Last week, Janet Napolitano delivered her first speech on immigration reform in her capacity as the Secretary of Homeland Security. While she denied that it marked the official beginning of the Obama Administration's push for immigration reform -- "it actually began months ago" -- it is significant that up until this point, there had been a noticeable (and perhaps understandable, given the prominence of the health-care debate) dearth of comment from the White House.
Comprehensive immigration reform has, in the words of Secretary Napolitano, "been punted from year to year, from Congress to Congress, from administration to administration," and the need for reform has not diminished in the slightest: immigrant families continue to be adversely affected by a dysfunctional immigration system, and employers willing to flout the law in order to hire cheap workers continue to undercut the labor market.
There are signs of hope: leaders in the law enforcement, business, and labor communities all recognize that comprehensive immigration reform is desperately needed in America; and people of faith on both sides of the political spectrum have stood up in support of humane immigration laws. But as we saw with the health-care debate, even a concerted recognition of the need for reform does not guarantee the necessary change.
As in the health-care debate, we are pushing not only for an end to unproductive and divisive rhetoric that exaggerates and distorts the facts, but also for real and comprehensive reform that emphasizes the value of every person -- immigrant or otherwise -- as made in the image of God and worthy of respect.
Tomorrow evening, we get to see another encouraging sign of the growing movement for comprehensive immigration reform: Rep. Luis Gutiérrez -- who is spearheading the effort for reform on Capitol Hill -- will be hosting a conference call, and will have a special message for people of faith who are engaged in this issue. Join with us in that conversation.