WASHINGTON — More than a dozen religious leaders sat down with President Barack Obama March 8 to stress their concerns for immigration reform, before ending with a prayer and promising to work with their faith communities on the issue, especially during the rest of Lent and Easter.
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez told reporters after the meeting at the White House that the group emphasized urgency in getting an immigration reform bill through Congress. The group also stressed that legislation should respect the dignity of individuals and focus on family reunification, he said.
For the past couple of months, Obama has been holding similar meetings with groups with a stake in immigration reform. Previous such sessions have been held with business leaders, advocacy groups and politicians, for example.
In addition to Archbishop Gomez, participants included: United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano; Bishop Orlando Findlayter of the New Hope Christian Fellowship; the Rev. Kathryn Lohre, president of the National Council of Churches; Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America; Mark Hetfield, president of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Also present were representatives of Southern Baptist, evangelical and Hispanic Christian organizations.
Archbishop Gomez told reporters that the religious leaders and the president seemed to agree on the major issues that are important for immigration reform.
Several other participants in the meeting told reporters that they would focus in their congregations on the need to support immigration reform, particularly as the Christian churches observe Lent and move toward Easter.
A "readout" of the meeting provided by the White House said the session, which included senior administration staff, was called to "discuss the need to fix the broken immigration system so that everyone plays by the same rules."
The release noted that the religious leaders voiced concern over the effects of the current system on families in their congregations.
Obama told the leaders that "there is good progress being made by a bipartisan group in the Senate," the White House release said. But he urged them to continue to work in support of a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, border security and improvements in how the system handles family reunification, and the needs of employers and workers.