forward to passage of a bill that provides a path to citizenship not conditioned on enforcement triggers that could lead to further delays in the granting of citizenship.

Without having seen the president’s “backup” bill in its entirety, we would also urge that the stated length of time – 13 years – required to attain citizenship would be sharply reduced.

There is no question that our immigration system is broken.  How we repair it, even in the face of political gamesmanship in Washington, will say much about who we are as a nation and who we are as people.

The time for immigration reform is right now.  The mandate, the momentum and the movement all are in place.  We can’t afford to lose that momentum to other deliberations in Washington. What remains is for us to fulfill America’s promise to the people who come here in search of a better life by moving our nation forward rather than wasting this moment on more partisan bickering.

Rev. John L. McCullough is President and CEO of CWS.