Immigration reform advocates are calling on President Barack Obama to convene a bipartisan summit on immigration reform similar to the one that was held during the health care debate in a bid to ensure that comprehensive reform will take place this year.
Federal immigration reform has become all the more urgent, said the Rev. John McCullough, president of charity organization Church World Service (CWS), as Arizona and at least 12 other states move to introduce their own "fixes" to immigration law which threaten to create an "unworkable and contradictory patchwork of local immigration laws that don't serve national security, economic recovery or human rights."
"This is a worrisome trend that may not be easy to reverse if we don't act now," McCullough said in a letter to President Obama. "The worst thing the federal government can do right now is stand by and do nothing as other states follow Arizona's example."
In a letter to members of Congress to garner support for a bipartisan summit, McCullough wrote that, "This is a critical, historic time for the President and Congress to put politics aside, act decisively, and exhibit the moral courage necessary to do what's best for America and enact immigration reform."
February's 6-hour-plus health care summit did little to achieve bipartisan support on health care reform, which ended up passing Congress without a single Republican vote, although the event was seen as a turning point in the debate that gave the Obama administration enough leverage to push the legislation through.
In the meantime, bipartisan support for immigration reform continues to wane in Washington after a meeting on Tuesday between President Obama and a group of Republican senators.
Obama, who asked the GOP to meet him just "a quarter of the way" on immigration reform, blamed the party for "sitting on the sidelines" on important issues.
"The day has passed when I expected this to be a full partnership," Obama said, according to the Hill.
On Wednesday, the president announced that he would deploy 1,200 National Guard troops to the Mexican border in an effort to gain cooperation from Republicans like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) who say that the border must be secured before reform can take place.
"The violence has crossed the border and escalated to a point where many Arizonans do not feel safe within their own homes or on their own property," McCain wrote to Obama last week, according to the Washington Post. "It would be irresponsible not to do everything we can to stop the escalating violence along the border with Mexico."
But while political wrangling in Washington continues, McCullough and other faith leaders are concerned that time is running out.
"The alternatives to immigration reform are few: an increase in the enforcement apparatus, which would take attention away from the real dangers the U.S. faces today; massive deportation, which would cost billions, cause economic ruin and would be a moral injustice, or inaction, which would perpetuate the suffering, hardship and endless spending caused by the broken immigration system," McCullough said.
"If nothing is done to halt the implementation of Arizona's S.B. 1070 and comprehensive immigration reform gets delayed once again, we risk entering into a different phase of our history where racial profiling and discrimination become more the norm than the exception," he concluded.