In his latest effort to push for immigration reform, President Barack Obama encouraged faith leaders during a meeting at the White House on Wednesday to continue pressing House Republicans to pass immigration reform legislation.
“The President and the leaders discussed their shared commitment to raise the moral imperative for immigration reform and said they will continue keeping the pressure on Congress so they can swiftly pass commonsense reform,” the White House said in a statement.
Joining Obama to meet with the handful of faith leaders was also Vice President Joe Biden and a few senior White House officials, including senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz.
Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, was one of the faith leaders who attended the meeting. He and others discussed how the current immigration system is hurting immigrant families in congregations all across the country.
“As faith leaders, we know the urgency and the human cost of our broken and system and are committed to working and praying until reform passes,” Wallis said following the meeting with the president.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, also attended the meeting. He thanked the president and vice president for taking time meet with them. He also urged Obama to work with members of Congress “to fix the system in a way that honors the rule of law and finds a way for those who’ve broken the law to make things right.”
“I think we can do that, and now’s the time,” Moore said.
The meeting came a week after Obama and Biden held a similar gathering with business leaders. It also came a day after faith leaders, including some who attended the meeting on Wednesday, launched a hunger strike to push for immigration reform.
Boehner draws hard line on immigration reform
For months, the president has been saying the House should allow a vote on the Senate-approved immigration reform bill. He did so again on Wednesday when, according to the White House, he told faith leaders there’s “no reason for House Republicans to continue to delay action on this issue that has garnered bipartisan support.”
But on Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner reiterated he won’t bring up the Senate bill to the House floor for a vote. He went a step forward and drew a hard line on immigration reform when he said:
“I’ll make clear we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.”
Boehner insisted on continuing to take a “step-by-step” approach on immigration reform in the House. Furthermore, he said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is working on coming up with “a set of principles that will help guide us as we deal with this issue.”
Boehner’s remarks came a few hours after he told two teenage girls that he is “trying to find some way” to pass immigration reform legislation in the House but that it’s “not gonna be an easy path forward.”
At a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) warned Republicans of the “grave” consequences Republicans will likely face if they don’t act on immigration reform legislation.
“The political consequences of inaction on this issue are going to be grave to the Republican Party,” Gutierrez said. “I know many of you don’t believe it, but mark my words there will be grave consequences.”