Catholic bishops push Boehner on immigration

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York sent a letter to Speaker Boehner on Thursday urging the House to pass immigration reform legislation by the end of the year.

“The House has a responsibility to debate and attempt to resolve public policy issues that challenge the nation. Immigration is a challenge that has confounded our nation for years, with little action from our federally elected officials. It is a matter of great moral urgency that cannot wait any longer for action,” Dolan wrote in the letter.

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Dolan serves as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has significant pull on Capitol Hill. 

In the letter, Dolan wrote that the House should pass immigration reform “as soon as possible, ideally prior to the end of the calendar year."

President Obama pressed GOP lawmakers in a statement from the White House last month to do the same, and said he’s open to accepting any immigration legislation as long as it includes a path to citizenship.

Keeping undocumented workers as a permanent underclass, Dolan wrote, is a “stain on the soul of our nation."

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who is Catholic, has not indicated any intentions to move forward on any particular legislation that aims to overhaul the current system. He has repeatedly rejected calls to take up the Senate-passed Gang of Eight bill from June.

Outside groups are also ramping up pressure on Boehner and his Republican caucus. The AFL-CIO and SEIU launched TV ad blitzes on the issue this week, which are airing in D.C. and a number of congressional districts with vulnerable Republicans and large Hispanic populations. 

Three House Republicans recently signed onto Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia’s (Fla.) immigration reform bill — Jeff Denham (Calif.), David Valadao (Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.). 

In September, Dolan wrote in an op-ed for the New York Daily News that Congress had a “once-in-a-generation chance” to pass immigration reform and fix a broken system. 

“Some politicians and policy makers continue to believe that a large number of immigrants who have built lives for themselves in our country nonetheless don't really wish to become a part of America,” Dolan wrote last week in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal.

He argued immigrants would show their commitment to America, if they’re offered a way to become citizens.

“The church will keep pouring resources into helping immigrants demonstrate that commitment, something our leaders should keep in mind as they debate what will become of these Americans in the making.”