Group Pushes Rare Moment to Solve Immigration Issue

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Pastors, police, and business people from 26 states came to the nation's capitol this week, saying that right now is a rare moment when reforming immigration can be a win-win for all sides.

Political analysts have made it clear former presidential candidate Mitt Romney could have been elected if he hadn't lost so many Hispanic votes.

Faith, law enforcement, and business leaders, who are gathered in Washington this Tuesday and Wednesday, insist Republicans couldn't reach Hispanics because they frightened and angered them about immigration.
 
"This is the paramount issue for them," Lake County, Illinois' Republican Sheriff Mark Curran explained. "So forget about talking about the entrepreneurial spirit, the pro-life value system, what have you.  None of that works if we're wrong on this issue. And we're deadly wrong as a party on this issue."

Curran is part of a coalition holding a national strategy session to figure out how to push Washington politicians to pass immigration reform.

The group has stated it wants secure borders, a path to citizenship for the 11,000,000 illegal immigrants in the country, and a guest worker program that will let foreigners easily move into and out of the United States.

Leaders of the coalition said with Republicans freshly chastened by their election losses last month, both parties now see they're in a position to profit by passing reform.

Jenny Yang, with World Relief's Refugee and Immigration Program, said it's also the right thing to do because real people are suffering real harm right now.

"We've been getting calls from pastors saying there are immigrants in their churches where parents are being deported, where children are being left behind," Yang explained.

"In fact, last year, there were around 5,000 children who were actually left in foster care because their parents were deported at one point or another," she added.

New York dairy farmer Sheldon Brown told CBN News he and other farmers like him couldn't make it without immigrant workers. There just aren't enough American workers willing to do the work.

Brown said he's seen good friends on his farm hurt because of their immigrant status, like a young man named Juan.

"He was stopped for a taillight," Brown said of Juan. "He was arrested and therefore his immigration status was checked -- was determined to be here without documents. [He] was therefore incarcerated for many months before he was returned to his home country."

Jim Wallis, editor-in-chief of the evangelical Sojourners Magazine said America is sending conflicting messages to immigrants.

"[There are] two signs up at the border: One says, 'No trespass,' the other says, 'Help Wanted,'" he said.

"In between these signs, 11 million vulnerable people have gotten stuck," he continued. "Both parties have failed, Democrats and Republicans, with a broken, dysfunctional and morally corrupt system."

Brown spoke about another faithful worker on his farm: Jesus, who's been with Brown about a dozen years.

"He has a wife and two sons back in Mexico and is unable either to go back, visit, and then come back to work for us or have them even come for a visit," Brown said.

Yang said America's churches desperately need these immigrants.

"If it weren't for immigrants coming into the United States, the evangelical church in the U.S. would actually be declining," Yang explained. Yang is also co-author of the book Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate.

"So in almost every major evangelical community, it's immigrants who are reinvigorating the evangelical church," she said.

For years, the question of what to do about illegal immigrants has been one of the most controversial in America.

The 250 people attending this national strategy session hope enough Washington politicians will see the benefits to themselves as well as to the country of finally solving this issue.

**Originally aired December 5, 2012.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.