Law Enforcement Leaders Discuss Immigration in White House Meeting

Press Release, February 06, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Obama administration’s emphasis on immigration reform continued today with a meeting between White House officials and law enforcement leaders from around the country, including representatives from the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Sheriff’s Association. The following are statements from top law enforcement leaders who participated in the meeting:

Bill Bratton, Former Police Chief, New York, Los Angeles and Boston:
“As the former police chief for New York, Los Angeles, and Boston, I am intimately aware of the critical need for immigration reform. Finding a solution to our broken immigration system will strengthen national security and enhance safety in communities across our country. The sooner we can move in this direction and achieve these goals, the better.”

Sheriff Larry Amerson, Calhoun County, Ala.:
“I will convey to the people of Calhoun County and America’s Sheriffs what I learn from this meeting.  It’s important for the public to trust law enforcement and be able to call on them when assistance is needed, no matter where they are from or what their nationality is. It is also critical for Americans to know that real action will be taken to address this important issue.”

Sheriff Leroy Baca, Los Angeles County, Calif.:
“America needs to come to grips with the truth that it needs legalized, documented workers. This country also depends on undocumented workers in many of our vital industries. It is time to move forward with real reform when it comes to all of our immigration issues. And we need to do it sooner rather than later.”

Commissioner Robert Haas, Cambridge, Mass.:
“It’s important for the public to trust the officers in their community and be able to call on them when they need help. This relationship is compromised when otherwise law-abiding people are afraid to call police or share information about a crime out of fear of deportation. We’re looking to Washington for help. Immigration reform will strengthen trust in communities across the country, leading to greater security for all.”

Michael Masters, Executive Director, Homeland Security and Emergency Management for Cook County, Ill.:
“From my experience as Executive Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for Cook County, Illinois, I know that there is no time like the present to find a solution to immigration reform. This path will certainly enhance the safety in our communities.”

Sheriff Ted Sexton, Tuscaloosa County, Ala.:
“We need help in Washington so that we can focus on catching criminals, rather than sacrificing priorities to play the role of immigration agent. Immigration reform will strengthen security in communities across the country, and finally seek answers to questions we have raised.”



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Politico on ‘Bibles, Badges and Business’; Washington Times Publishes Compelling Faith Op-Ed

Press Release, February 06, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Across America, faith, law enforcement and business leaders have forged a new consensus in support of broad, bipartisan immigration reform. In an article today, Politico captured the momentum these “Bibles, Badges and Business” leaders bring to the debate.

The article notes that the work of these groups “have dramatically changed the dynamics of the debate, so much so that Republicans anxious to vote yes on a deal might have the political cover to do it.” It also highlights the Evangelical Immigration Table’s “I Was a Stranger” immigration prayer challenge.

Meanwhile, evangelical leader Mathew Staver penned an opinion piece that appeared Tuesday in the Washington Times — just in time for the first immigration hearing in the new Congress. Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel and chief counsel of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, argues persuasively for broad immigration reform that includes “appropriate penalties, waiting periods, background checks, evidence of moral character and a commitment to full participation in American society through learning English.

“Yet for our hardworking, undocumented neighbors who aspire to be fully American, it must end with citizenship — not a permanent second-class status,” Staver continues.

As the president and Congress continue their intense focus on creating a better immigration process in 2013, faith, law enforcement and business leaders will continue to exert pressure for commonsense, broad reform that honors American values and strengthens our economy and communities. 



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President Discusses Immigration Reform with Business Leaders, Advocates

Press Release, February 05, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today the White House continued its intense focus on immigration reform, in meetings this morning with immigrant advocates and this afternoon with business leaders. As bipartisan leaders in Congress begin the work of reforming immigration policy, President Obama continues to emphasize the need for broad, commonsense reform, including a roadmap to earned citizenship, and the opportunity for Congress to push ahead with reform in coming months.

“I am encouraged by the President’s leadership in prioritizing immigration reform this year. Ongoing leadership from the White House is crucial,” said Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum.

“The onus is on Congress to answer the clarion call on immigration by the American people including those who hold a Bible, wear a badge or own a business,” Noorani continued. “The political dynamic on immigration has changed. Republicans and Democrats are finally realizing that immigration reform is smart politics for both, and smart policy for the nation.”

Steve Case, Chairman and CEO of Revolution LLC and Co-founder of America Online, participated in the business leaders’ meeting.

“I was encouraged by today’s immigration discussion at the White House,” Case said. “The President and his team listened to numerous proposals, outlined many of their own and expressed a desire to build a bipartisan consensus regarding comprehensive immigration reform.

“I focused my comments on the reforms we need to attract and retain the world’s most talented innovators and entrepreneurs, as they have been and will continue to be critical contributors to our nation’s economic success. I look forward to doing whatever I can to help pass comprehensive immigration reform in the months ahead — and ensure it includes strong provisions regarding high-skilled immigration, so we are positioned to win the global battle for talent.”


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House Hearing Opens Conversation on Immigration Reform in Congress

Press Release, February 05, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the House Judiciary Committee is holding the first hearing on immigration reform of the 113th Congress. The following is a statement by Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum:

“Today is a new day on Capitol Hill for immigration. We hail the bipartisan consensus, both within and outside Congress, that has brought immigration reform to the fore, and we are pleased to see the House Judiciary Committee prioritize the conversation around improving our immigration process. The conversation now beginning in Congress provides Republicans and Democrats a real opportunity to come together for the good of our economy and our communities.

“As Congress moves forward from strong general principles and begins to hash out policy details, legislators must acknowledge that Americans across party lines recognize the need for a better immigration process.

“Leaders who hold Bibles are highlighting the importance of family unity and ensuring that immigrants have the opportunity to become fully American through earned citizenship — with both the freedoms and the obligations that citizenship entails. In the words of evangelical leader Mathew Staver today, a just immigration process ‘must end with citizenship — not a permanent second-class status.’

“Law enforcement leaders who are dealing with the results of a broken system look forward to reform that allows them to focus their limited resources on community safety, not on immigration enforcement. And business leaders support reform that ensures a skilled workforce across the labor spectrum, from the adept farmworker to the expert engineer.

“These ‘Bibles, Badges and Business’ leaders have joined opinion makers and elected officials in both parties in calling for a rational conversation that leads to broad, commonsense reform. Now Congress must take the next step.”



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Faith, Law Enforcement, Business Leaders Build On Momentum for Immigration Reform

Press Release, January 30, 2013

To listen to a recording of today’s press conference, please visit:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following Monday’s announcement of a framework for immigration reform by a bipartisan group of senators and President Obama’s speech in Las Vegas yesterday, leaders from the faith, law enforcement and business communities discussed the bipartisan consensus emerging in Washington and the increasing momentum for reform.

“I’m hopeful that for the first time, there does seem to be a growing consensus, politically, to do something about immigration reform. From a law enforcement perspective, I would say it’s long overdue,” said Bill Bratton, former New York City Police Commissioner and Los Angeles Police Chief. “Police have clearly shown over the last 20 years that when working in partnership with their communities — all communities — they can have a significant impact on improving public safety.”

“Evangelical leaders are calling on every Christian in America to listen to the biblical testimony on immigration,” said Galen Carey, Vice President of Government Relations for the National Association of Evangelicals. “Immigrants are part of our congregations and our communities. Immigrants are not them, immigrants are us …  that’s why the Evangelical Immigration Table launched the “I Was a Stranger” challenge, inviting pastors, congregants, and members of Congress to read a short biblical passage daily for 40 days that speaks to God’s love for immigrants and informs our views on immigrants and immigration reform.” He added, “For immigrants who have long been contributing to our communities, reform should include a path to earned citizenship.” 

“A year ago, during the primary elections, the Republican Party — and I am a proud conservative — was doing a really bad job on the immigration issue. But we are now finally seeing many people in our party open to immigration solutions vs. immigration rhetoric. These are exciting times,” said Brad Bailey, Founder and CEO of the Texas Immigration Solution. “We must attract the hardest-working individuals and entrepreneurs to our shores. As an employer, I can tell you first-hand about the importance of filling the demand for jobs, from the engineer to the restaurant worker.”

“Now that we have immigration reform principles, let’s get to work on legislation,” said Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum. “Never before has the issue of immigration reform enjoyed such a breadth and depth of support. Not only does the immigration issue have a past, present and future of bipartisan support in Congress, but passage of commonsense immigration reform is the call to action heard from those who hold a Bible, wear a badge or own a business. Congress and the president must put politics aside, put pen to paper, and get a bill up and moving.” 



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Faith and Law Enforcement Leaders Hail Momentum for Immigration Reform

Press Release, January 29, 2013

LAS VEGAS — Prospects for broad, commonsense immigration reform in 2013 have improved with the attention of the nation’s political leaders Monday and today. On Monday, a bipartisan group of senators released a framework for broad immigration reform that includes a conditional path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. This afternoon, President Obama laid out similar proposals to guide a new immigration process and reiterated his emphasis on a roadmap to earned citizenship over time.

Faith, law enforcement and advocacy leaders who attended the president’s speech are applauding the momentum for a better immigration process at the highest levels of government. Having forged a new consensus on immigrants and America, they will keep the pressure on for broad reform from Congress this year.

Ali Noorani, Executive Director, National Immigration Forum:
“The president has affirmed and built the momentum for immigration reform that bipartisan leaders in the Senate rallied behind on Monday. We are pleased that political leaders in both parties are finally hearing the calls of Americans across the political spectrum who want a better immigration process now, for the good of our families, our communities and our economy.”

Mark Shurtleff, Member of the Board of Directors of the National Immigration Forum and Republican Former Attorney General of Utah:
“Today President Obama laid out his vision for broad immigration reform. It was an honor to be there with him to share this historic moment and tell him that those who hold a Bible, wear a badge or own a business stand ready to encourage Democrats and Republicans in Congress to pass commonsense immigration reform.”

Dr. Warren Stewart, Senior Pastor at First Institutional Baptist Church in Phoenix and Board Chair of the National Immigration Forum:
“This is an awesome day for justice. The leader of the free world is leading the charge to free millions of our brothers and sisters in America with commonsense immigration reform which offers a roadmap to citizenship. Thank God, delay is not denial for our nation’s immigrants.”

Ian Danley, Youth Program Director, Neighborhood Ministries, Phoenix
“Today was an encouraging day for those of us in Arizona who live with the consequences of a broken immigration system every day. To see our president and members of Congress call for commonsense immigration reform in the same week, reform that creates a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans, fills us with hope.”



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Faith, Law Enforcement, Business Leaders Praise Immigration Reform Framework

Press Release, January 28, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. — This afternoon, a bipartisan group of senators released a framework for broad immigration reform that includes a conditional path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The Senators’ framework emerges as faith, law enforcement and business leaders who have forged a new consensus on immigrants and America continue to affirm their support for broad immigration reform in 2013.

These statements can be attributed to the following faith, law enforcement and business leaders:

Brad Bailey, Founder and CEO, Texas Immigration Solution:
“Texas businesses, across every sector, have a vital interest in immigration reform. We need improved systems to hire the workers we need today and tomorrow. Texas has a unique history with immigration and our future will be tied to finding a workable solution for all our businesses, from high tech and health care to agriculture and hospitality. Texans hope today is a beginning of the journey to that solution.”

Sheriff Mark C. Curran, Jr., Lake County, Illinois:
“I embrace the immigration reform principles that are being suggested today. The sooner we move in the direction of comprehensive immigration reform will mean the sooner we can fix our broken immigration system, and that will strengthen national security and equitably deal with the 12 million undocumented people that are already here.”

Bill Hammond, President and CEO, Texas Association of Business:
“After years of advocating for immigration reform and the benefits it would provide the Texas economy, we are truly at our best position ever for achieving it.  It will take hard work to make sure policymakers know Texans support immigration reform. Our business community and industries in Texas have a real need with respect to our workforce and future; immigrant labor, expertise, capital working side-by-side with those born here will be critical for the future of Texas and the nation.”

Randel K. Johnson, Senior Vice President for Labor, Immigration and Employee Benefits, U.S. Chamber of Commerce:
“We are very pleased with these principles — they align with much of what the Chamber has supported in the past, and we will work with all parties on a bipartisan basis to flesh out the detail and achieve passage in the Senate.”

Dr. Richard Land, President, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention:
“Congress does not often exceed my expectations. But these principles, and this demonstration of bipartisanship by our leaders, certainly have. The senators have introduced principles for a bill that has a true chance of passing. I think they sense this is a real opportunity. Not only should we be encouraged but we should understand that this is truly what St. Paul would call a ‘kairos,’ or propitious, moment to be seized. The momentum needs to be used to pass significant and helpful immigration reform.”

Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform:
“Immigration reform is one of the most important steps our country can take to grow America’s economy and preserve our leadership status in the world. I believe this plan is a meaningful step toward fixing our broken immigration system, and I urge Congress to consider the positive economic ramifications of a vibrant guest worker program, more high-skilled visas, and a pathway to earned legal status and citizenship for those already in the country.”

Mark Shurtleff, Member of the Board of Directors of the National Immigration Forum and former Attorney General of Utah:
“This is the moment we have been waiting for — a moment for solutions, bipartisanship and humanity from our nation’s leaders. In this time of partisan rancor, I applaud the Senate for this commonsense set of principles for immigration reform. As a former attorney general, responsible for the safety and security of my state of Utah, I believe these principles are leading us toward a safer and more prosperous America.”



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Senators to Announce Bipartisan Principles on Immigration Reform

Press Release, January 28, 2013

Framework Is Powerful, Practical Start

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bipartisan group of senators will officially release a framework today for broad immigration reform that includes a conditional path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The plan also includes reforms to the legal immigration system based upon the needs of the economy, creation of an employment verification system and an improved process for admitting future workers. Many of the details have yet to be hammered out, but legislation is expected to be drafted by March.

The following is a statement by Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum:

“We are pleased to see our political leaders in both parties prioritize broad, commonsense immigration reform, starting with their announcement of these principles. For these Republicans and Democrats to be leading their parties forward speaks volumes. Creating a 21st century immigration process won’t be easy, but the framework the senators are proposing is a powerful and practical start to the legislative process, and it will make the peaks and valleys ahead much easier to traverse.

“The bipartisan support surrounding immigration reform is unlike nearly any other issue facing Congress because people who hold a Bible, wear a badge or own a business want a commonsense immigration system. And today’s debate on immigration is fundamentally different from previous reform efforts for exactly the same reason.

“These ‘Bibles, Badges and Business’ leaders have worked together over the past two years to forge a new consensus on immigrants and America. Thanks to their leadership in the Mountain West, Midwest and Southeast, and in Washington, D.C., today’s framework is an articulation of that bipartisan consensus.

“From the leadership of the Evangelical Immigration Table to the vision of the Utah Compact to conservative voices speaking publicly for reform, momentum is on our side. 

“What lies ahead will not be easy, and compromise will be necessary.  But leaders in both parties are clearly ready to do their jobs and create an immigration process that serves the needs of all Americans.”


To read the Senate’s principles for immigration reform, please visit:

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Opening Shot for Immigration Overhaul as Administration and Congress Unveil Visions for Reform

Press Release, January 25, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. — All signs point to major action on broad immigration reform in the coming weeks. Today, the White House announced that President Obama will debut his plans for an immigration overhaul during an event Tuesday in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, a bipartisan working group of senators is likely to release broad principles for reform next Friday. Congress is expected to move forward on legislation as early as this spring. According to the Washington Post, the Senate’s “timetable would aim for a bill to be written by March or April and potentially considered for final passage in the Senate as early as the summer.” 

“The momentum behind immigration reform is growing stronger each day. We welcome efforts by Congress and President Obama to bring immigration to center stage,” said Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum.

Last week alone, prominent evangelical, business and law enforcement leaders voiced their support for the federal government to get to work on immigration reform that achieves real results. In hundreds of churches across the country, evangelical Christians are participating in the “I Was a Stranger” challenge, inviting pastors, congregants, and members of Congress to read a short passage of Scripture each day for 40 consecutive days that speaks to God’s love for immigrants and to pray for the immigrants in their community.

Added Noorani, “When it comes to crafting workable immigration solutions, people who hold a Bible, wear a badge or own a business are ready to work with both Democrats and Republicans to reach a consensus on a reasonable course forward on immigration. And as recent public opinion polls show, an overwhelming majority of Americans want federal action on commonsense immigration solutions that include a road to citizenship. American voters know it’s the right thing to do. Now, our nation’s leaders are finally realizing that it’s also very smart politics. Progress on immigration reform this year is within Washington’s grasp.” 


For more information on the Evangelical Immigration Table’s I Was a Stranger challenge, visit:

To read a summary of news coverage from last week’s business, law enforcement and faith events on immigration, as well as poll results, please visit:

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U.S. Chamber, Southern Baptists Make Immigration Reform One of Their Top Legislative Priorities

Press Release, January 17, 2013

**Video available at**

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Days before the inauguration and just as the 113th Congress is settling into place, the CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a former Secretary of Commerce under President George W. Bush joined law enforcement and faith leaders at a press conference today to urge Congress to work together and pass broad immigration reform in 2013. With Democrats and Republicans recognizing the moral, economic and political imperative to improve our immigration process, the new Congress marks the best opportunity for broad immigration reform in nearly a decade.

These leaders from the national, state and local level discussed the new consensus on immigrants and America that has emerged in the past 18 months as Americans across the political spectrum have come together to seek a new, workable immigration process. Most recently, local faith, law enforcement and business leaders from around the country gathered in Washington in December to meet with legislators and underscore the need for a rational bipartisan conversation that leads to broad, commonsense reform.

The statements below can be attributed to the following speakers at today’s press conference:

Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

“Our current immigration system is broken. It’s not serving the interests of our economy, our businesses, or our society. Immigration reform is an opportunity to fundamentally improve our global competitiveness, attract and retain the world’s best talent and hardest workers, secure our borders, and keep faith with America’s legacy as an open and welcoming society.

“We need a lawful, rational, and workable immigration system that secures our borders, provides the workers we need at all skill levels, and protects the rights of citizens, businesses, the undocumented, and those legally pursuing citizenship. The Chamber will make passage of immigration reform legislation one of our top priorities.”

Indiana Attorney General Gregory F. Zoeller:

“The federal government has failed to perform its duty establishing immigration policy and enforcing existing immigration laws even though the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear this is primarily a federal, not a state, responsibility. Local and state law enforcement officers are reluctant to step into the role of being federal immigration agents over rightful concern of lawsuits, while immigrants are often victims of crime yet fear going to law enforcement. This is an opportunity for Congress to demonstrate it can achieve meaningful reform on a bipartisan basis.”

Dr. Barrett Duke, Vice President for Public Policy and Research, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention:

“Just immigration reform is a top-priority issue for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. We do not intend to let this fail. We will stay on top of this issue until Washington, D.C., and Congress do right by the 11 million undocumented immigrants here in our country. Millions of hardworking, peace-loving immigrants are caught in a no-man’s-land in this land of opportunity. They cannot improve life for themselves and their families and they dare not come out of the shadows to ask for help. It falls to us who value them as human beings created in the image of God to make a pathway for them out of despair and into hope. It’s what love would do.”

Carlos Gutierrez, Vice Chairman, Citigroup; former U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President George W. Bush:

“The whole economy is suffering because we can’t grow without immigration. If we don’t get this right, shame on us, because this is about the future of our country, this is about competitiveness, this is about who is going to be a global leader in the 21st century. This has to become the No. 1 priority for the president, for Congress, to come together and say, ‘We’re going to fix this problem.’ ”

Ambassador (Ret) Johnny Young, Executive Director, Migration and Refugee Services, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

“Congress and the Administration must seize the moment on immigration. Because of our broken system, families are being divided and migrants are dying in the desert. We must repair the system and end this suffering.” 

Ali Noorani, Executive Director, National Immigration Forum:

“There are many important issues for the 113th Congress to address. But there are few issues that have a past, a present and a future of bipartisan support like immigration reform. Today’s event is another indicator of the new consensus on immigrants and America that has emerged.”



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Evangelical Leaders Launch “I was a Stranger,” Immigration Prayer Challenge and Video

Press Release, January 14, 2013

National Leaders, Local Pastors Ask Lawmakers to Consider Immigration through Biblical Lens
**Listen to a recording from today’s press call at**

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As we prepare for a national debate on immigration policy, the Evangelical Immigration Table launched an effort on Monday to encourage Christians to think about immigration from a distinctly biblical perspective. The diverse coalition of influential evangelicals will reach out to political leaders and more than 100,000 churches for their “I Was a Stranger” immigration prayer challenge.

Leaders announced the launch of a promotional video featuring high-profile evangelical leaders reading from the 25th chapter of Matthew, from which the challenge gets its name. This coordinated effort of churches and Christian ministries summons legislators to allow biblical teachings to inform their views on immigration. The challenge invites individual evangelical Christians, church congregations, and legislators to read 40 verses of Scripture that relate to immigration and to pray that these passages will evoke the political will to create a just immigration system that better reflects Christian values.

The statements below can be attributed to the following evangelical leaders:

Stephan Bauman, President and CEO, World Relief:
“For years, many people have asked whether evangelicals care about immigration. The “I Was A Stranger” Challenge mobilizes thousands of Christians to take action on immigration reform. Evangelicals are serious about Scripture and its command to take special care of immigrants living among us. As people all across our country put immigrants first, we believe our elected officials will understand reform is urgent, moral, and biblical, and that they must tackle it early this year.”

Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent, The Wesleyan Church:
“The church was birthed in diversity 2,000 years ago and for 2,000 years God’s people have been speaking and acting on behalf of the vulnerable. God’s call compels us to action today on behalf of immigrants in our congregations and communities.”

Taylor Bell, Student, Samford University (Alabama):
“This prayer challenge brings us evangelicals back to the scripture, reminding us that we are called as members of the community of God to welcome the stranger among us. I know from my own experience as a student in Alabama that we have a long way to go as evangelicals on the issue of immigration, and this prayer challenge will provide the biblical foundation we need to get there.”

Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association:
“Today, we are launching a campaign to explore the teaching of God’s Word regarding our call to love the stranger in our land. Join thousands of Christians over the next 40 days to discover God’s heart for our immigrant brothers and sisters.”

Dave Gibbons, Pastor and Founder of Newsong Church and (California):
“Loving God and Loving Neighbors is the same as Loving Immigrants. They are all symbiotically related.”

Dr. Bill Hamel, President, Evangelical Free Church of America:
“As an evangelical, I am committed to not missing this moment in history where we can lead a movement for Biblical justice and compassion. Evangelicals sat on the sidelines in the civil rights discussions but we must not this time!”

Dr. Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland Church (Florida):
“As a pastor, I want my congregation to have a Biblical framework for addressing challenges, not a primarily political one. The most powerful motivation for us to find a good way to include people who are marginalized is to read scripture and try to follow its guidance.”

For more information about the challenge, please visit:

Follow the conversation at #IWasAStranger or text Immigration to 877877 to connect to the Evangelical Immigration Table and sign up for the I Was a Stranger challenge.



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New Congress Must Renew Commitment to Improve Immigration

Press Release, January 03, 2013

Washington, D.C — Today starting at noon, the 113th Congress is being sworn in. Following an election in which both parties competed for new American voters, Republicans and Democrats alike recognize that now is the time to transcend partisan politics and create a better immigration process. Whether they are up to the challenge or not is the question.

“As we welcome the new Congress to Washington, we also welcome the new, bipartisan climate around immigration that has emerged in the past year,” said Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum. “With Democrats and Republicans recognizing the moral, economic and political imperative to fix the immigration system, the 113th Congress marks the best opportunity for broad immigration reform in nearly a decade. Americans across the political spectrum are ready for action on immigration. Now is the time.”

Members of Congress who show leadership on immigration reform will find broad support among voters. A December Politico/George Washington University poll showed that 62 percent of Americans support a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, including an edge of 49 percent to 45 percent among Republicans.

“Key faith, law enforcement and business leaders — the political base for congressional Republicans — have forged a new consensus on immigrants and America and are on the cusp of launching grassroots efforts to support their legislators,” Noorani added.

Local “Bibles, Badges and Business” leaders from around the country gathered in Washington last month to meet with legislators and underscore the need for a rational bipartisan conversation that leads to broad, commonsense reform, and they are keeping the pressure on in the new year, bringing a local perspective on the importance of reform.

“The contribution of foreign-born labor to the Idaho economy is substantial,” Kenneth McClure, counsel for the Idaho Business Coalition for Immigration Reform, said at the December event. “In Idaho, a vibrant economy demands labor that our local labor force can’t supply. If we’re to grow, if we’re to prosper, we need [immigrant] labor at both ends of the [economic] spectrum.”

“Immigration is not a political issue for us, it’s a moral, biblical, personal issue for us,” added Dr. David Fleming, Senior Pastor, Champion Baptist Church, Houston. “We are building a consensus [on immigrants and America] outside the Beltway that will have implications inside the Beltway.”

Since the election, momentum for reform has only increased as national conservative leaders have joined these leaders in “Bibles, Badges and Business” in acknowledging the social and economic need for change.

“It’s time for Congress and the president to rise above partisan rhetoric and negotiate a new immigration process that strengthens our economy, our families and our security,” Noorani said. “To keep America competitive and prosperous, the 113th Congress must pass, and the president must sign, broad immigration reform.”


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Bipartisan Push for Immigration Reform Intensifies with Colorado Compact

Press Release, December 12, 2012

Leaders Across the Political Spectrum Unite, Urge Congress to Act

Denver — Building on strong bipartisan momentum for immigration reform next year, Colorado leaders across the political spectrum are launching the Colorado Compact, a set of principles to encourage real and lasting federal reform. The effort was spearheaded by Democratic Senator Michael Bennet and Republican former Senator Hank Brown and includes a diverse list of over 100 prominent signers from across the state, including Bennet’s 2010 Republican opponent, Ken Buck.

The Compact outlines six immigration principles to guide the conversation on immigration including keeping families together, having a visa system that responds to economic needs, ensuring our national security and recognizing that immigration policy is a matter that belongs to the federal government. 

The statements below can be attributed to the following speakers at the press conference:

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado:
“Nearly eighteen months ago, we began a journey to chart a new path on immigration, away from the extreme rhetoric then engulfing the national conversation. We knew that the politics playing out on immigration did not represent our state — where Coloradans value working together, despite our differences and backgrounds, to solve problems in the best interests of our people and future generations. We now have the benefit of Colorado’s voice to inform the work of the new Congress. There undoubtedly will be some tough conversations and disagreements ahead, but I am confident that by bringing a little bit of Colorado common sense and grit to Washington, we will fix our immigration system by ensuring it is more aligned with the needs of our economy, families and communities.”

Former Sen. Hank Brown, R-Colorado*:
“Coloradans know how to work together to solve problems and get things done. With the current immigration system hurting so many sectors of our state, I was glad to help lead this effort with Sen. Bennet. The wide-reaching group of signers we’ve assembled is sending a message to Washington that it’s time for action.”

The Honorable Mark Shurtleff (R), Utah Attorney General:
“The Colorado Compact is further proof that momentum is building across the country to finally take a reasonable and bipartisan approach to immigration reform that will protect our borders, help our economy and protect families. We hope these principles would help guide federal legislation and guide our federal government to adopt a pragmatic and uniquely American approach to immigration.”

Kelly Brough, President and CEO, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce:
“In Colorado, we effectively focused on the needs of industry and of our workforce and found the economic imperative for immigration solutions. If a politically diverse state like Colorado can take a sensible, nonpartisan path forward on immigration, then Washington should be able to do the same.” 

Ali Noorani, Executive Director, National Immigration Forum:
“The Colorado Compact shines as an example that bipartisan collaboration is possible and that a 21st century immigration process is achievable. Colorado joins the growing chorus of voices outside of Washington who demand a rational and collaborative approach to immigration.”

* Former Sen. Brown was unable to join the press conference but sent a statement.


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Conservative Leaders Push for Action on Immigration Reform in 2013

Press Release, December 04, 2012


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Over 250 faith, law enforcement and business leaders from 26 states gathered today at the National Strategy Session to debut newly energized efforts — including Capitol Hill visits with key lawmakers — to push for broad immigration reform in early 2013.

This gathering builds on two years of hard work outside Washington, including successful regional summits, state compacts and other efforts in the Mountain West, Southeast and Midwest at which hundreds of business, faith and law-enforcement leaders have built new relationships, discussed state policies and urged pragmatic federal solutions. Now, these conversations are turning into action. This critical new alliance is ready to drive the issue to the fore and apply pressure on Republicans and Democrats in Congress and on President Obama to ensure that broad immigration reform is the first legislative priority in 2013.

The statements below can be attributed to the following speakers at the press conference:


Steve Case, AOL Co-founder and Revolution LLC Chairman:
“The story of America is the story of entrepreneurs starting new businesses and imagining whole new industries. Immigrant entrepreneurs are a central part of that story. We have the world’s leading economy in part because we have attracted the world’s most talented people. Ensuring that the best and brightest innovators and entrepreneurs start and help companies here in the United States, not in competitor nations abroad, will strengthen our economic competitiveness in the long term. This is why Democrats and Republicans should come together to fix our immigration system, as quickly and as broadly as possible, including urgent action on high-skilled visas.”

Kenneth McClure, Counsel, Idaho Business Coalition for Immigration Reform:
“The contribution of foreign-born labor to the Idaho economy is substantial. A vibrant economy demands labor that local supply is unable to supply. That’s why we need labor [immigration] solutions at both ends of the [economic] spectrum.”

Angela Smith Jones, Director of Public Policy, Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce:
“For the United States to continue to compete, we have to have an educated workforce, we need to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants and we have to have immigration reform. The key to America’s success is to educate, strengthen the workforce, and bolster the economic core and tax base.”

Jeb Bush Jr., Chief Operating Officer, Jeb Bush & Associates, LLC:
“For immigration to move forward in the next year, we need leaders from both parties come together and say ‘enough is enough. Let’s move forward.’ [Immigration reform] is about being competitive. That’s the bottom line. You have to have a competitive workforce. You have to have a competitive product to succeed … it’s at the core of being a capitalist.”


Dr. David Fleming, Senior Pastor, Champion Baptist Church, Houston:
“Immigration is not a political issue for us, it’s a moral, biblical, personal issue for us … We are building a consensus [on immigrants and America] outside the Beltway that will have implications inside the Beltway.”

Stephan Bauman, President and CEO, World Relief:
“We are at the precipice of immigration reform. Our faith commands that we welcome immigrants, and our country has an opportunity to enact policies that reflect our biblical values of justice, compassion and hospitality.”

Law enforcement:

The Honorable Mark Shurtleff, Attorney General, Utah:
“The immigration issue is an issue of freedom, of human dignity and of a country coming together to do the right thing … America is uniquely rooted in the concept that no matter who you are or where you come from, you should be able to succeed here if you roll up your sleeves and work hard.”

Chris Burbank, Chief of Police, Salt Lake City:
“I do not believe that local law enforcement should be acting as immigration enforcement agents. Immigration is a federal issue.”

Mayor Paul Bridges (R), Uvalda, Georgia:
“My Republican friends here inside the Beltway need to look at this issue for what it really is … put that legislation out there and do it now. Fix the problem. I think that the new consensus that we have is the master mechanic that will fix this problem with immigration.”

Ali Noorani, Executive Director, National Immigration Forum:
“Americans are ready for a new immigration solution. Today, leaders who hold a Bible, wear a badge or own a business are taking the next step toward that solution. 2013 will be the dawn of a new day on immigrants and immigration.”

Follow the conversation at #NewConsensus and @NewConsensus.

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Pro-immigration conservative activists plan their strategy

Washington Post, December 03, 2012

Pro-immigration conservative activists plan their strategy
By Peter Wallsten, Published: December 3

For years, pro-immigration conservative activists have tried with little success to gain an audience with top Republicans in Washington.

But since last month’s election, with the GOP’s dismal performance among Hispanics, that has started to change. On Tuesday, more than 250 activists plan to come to Washington for a debut of sorts, hosting a news conference and strategy session before heading to Capitol Hill for meetings with key lawmakers.

Group leaders say they hope to bring a fresh, outsiders’ perspective to the debate, with testimonials from rural and suburban sheriffs, local preachers, even the director of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association. Rather than dwelling on the politics of the issue, these conservative leaders plan to cast the issue based on how they see it in their communities — in moral and economic terms.

“There’s a radical, loud element out there that just doesn’t seem to get it, that will never get it,” said Mark Curran, the Republican sheriff of Lake County, Ill., and a participant in this week’s activities. “They shouldn’t be given any real deference anymore.”

Curran, a devout Catholic, once held hard-line, anti-illegal immigration views, but changed his mind in 2010 during conversations with clergy and business leaders. He thinks some conservative House members could undergo a similar conversion.

“The political realities and the realities of my faith started to collide, and I couldn’t reconcile it anymore,” he said.

The effort comes at a time of soul-searching among senior Republicans, who have concluded that President Obama’s dominance among Hispanic voters and other groups, such as Asian Americans, resulted at least in part from years of hard-line opposition by conservative Republicans to more liberalized immigration laws. Many believe that 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney alienated Hispanic voters when he tilted to the right during his primary campaign, supporting a policy of “self-
deportation” for immigrants while attacking rivals for being too soft on the issue.

It also underscores a shift in tactics by immigrant advocates, who for years have made it their central goal to win a pathway to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States. Now, joining forces with conservative leaders, some advocates on the left say they are willing to consider a scaled-back approach, perhaps a legalization plan that stops short of citizenship, if it would bring House Republicans to the table.

Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.), one of the most vocal backers of a path to citizenship, remains steadfastly in that camp. Still, he said that “we’ve got to stop setting preconditions before we have conversations, and that’s something that’s changed.”

The conservative activists coming to Washington this week for their “national strategy session” plan to host lawmakers from both parties at a breakfast Wednesday before fanning out to meet with House and Senate members. The primary messages will focus on values, including the importance of keeping immigrant families together, and economics, such as the crucial role played by immigrant labor for agriculture and technology businesses.

Key event speakers include AOL co-founder Steve Case and anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, along with leaders of various state-based industry groups and the National Association of Evangelicals.

“For years, conservative faith, law enforcement and business leaders have supported the need for a national immigration strategy,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, the pro-immigrant advocacy group that has been coordinating the effort he calls “bibles, badges and business.” “Now, their voices are coalescing around a new consensus. And, more importantly, the pressure they bring to bear on Republicans is unique.”

Several participants said they had already been holding in-
person meetings with House Republicans and sensing new openings. A primary concern for many conservative lawmakers is avoiding any suggestion that they want amnesty for illegal immigrants. Some have said they would support a legalization plan that includes a fine or other penalties. Others have said they want to help young people brought to the country as children.

The Rev. Luis Cortes, who heads Ezperanza, a large Hispanic evangelical network, and who has met with about a dozen House Republicans, said many are seeking a “workaround” of the amnesty question. At the same time, Cortes said, any compromise could create difficult choices for Democrats and the White House.

“We’re going to have to figure out who can get citizenship,” Cortes said. “The left and the pro-immigrant groups are going to have to figure out, where are they going to trade?”

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is another key player in the new coalition. He said finding compromise “is going to take a disciplined coalition of the middle, the moderate conservatives in the Republican Party and the moderate liberals in the Democratic Party who actually want to get something done.”

Lawmakers have begun maneuvering in recent days to lay a foundation for bipartisan talks. Possible GOP point people in the House include Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Raul Labrador of Idaho. In the Senate, a new Republican entrant to the conversation is Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, a tea party favorite with credibility among House conservatives.

“Republicans understand that if we don’t get serious about doing this, we’ll be relegated to a permanent minority,” said Labrador, a Puerto Rico native and former immigration lawyer.

The conservative activists coming to town this week are hoping that a dose of pragmatism can have an effect on what has been an in­trac­table issue.

“Those who feel strengthened by the election outcome have to be able to restrain themselves from trying to push for too much,” said Bob Naerebout, executive director of the Idaho dairy group. “And those who feel weakened because of the election outcome actually need to realize they have to come to the table and be willing to negotiate in good faith a bill that has the potential of passing.”

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Norquist Makes Economic Case for Immigration Reform

Press Release, October 12, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS — On Friday, conservative activist Grover Norquist addressed more than 80 leaders from across the Midwest to discuss the need for common-sense immigration solutions. Mr. Norquist was the keynote speaker at the Midwest Summit: Forging a New Consensus on Immigrants and America, the first immigration summit in the Midwest to convene faith, law enforcement and business leaders from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Workable immigration policies are vital to the region’s future. The Midwest economy cannot prosper without a steady influx of new residents to offset the aging population and the net outmigration of the available workforce. That’s why some areas in the Midwest are looking at immigration as an opportunity to ease population loss, revive farms and business and stimulate economic growth.

At a time of heightened polarization of the immigration issue and in the midst of a major election, leaders from the Midwest are leading the way on finding a political middle ground on immigration.

The statements below can be attributed to the following speakers at the Midwest Summit:

Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform:
“Immigration is the most important thing to focus if you’re concerned about America as an economic power. Not only is it good policy to have dramatically more immigrants in the U.S. than we do today and a path for those who are here; it’s also good politics. In fact, restrictionist policies are bad electoral policies.”

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller:
“State governments are understandably frustrated with the failure of the federal government to perform its duty establishing immigration policy and enforcing existing immigration laws. Our hope is that a candid discussion of the impact on states and communities will help refocus attention on states’ needs in terms of public safety, education and commerce as leaders reform U.S. immigration policies, consistent with our constitutional principles.”

Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals:
“There is a massive shift on immigration that is occurring within the evangelical churches in America. We discovered that when pastors of our churches teach what the bible says, people’s attitudes change on immigration. If people read about what the Old Testament says on welcoming the stranger, people change their minds.”

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, State of Utah:
“In Utah, law enforcement officers do not want to become ICE agents because they feel that is not their responsibility. Police officers are already busy doing their jobs and do not want an extra burden. As law enforcement officers, we believe that punitive immigration laws are actually harmful to public safety.”

Angela Smith Jones, Director of Public Policy, Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce:
“Immigrants create jobs, they boost American productivity and they help businesses stay competitive. In the Midwest, declining populations have reduced the number of available workers, creating a huge gap in the workforce. This is not even an immigrant issue. It’s an American issue. “

Jim Partington, Executive Director, Nebraska Restaurant Association:
“Immigrants are the backbone of America’s restaurants. A rational immigration policy is essential to our industry’s continued growth. Immigrants not only make up a large portion of the restaurant industry’s workforce, but they also make significant contributions as consumers in our nation’s restaurants and as entrepreneurs, incorporating ethnic and cultural influences as they start up restaurants of their own.”

Chief James Hawkins, Garden City Kansas:
“Our police department believes that everyone should be treated fairly and equitably regardless of their immigration status. We are committed to establish a positive relationship with our community or we will not be able to solve our community’s issues. To undo 30 years of gaining the trust of immigrant populations would be disastrous for our police department.”

Steve Tobocman, Director, Global Detroit:
“Immigrants create jobs. They don’t take jobs, and that’s particularly true in Michigan and in Detroit. Michigan is the only state that lost population in the last 10 years. A shrinking population means a poorer, weaker and less competitive Michigan. As we face a rapidly aging population, we really need the energy brought by immigrant workers. Immigration can be a successful strategy to reinvent the economy of the Midwest.”

Sheriff Mark C. Curran, Jr., Lake County, Illinois:
“If you want to keep the larger community safe, you need to have a relationship with the immigrant community so they have the trust and confidence to report crimes. We don’t need higher deportation levels; we need to fix the system as it exists.”

Carl Ruby, Vice President for Student Life, Cedarville University:
“Cedarville University is a very conservative university, but our student body recognizes that immigration is a spiritual issue and a civil rights issue. We hosted the first G92 immigration conference in Ohio. It was a student-led initiative to talk about the importance of showing compassion to immigrants, whether they are documented or not. We found that the young generation of students is more open to immigration reform and more likely to advocate on behalf of immigrants.”

Ali Noorani, Executive Director, National Immigration Forum:
“The winds of the immigration debate are changing. From the Midwest to the Southeast to the Mountain West, people who wear badges, run businesses and carry bibles are building a new consensus on immigrants and America.”

Videos from today’s Midwest Summit will be available soon at the Forging a New Consensus website: You can also follow the conversation on Twitter at #MidwestSummit.

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Evangelical Leaders Comment on STEM Debate

Press Release, September 20, 2012

STEM Encouraging, but Not Enough
Faith values call for comprehensive immigration reform

Washington, D.C. — The following is a statement from the evangelical leaders listed below on the recent proposals by Democrats and Republicans in Congress to provide green cards to graduates with advanced degrees in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

“We support legal immigration that meets the needs of every segment of American society. We acknowledge the current efforts by Representatives Smith and Lofgren to achieve this for high skilled immigrants. This is an encouraging first step in the right direction in fixing a broken immigration system.

“However, these efforts do not fully address our nation’s immigration crisis. We encourage business to join people of faith in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform. This is a moment in our country’s history where business, people of faith, and a majority the American public already agree that it is time to fix the broken system. 

“We continue to urge lawmakers to enact just immigration reform that: Respects the God-given dignity of every person; Protects the unity of the immediate family; Respects the rule of law; Guarantees secure national borders; Ensures fairness to taxpayers; and Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents. We urge our nation’s leaders to work together with the American people to pass immigration reform that embodies these key principles and that will make our nation proud.”

Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals
Stephan Bauman, President and CEO, World Relief
David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World
Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association
Reverend Luis Cortés Jr., President, Esperanza
Robert Gittelson, Co-Founder, Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition
Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners

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Evangelical Leaders Celebrate Implementation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

Press Release, August 14, 2012

Temporary Relief Cited as First Step toward Real Reform

Contact: Tim King, Sojourners

Washington, D.C.On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security is scheduled to begin accepting applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an initiative that will temporarily remove the threat of deportation from certain young people who were brought to the United States as children and allow them to apply for a work permit. The following are statements from evangelical leaders:

Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals
“Tomorrow dreams come true for young immigrants who have grown up in America. Now let us all dream of our country with new immigration laws of opportunity and justice for all.”

Stephan Bauman, President and CEO, World Relief
“We are encouraged today that the administration has released guidelines on deferred action. These new guidelines are a step forward in formalizing this relief and helping ensure immigrants are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous, unauthorized legal service providers. World Relief’s network of Board of Immigration Appeals–recognized offices will be working alongside our church partners to provide accurate information and authorized legal assistance through this process. We strongly encourage those seeking assistance to ensure that they consult with a specialized immigration attorney or a nonprofit organization that is recognized by the federal Board of Immigration Appeals, and we encourage local churches to make referrals to such organizations rather than to provide well-meaning but potentially harmful legal advice and assistance. We continue to hope that Congress will have the courage to pass broader, more permanent reforms of our broken immigration system.” 

Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association
“With the new guidelines out for deferred deportation of our ‘Dreamers,’ there is a new urgency to continue working and praying for comprehensive reform of our broken immigration system.”

The Reverend Luis Cortes, Jr., President, Esperanza
Tomorrow, August 15, 2012, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will begin accepting deferred action applications from immigrant youth who arrived in this country as children. While this process will no doubt open doors for many, those individuals who submit false or misleading information, or who apply despite being ineligible, will be putting themselves in serious danger of deportation. Esperanza strongly encourages potential applicants to seek reliable, trustworthy advice to ensure that they obtain the many benefits that this process affords. Spanish-speaking applicants in particular need to remember that, unlike in many Hispanic countries, notary publics, or notarios, are not authorized to provide legal advice and cannot help fill out the deferred action application. Unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous practitioners who are eager to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity for their own personal gain. We want to warn immigrants: Do not be scammed or tricked into filing an application with false information and do not pay money for services that seem “too good to be true.” If necessary, seek the advice of an experienced immigration attorney or a BIA-accredited representative at a nonprofit organization.”

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
“We applaud the Obama Administration for taking this bold first step on behalf of our young people. Now we urge Congress to keep pressing forward to pass a new immigration policy that will meet the needs of the 21st century.

“As DHS launches the deferred action process on Wednesday, August 15th, over 1 million American-raised young immigrants will be empowered to personally grow and simultaneously serve our nation via the academy, military service, work and other significant contributions. A website is available to answer questions and provide up-to-date information regarding deferred action and work permits, and it will help eliminate the fears and concerns of the parents of the Hispanic youth who may feel they are in danger of retribution in subsequent months. We affirm the process and we encourage churches and faith leaders to walk with our youth and assist in addressing legal and financial concerns. For as these children benefit from deferred action, our nation will come to realize that they represent not a burden but a blessing to the collective American experience.”

Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners
“Hope is not often the result of political decisions in Washington. But, the Obama Administration’s recent decision to defer action against undocumented young people who came to this country as children with their parents is one of the most hopeful government actions in many years. The application process on deferred action, released today, will help almost a million young people to be eligible for work permits and take them out of the deportation pipeline, easing their burden tremendously. This, and other courageous decisions, is what could begin to restore citizens’ confidence and trust in our government. This is also one piece to the broader solution that’s needed to fix our country’s impracticable immigration system, as there will still remain millions of undocumented immigrants in the country.”

Robert Gittelson, Co-Founder, Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
“The date of 8/15/12 will prove to be momentous in the lives of those fortunate few young and high-achieving men and women who will be allowed to emerge out of the shadows of our society. But even as we are joyful for these few, we remain anxious for the many. While the president’s implementation of deferred action for young people who were brought here as children is merciful, we are reminded that it is also temporary. While it is a step forward, we wonder where we are being led, or even if we are being led at all. This action is a Band-Aid where major surgery is actually required. So while we celebrate for this small minority of the undocumented population, we pray for the vast majority that remain hidden in the shadows. The date of 8/15/12 is a bittersweet reminder that, to date, we have no leadership from either party in Washington toward the actual goal of a comprehensive and permanent solution to our immigration crisis. We pray that 2013 brings courage and wisdom to our leaders, so that they can, once and for all, solve this issue through just, balanced and judicious legislation.”

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Alberto Gonzales: Immigration Flip-Flop Worth Political Risk For Mitt Romney

Huffington Post, June 13, 2012

By Elise Foley
June 12, 2012

ATLANTA—After a primary full of hardline statements on immigration, from vowing to veto the Dream Act to promising to encourage “self-deportation,” presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has quieted down on the issue.

It’s not too late for him to speak up with a different message, even if shifting on policy holds its own political risks, Alberto Gonzales, who served as attorney general during the George W. Bush administration, told The Huffington Post on Monday.

“That’s the challenge, of course, that every candidate has, once you stake out a position and you change that position, particularly during a campaign,” he said in an interview at a southeast summit of conservative immigration reform-supporters hosted by National Immigration Forum. “You run the risk that you’re going to be viewed as a flip-flopper, but I’d rather be right on the policy and accused as a flip-flopper than continue to be wrong on the policy.”

Gonzales and other reform-minded conservatives have been critical of the GOP’s rhetoric and policies on immigration, particularly after the reform-friendly Republicans of the Bush era—Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), among others—moved to the right on the issue as state Republicans around the country advanced a flood of legislation targeting unauthorized immigration. The supporters of immigration reform’s main message: Republicans are hurting their standing among Latino voters with their rhetoric, from GOP hardliners advocating for large-scale deportation to Romney’s attacks on Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s law allowing in-state tuition for undocumented students.

Democrats plan to hammer Romney for his past statements on immigration, which remains an important issue to Latinos though it is not their top priority. President Barack Obama already holds a significant advantage with Hispanic voters, and two Obama-supporting groups, Priorities USA Action and the Service Employees International Union, came out with an ad on Monday showing Romney making “extreme” statements on immigration.

“The Republican party has done a terrible job talking about this issue ... whether or not Governor Romney can recover from that remains to be seen,” Gonzales told the roughly 150-person gathering of business, evangelical and law enforcement leaders from the southeast.

Romney could improve his lot among Latino voters by shifting away from phrases like “self-deportation” and policies that would drive out the undocumented, Gonzales said, suggesting that the candidate has begun to do so already.

But for the most part, Romney and the Republican National Committee have avoided discussing immigration, preferring to target Latino voters by discussing the economy. Gonzales said he doesn’t disagree with that strategy—jobs and the economy typically rank as the top issue for Latino voters—but he doesn’t think the GOP should hide from immigration, particularly if it wants to talk about frustration over Obama’s broken promises.

“My concern is that they would like to do that,” he told The Huffington Post. “I don’t know. As I travel the country, I find a lot of Hispanics who are interested in learning where Governor Romney is on this issue.”

Other conservative leaders at the conference, all of whom support comprehensive immigration reform, said they hope Romney will come out with a plan to deal with undocumented immigrants in a broader way than he discussed during the primary campaign.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, a Republican and strong proponent of comprehensive immigration reform, said there is proof within the states that being pro-immigrant isn’t a death knell for GOP politicians. In Utah, where legislators, including Republicans, passed an immigration bill with enforcement and pro-immigrant provisions, there was outrage from hardliners. But when voters had the chance to oust GOP members who supported the law, they didn’t—instead, some of the opponents of the law lost their primaries.

“The message is, to national candidates, to Republicans, to Congress, that you’re pandering to the wrong crowd in the party. You really are,” he said. “You can do what’s just, fair, comprehensive. That’s what the majority of Republicans in this country want.”

If Romney wants to come back toward the center on immigration, he can do so, Shurtleff said.

“It’s going to be rough, because he was so strong,” he said, referring to Romney’s statements on immigration during the primary. “I think he does it by saying, ‘Look, I’m listening to other voices now within the party, to the [Sen.] Marco Rubios of the party, and realizing how important the Latino vote is to the general election.’”

Rubio, a Republican from Florida and potential vice presidential pick, plans to soon introduce a bill that would allow some young undocumented immigrants to gain legal status if they met certain requirements and attended college or joined the military. The bill would not provide them with an eventual path to citizenship.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said he believes Republicans are ready to see politicians address the issue. If Romney supports Rubio’s upcoming legislation, it would be a step in the right direction, he said.

“Frankly, I think the country is ahead of its elected leaders on this issue, Democrat and Republican,” Land said. “Wherever I go, I find people are anxious to have a fair and just settlement to this issue.”

There is evidence that voters as a whole support reform, particularly when it comes to undocumented young people. About half of Latino voters support Rubio’s framework for dealing with undocumented immigrants, far outpaced by a decade-old plan that passed in the House in 2010. That bill, the full Dream Act, would allow some eligible young people to earn a green card, and potentially citizenship, under certain guidelines. A poll released last week by Latino Decisions found that 87 percent of Latino voters support the Democratic framework for the Dream Act. A majority of non-Latino voters, 62 percent, also support the Democratic framework over the plan laid out by Rubio.

Uvalda, Ga., Mayor Paul Bridges said he would prefer to see Romney support the full Dream Act and oppose Rubio’s plan. Bridges is a conservative Republican, but found himself in the middle of the immigration debate when he joined a class-action lawsuit against Georgia’s immigration law last year. Bridges said he hasn’t seen a new tone from Romney on immigration yet, but he still hopes to.

“I’m waiting for it,” he said. “I would love to see him shift, and I’m not by myself. ... He’s going to have to come back toward the center on immigration.”

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Georgia’s Accidental Immigration Activist

FOX News Latino, June 13, 2012

By Elizabeth Llorente
Published June 11, 2012

Atlanta, Ga. –  He’s a 60-year-old self-styled conservative Republican who long has lived in a farming area in south Georgia.

Life for Paul Bridges was about work, his family and his three goats – Susan, Clarissa and Bridget – who he milks at least twice a day.

When Bridges heard snippets about a plan that fellow Republican lawmakers in his state were working on to crack down on illegal immigration, he was firmly in favor of the idea.

“I was all for it,” Bridges says about Georgia’s law, known as HB 87. “We have to know who’s coming across our borders. I thought it would make us safer. I swallowed it, what they said about the law, until I actually read it. This law makes our communities more unsafe by making people afraid [of police].”

“This law makes criminals of ordinary people, people who are very productive in our communities, who participate, parents who have U.S. citizen children.”

And so Bridges, in his third year now as mayor of Uvalda, a 1.9-square-mile town of just 600 people – many tied in one way or another to farming – found himself on the front lines of the fight against his state’s immigration law.

The diehard Republican became the accidental immigration activist – joining forces with groups he opposed on so many levels, disagreed with on so many issues, to fight HB 87. He joined the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center in a lawsuit challenging the Georgia measure.

He testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee last year about the need for comprehensive immigration reform which would tighten immigration laws, border security, but also provide a pathway to legalization. Bridges, a diminutive, plain-spoken man with a down-to-earth mien, also sent a statement to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to rule later this month on Arizona’s controversial immigration law.

He wrote in a recent blog: “I found Georgia’s harsh law so un-American that I joined with unlikely bedfellows to sue the state. Did I ever dream that I would be joining a class action suit with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center? No, but I also didn’t dream my state would go down the awful path of creating felons out of grandparents who have an undocumented in-law or step-grand in their home or automobile.”

Georgia’s law, parts of which were put on hold by the courts, seeks to crack down on undocumented immigrants by empowering police to investigate the immigration status of people they encounter who they suspect could be in the country unlawfully.

The law also calls for, among other things, Georgia businesses to ensure that new hires were eligible to work in this country, and made it a crime to harbor or transport undocumented immigrants.
“I have friends who are undocumented, who have U.S. citizen children,” Bridges says in an interview at a hotel in downtown Atlanta, where he will deliver opening remarks at a summit Monday that will look at immigration issues in the Southeast. “So this law would require me to not let the parents into my house, but let their children in because they’re U.S. citizens.”

People ask Bridges if he is really a Republican, because, they say, he sounds awfully liberal when he talks these days.

Bridges says his talk about how important immigrants – yes, including undocumented ones – are to Georgia’s economy and about how immigration policy isn’t taking into account the nation’s need for their labor is very Republican.

“We Republicans are business supporters, small businesses, especially, are the engine of the economy,” he says. “These state laws try to duplicate federal laws, the Republican idea is not to expand government, not to duplicate laws. Republicans are strong supporters of family values, these laws that deport people who have U.S. citizen children separate families.”

And he notes that presidents who pushed the hardest for immigration reform policies that would allow some undocumented immigrants to legalize their status were Republicans – Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Bridges says he hopes that the one-day summit on Monday will push forward a regional discussion in the Southeast on the need for comprehensive immigration reform that will not be totally about enforcement.

“I hope it gets legislators in other Southern states who might be considering passing a law like Georgia’s to see that there are other, better ways to deal with immigration,” he said.

Bridges says that migrant workers have rapidly disappeared in the state. When the state laws are coupled with federal immigration programs such as Secure Communities that have increased the number of deportations, legal and illegal immigrants are reluctant to work, he says.

“Some of the workers don’t have legal documents and some of them do. But the enforcement-only laws scare all of them,” Bridges said. “Someone here legally doesn’t want to work in a field or ride in a van with somebody illegal, because it could force them to defend themselves in court” if they’re lumped in with the undocumented workers.

The impact of new laws has been immediately evident in Georgia, where the agricultural industry estimates it has lost at least $300 million and as much as $1 billion since laws targeting undocumented immigrants were passed.

“Immigrant workers made our Vidalia onions popular in the country,” says Bridges, who has learned Spanish. “In the 1970’s, we had the mechanism and the way for distribution for our onions, but we didn’t have the skilled labor force, until the migrants came from Mexico.”

“Workers have left,” Bridges says. “I see them packing up. I even know U.S. citizens who have spouses who are undocumented immigrants who are leaving because they’re afraid they’ll get in trouble.”
He’s been told by migrant women in his community that they are afraid to call the police about domestic violence.

Andrea Hinojosa, executive director of the Southeast Georgia Communities Project, a Lyons-based group that assists migrant workers, nods knowingly as Bridges describes the fear that Georgia’s law is generating in immigrant communities.

“Women tell me they’re afraid to report domestic violence,” she says. “Police often say to them that they’ll take both them and the man in, and that makes them afraid of calling 911. So they decide they just won’t report the abuse.”

Proponents of tough immigration enforcement balk when they hear about how such laws as those of Georgia and Arizona are driving immigrants out of the state. But proponents of tougher immigration laws have long complained that the undocumented are burdening the state’s public schools, jails and hospitals.

They see “self deportation” as a success, not a problem.

Dan Stein, who heads the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, says that if employers, such as those in agriculture, find themselves short of workers because of these tougher immigration laws, then they must make wages and working conditions more attractive to American workers.

When HB 87 passed last year, the bill’s author, Rep. Matt Ramsey, said: “It’s a great day for Georgia.”

Ramsey, a Republican, told reporters: “We think we have done our job that our constituents asked us to do to address the costs and the social consequences that have been visited upon our state by the federal government’s failure to secure our nation’s borders.”

Such comments exasperate Bridges.

“They’re idiots,” Bridges says evenly.

He sees them as Ivory Tower critics who know little to nothing, he says, about the realities of farming, the demanding nature of the work, the limited ability of many employers to pay their workers more, and – as much as many people don’t like to hear it, he says – the plain refusal of many Americans to do the physically draining labor.

“They don’t see the whole picture,” Bridges says. “I bet Ramsey doesn’t know what’s like to cut an onion.”

The work is intense, he said. During the most intense times, when there’s a small window of time to pick the onions, for instance, workers toil from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

During other seasons the migrants work with blueberries, blackberries and harvesting pine straw for mulch.

Bridges tried working with pine straw once. Once was enough.

“I thought I was going to die, really,” he says. “They take bales out to the field, load them in trucks, there’s dust flying all around, no breeze, it’s 106 degrees. I got out of the truck, I lay down, I just couldn’t do it anymore.”

Georgia was among more than 30 states that considered new laws targeting illegal immigration last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Most of them were modeled after Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070.

Census figures show that Hispanics—who now are the nation’s largest minority group, at 48 million—contributed more to population gains than blacks in 13 of the 16 Southern states over the last decade, compared with seven states for Hispanics from 1990-2000.

Tensions – over immigration, measures proposing English as the official language – have arisen along with the growth of Latino presence in these Southern states.

“Georgia doesn’t really have an ‘immigration problem,’” Bridges says. It’s become an obsession, he says, because of “racism.”

“When you peel everything away – it’s not because of money, it’s not because of love – it’s because they are brown.”

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Immigration must be fixed, leaders agree

Times Free Press (TN), June 13, 2012

by Perla Trevizo
June 12, 2012

ATLANTA —The federal immigration system is broken—that’s the message heard over and over again Monday during the first Southeast immigration summit.

Law enforcement, politicians, faith and community leaders gathered in Atlanta to talk about immigration and its effect on the economy, faith and public safety.

“This is the first time we’ve seen faith, business and law enforcement leaders gather in one place. From here, the next step is to strengthen these relationships,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, the organization behind the event that supports public policies that welcome immigrants and refugees to the United States.

About 150 people attended Forging a New Consensus on Immigrants and America, an all-day summit in which leaders from six states—Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina and Tennessee—discussed immigration in the Southeast, which has increased in states such as Alabama more than 300 percent in a decade, and the need for federal immigration reform.

The consensus from everyone, from local politicians to faith leaders to former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the keynote speaker, was that the immigration system is not working and it’s something that should be addressed by the federal government and not the individual states.

“The immigration process is broken, and our immigration strategy is at best outdated and at worst ineffective,” said Gonzales, the first attorney general of Hispanic heritage. “Achieving the right immigration policy is really hard because it impacts families, foreign policy, national security, the essence of who we are as a country.”

No teeth
State laws really don’t have the “teeth to be able to do anything about [immigration],” said David Pennington, mayor of Dalton, Ga., who attended the summit. Dalton has a Hispanic population of about 48 percent.

States, including Georgia and Alabama, continue to pass legislation to enforce immigration, considered by some as the toughest in the country. But so far this year, the number of bills introduced and passed in state legislatures has decreased, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In the first quarter of 2012, 865 bills and resolutions relating to immigrants and refugees were introduced in 45 state legislatures and the District of Columbia, the group reported, marking a 44 percent decrease over the first quarter of 2011.

And by the end of March, 27 states had enacted 24 laws and adopted 74 resolutions, a decrease of 30 percent from the same time last year.

The rapid change in demographics in the Southeast is one of the leading factors contributing to the increase in immigration-related legislation over the last decade.

“The actual reason why states in Southeast are leading the way is because it’s changing,” said Charles Kuck, an Atlanta-based immigration attorney. “As a country, we love immigrants from the past, but we have never liked current immigrants.”

And most immigrants have come to the Southeast for jobs, so one of the big topics surrounding unauthorized immigration is its impact on employment and documented workers.

Benefits seen
Although it’s hard to come up with concrete numbers, Julie Hotchkiss, a research economist and policy adviser with the Federal Reserve Bank of America, said there is some benefit to companies that hire unauthorized workers. For instance, unauthorized employees are 28 percent less likely to quit a job than documented workers, she said.

And firms that employ undocumented workers survive longer in the market than identical firms that don’t, she said.

Brian Anderson, president of the Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce, said the influx of Hispanics to the Dalton area never affected wages in the manufacturing industry.

“[Companies] hire based on skill sets regardless of where someone was born,” he said. “We have just as many Anglos, born and raised Daltonians, unemployed as there are those who have come from other places.”

Pennington said now is the time for the federal government to act on immigration.

“The immigration flow has basically stopped because of the poor economy in America,” he said. “This is the time to come up with a solution.”

And he supports a solution that involves young unauthorized people, he said.

“Some of our best educated children in Dalton are undocumented immigrants,” he said.

Gonzales, who served under President George W. Bush, urged both sides of the political debate to tone down the rhetoric. He said the country’s immigration policy should include tougher penalties for employees who hire undocumented workers, promote commerce and legal migration.

“An immigration policy that encourages immigrants to come to the United States lawfully is going to help our economy,” he told attendees. “There are some jobs Americans don’t want and some skill jobs Americans are not available for.”

But “Congress will have to decide how long these workers can work, how much they have to pay in taxes,” he said.

Whatever the solution is, the government cannot deport the millions of people already here without authorization, he added.

“It would cripple our economy,” Gonzales said.

Contact staff writer Perla Trevizo at or 423-757-6578.

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Different Dreams: Alberto Gonzales and Marco Rubio

Dallas Morning News, June 13, 2012

By: Gabriel Escobar
June 11, 2012

The grandparents of Alberto Gonzales arrived to work the fields and farms of Texas in the early part of the 20th century, when crossing north was commonplace and immigration was neither legal nor illegal.

Like the hard work that awaited countless Mexicans, migration was just a fact of life on the porous border.

You can see how this family lore shapes the views of Gonzales, the 80th attorney general of the United States. To him the border is more than a pressing policy matter. It is personal history, deeply felt.

That came across today when he addressed the Southeast Summit on Immigration, which is designed to offer an alternative GOP view on this contentious subject.

Gonzales, in the keynote speech, advocated for comprehensive immigration reform and criticized his own party for the tone and tenor of the immigration debate.

Most significantly—and without naming names—he implicitly criticized Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida for offering a Republican version of the Dream Act that would not include eventual legalization for those students who qualify.

Gonzales acknowledged that there is a bipartisan push in Washington to back Rubio’s legislation—in part because it may be the only way to advance this cause. But he also made it clear that this accommodation is shortsighted and punishes those who should be embraced.

“These are precisely the type of individuals we would all want as citizens,” Gonzales told those attending the summit, which is being held in Atlanta and sponsored by the National Immigration Forum.
Rubio’s effort, yet to be introduced, addresses concern among some Republicans that Dream Act beneficiaries would be able to sponsor relatives for residency and citizenship once their own status was formalized.

Rubio’s legislation would leave thousands in a kind of permanent limbo, citizens of nowhere. Gonzales rightly noted that Congress would probably have to revisit the legislation at some point for this very reason. “Do we address it now?” he asked. “Or do we deal with it later?”

A related argument against the full Dream Act is that the parents who brought these children in—the real lawbreakers—would be rewarded. On this front, Gonzales offered something I had not heard before. He suggested that the law be written so that Dream Act beneficiaries could sponsor only spouses or children, explicitly barring their parents from residency. Given the impasse, that seems a reasonable accommodation.

Something else I had not heard before: Gonzales said that during his tenure as AG the Bush administration weighed whether illegal immigrants could be deported en masse, something few think possible.

The answer?

“Let me be clear,” Gonzales said. “Our government is incapable of forcibly removing millions of people.”


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National Immigration Forum, June 12, 2012


June 12, 2012

Atlanta — More than 150 stakeholders from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee convened in Atlanta on Monday for the Southeast Summit: Forging a New Consensus on Immigrants and America. Leaders from the business, law enforcement and faith communities joined this unprecedented gathering in the Southeast to discuss the importance of immigrants and immigration to the region’s economic and cultural vitality and realistic and workable solutions at the federal level.

The Summit took place as the Supreme Court prepares to issue its decision on Arizona’s immigration law, S.B. 1070, which will direct impact Arizona-inspired legislation in Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia.

The statements below can be attributed to the following speakers at the Southeast Summit:

Former U.S. Attorney General and Doyle Rogers Distinguished Chair of Law Alberto Gonzales:
“The Supreme Court will soon decide the fate of Arizona’s immigration law and other similar state-based immigration laws. The Department of Justice is challenging Arizona’s law, arguing that it is intruding on the federal government’s exclusive authority to make and enforce immigration laws. But with authority comes also responsibility, and our national leaders have failed us. It’s time for our federal officials to step up, show leadership and pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

Dr. Richard Land, President, Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission:
“The immigration crisis is the consequence of many factors, including government’s failure to act for more than two decades in a responsible way. If the immigration crisis is going to be resolved fairly and equitably, it is going to require cooperation and effort at every level of government and civic society.”

Larry Wooten, President, North Carolina Farm Bureau:
“Agriculture is a very labor-intensive industry. Farmers across the nation want — and need — an adequate, legal work force. Our immigration system is broken; it can only be fixed at the federal level. We urge Congress to immediately address this issue that is so important for jobs and for our business community.”

Larry A. Godwin, Deputy Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security:
“As law enforcement officers, we are responsible for public safety. In order to reduce crime, there must be open communication with the public. Partnerships with the immigrant community are vital in order to obtain information, build trust, and ensure that justice is served in a fair and prudent manner. “

Ralph Schulz, President and CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce:
“From an economic development perspective, the Chamber encourages government leaders to assess and understand the fiscal reality and business implications of implementing immigration policy changes on the local and state levels. We recognize our immigrant population makes a positive contribution to the economy and is an asset to our state’s global identity as welcoming and inclusive.”

Republican Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff:
“I commend the National Immigration Forum for hosting this conference and bringing together diverse communities of business, faith and law enforcement to discuss concerns and to share best practices. I call on Congress to step up to the plate, do the right thing and fix our broken immigration system with comprehensive, just and pragmatic reform. I also ask my fellow Republicans nationwide to follow Utah’s example and work across party lines in a uniquely American way to find practical solutions to ensure fair treatment under the law for all.”

Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami, Fla.:
“It is vital that we continue the dialogue on immigration if we want to solve the problem. The current system is untenable and violates basic God-given rights granted to all human beings.”

Republican Mayor Paul Bridges, Uvalda, Ga.:
“I am the mayor of a Georgia town directly impacted by state-based immigration legislation. We have to find out how to move immigration back to the federal level, where it belongs. Today’s solutions-oriented Summit is not a gathering of an isolated group; we have a true consensus in the U.S. on immigration.”

Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum:
“Thoughtful, practical leaders from across the Southeast gathered today to forge a new consensus on immigrants and America. Congress must heed the call of faith, law enforcement and business leaders across the nation who seek a federal immigration system that serves the needs of every American family. The status quo is undermining our prosperity and competitiveness.”

An interview with Julie Hotchkiss, research economist and policy adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, about her data on the impact of undocumented workers in Georgia is available at:

Videos from today’s Southeast Summit will be available Thursday at the Forging a New Consensus website: You can also follow the conversation on Twitter at #SEsummit.

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The Quiet Ones: 12 Leaders Who Get Things Done

Rolling Stone, June 08, 2012

Mark Shurtleff
Attorney General, Utah

What He’s Done While most Republicans would prefer to demonize “illegals,” Shurtleff has confronted the challenge posed by his state’s undocumented workforce through an initiative called the Utah Compact: a blueprint for “compassionate” immigration reform that calls on the federal government to act, but in the meantime urges local police not to go after illegals, opposes policies that break up families, and recognizes immigrants’ positive roles as workers and taxpayers. The Compact spurred the Republican state legislature to pass a package of reform laws this year, including a program allowing illegal immigrants to live and work openly in the state if they register and pay a fine. Liberal activists have praised Shurtleff and the Compact, and other states are eyeing Utah’s approach as a model of humane, common-sense immigration policy. “You hear constantly that undocumented workers are a drain on our economy,” Shurtleff said. “Well, now we’re seeing evidence that it’s not true. It’s quite the opposite.”

Admirers Say “This is a pragmatic step forward,” says Rosenberg of NDN. “It wasn’t playing into the insanity that we’ve seen in Arizona and Arkansas.”

Enemies Say Eli Cawley, chairman of the Utah Minutemen Project, says Shurtleff has played “a demonic role in reinforcing the grip of the organized-crime cartels over the flow of exploited human beings into our state.”

Gives Us Pause How did Democrats let a conservative Republican from Orrin Hatch’s home state get out in front on this issue?

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Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff hits Republicans on immigration

Politico, June 05, 2012


Utah’s Republican attorney general has blistered his own party’s 2012 presidential candidates for their harsh rhetoric on immigration, which he claims has alientaed Latino voters.

“The party has lost those [Latino] voters,” Mark Shurtleff said at an immigration summit in Salt Lake City Wednesday, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “They aren’t in danger — we’ve lost them.”

The attorney general had been working on an initiative called the Utah Compact, a declaration supported by the Mormon church and intended to set out a list of guidelines for immigration reform.

The Utah Compact has led to a set of bills passed in the state that includes both aggressive illegal immigration enforcement and a program that allows undocumented immigrants to work in the state if they register.

“The success of the Utah Compact has put the spotlight on Utah,” said Shurtleff, according to The Associated Press. “Now we have an opportunity to affect the national immigration debate in a really positive way.”

The measures are effective and helpful, Shurtleff argued, because illegal immigrants have a positive effect on the economy.

“You hear constantly that undocumented workers are a drain on our economy. Well now we are seeing evidence that that it’s not true. It’s quite the opposite,” he said, according to ABC4.

Read more:

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States talk immigration economics at Utah summit

AP via The Seattle Times, June 05, 2012

As more states consider stronger immigration laws, political, business and religious leaders from throughout the West examined the economic impact of enforcement measures and guest-worker programs during a one-day summit Wednesday in Salt Lake City.

Participants generally opposed the strict enforcement laws passed in Alabama and Arizona. Instead, they pointed to a package of bills passed in Utah that included an enforcement law modeled on Arizona’s but balanced by a program that will allow illegal immigrants to work and pay taxes in Utah if they register with the state.

The law does not protect them from federal prosecution; the state is looking for a federal solution before the law goes into effect in 2013.

The Utah guest worker program was a key component of the Utah Compact, an initiative pushed as a more compassionate way to handle immigration.

“The success of the Utah Compact has put the spotlight on Utah,” Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said. “Now we have an opportunity to affect the national immigration debate in a really positive way.”

In Idaho, lawmakers have backed away from passing their own immigration laws, in part because of the potential impact on the state’s agricultural businesses. That is preferable to passing laws that are not “well thought out,” said Brent Olmstead, a lobbyist for the Idaho Business Coalition on Immigration Reform.

“We’d like to see at minimum a guest worker program where the supply of that labor meets the demand, and addresses in some way the workers who are already here,” Olmstead said.

The impact of new laws has been immediately evident in Georgia, where the agricultural industry estimates it has lost at least $300 million and as much as $1 billion since laws targeting illegal immigrants were passed earlier this year.

A federal judge has put parts of Georgia’s law on hold, including provisions allowing police to check the immigration status of people without proper identification. But other aspects of the law went into effect this summer, such as making it a felony in Georgia to use false information or documentation when applying for a job.

Migrant workers have rapidly disappeared in the state, said Paul Bridges, the mayor of Uvalda in the southern part of Georgia. When the state laws are coupled with federal immigration programs such as Secure Communities that have increased the number of deportations, legal and illegal immigrants are reluctant to work.

“Some of the workers don’t have legal documents and some of them do. But the enforcement-only laws scare all of them,” Bridges said. “Someone here legally doesn’t want to work in a field or ride in a van with somebody illegal, because it could force them to defend themselves in court” if they’re lumped in with the illegal workers.

Warren Klug of the Aspen, Colorado, Chamber Resort Association emphasized that the importance of immigrants extends beyond the “hard labor” jobs. There are also many immigrants getting higher education degrees legally who are forced to leave the country and take their skills elsewhere.

Others scheduled to speak during the summit are representatives of companies based in Idaho, Colorado and Utah as well, as religious leaders from Wyoming and Washington state.


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Are those tea cups rattlin?

Dallas Morning News, October 28, 2011

By Gabriel Escobar / Editorial Writer

Mark Shurtleff, the attorney general in Utah and a Republican, is a law and order man with a crisp and catchy motto: Protecting Utah, Protecting You. But on the subject of immigration, you don’t get what you might expect.

He doesn’t like the enforcement-only philosophy espoused by many in his party. He also opposes the local immigration laws passed in Georgia, Alabama and perhaps in the near future a neighborhood near you (and not a Minuteman too soon for my many fans out there). That’s a job for the feds, says the AG.

He’s not soft. Securing the border is number one on a list of five Shurtleff keys to immigration reform. But it’s his humane view of the illegal immigrant–that would be Key #3–that really sets him apart from the tea partiers and the GOP presidential candidates cozying up to their table.

“The root of the illegal immigration problem is economic. People come to this country and remain illegally in order to feed their families,” Shurtleff said in blog posting last year. “In doing so they work hard and do jobs that are essential to our economy. Any sustainable solution needs to address the needs of industry. Public policy that ignores economics is not sustainable. Creating economic incentives for industry and immigrants to do the right and legal thing is a sustainable ”

(Now this is also roughly the position of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but since that august group is keeping it sort of secret these days, on account of all the GOP strife over immigration, let’s not say it too loudly.)

His contrarian activism led to the Mountain West Immigration Summit, which he hosted this week. In his opening remarks, he told the gathered to ignore all those who blame economic woes on illegal immigrants. “What they are doing with enforcement only,” he said without naming names such as or own Lamar Smith, “is hurting this country and tearing us further apart.”

The heresy doesn’t end there. It turns out that the Quixotic Shurtleff is the driving force behind the Utah Compact, an intelligent, sane and reasonable approach to immigration that of course stands no chance of going anywhere anytime soon. Like the keys above, the compact has five points and again includes a possibly fatal humanistic view of those sin papeles.

“Immigrants are integrated into communities across Utah. We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion. The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors. Utah should always be a place that welcomes people of goodwill.”

What is this man thinking?

Does he not bend to the shifting winds?

Can he not hear the tea cups rattling?

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