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Catholic Bishops Set to Lobby Lawmakers on Immigration Overhaul

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Faith leaders are ramping up their lobbying of lawmakers, pushing them to pass an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws as the window is rapidly closing for the House to act this year.  

On May 29, members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration will take to Capitol Hill to make their case to members of Congress.  

Participants will hail from parts of the country where immigration is an especially hot-button issue: Las Cruces, N.M.; Tucson, Ariz.; and Miami. Bishops from Salt Lake City and Seattle will also be present. Eusebio Elizondo, the auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the bishops' Committee on Migration, said participation at a Mass in early April at the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona was revelatory.  

"Our trip to the border opened our eyes, even more than previously, to the human tragedies generated by our immigration system," Elizondo said in a statement. "Bringing our experience, as well as the solidarity and spirit we felt as residents on both sides of the border, to our lawmakers in Washington is a natural next step."  

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration's visit will come on the heels of a lobby day recently convened on Capitol Hill by a group of evangelical pastors  who urged primarily House Republicans to act on immigration before the end of the 113th Congress.  

Both groups face a difficult task when it comes to changing minds or spurring action. California GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher was visited by some of the evangelical pastors a few weeks ago, and the staunch opponent of overhauling the immigration code parted ways with the activists unconvinced.  

This is what he told CQ Roll Call at the time:

“My response to them was, No. 1, a policy of legalizing the people who are here, the sort of easy way out, would in the long run put 40 million new people into our country, which would change the nature of our country, and that would be a bad thing, not to mention breaking the bank, etc. “Also, my response was that Christian love is not furthered by advocacy of government policy but instead by individual action and commitment. Individual commitment is not individual commitment to changing a government policy, it is to come out and help specific people and people who are in need, and if [the pastors] really wanted to help people who are here illegally or in bad situations they, they want to pay for their health insurance and everything, then I would be saying how wonderful that is. But if they are advocating that the government do that, then it will break our bank and destroy our country.”   Related: Immigration Overhaul for 2014: Decidedly Not Dead Deadline for Immigration Overhaul Is August, Says Diaz-Balart (Video)