Efforts from a delegation of Arizona religious leaders to lobby Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) on immigration reform yesterday were dismissed by the congressman, who said that border control is his top priority on the issue.
"They want comprehensive immigration reform, and I explained to them that we have to secure the borders first," McCain told Politico on Thursday afternoon. "I explained to them and showed them - told them about 2008 when I ran for president that my position was we had to secure the borders first."
The group of leaders, which included protestant and Catholic bishops, a rabbi, a megachurch pastor and a statewide ecumenical leader, thought they could make ground with McCain based on his previous support of immigration reform in 2007.
"I understand the politics of his race. But the bigger picture is the legacy he can leave. He understands the border, the needs for comprehensive immigration reform, and he understands how to make it happen," Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church told Politico.
But while the group's efforts with McCain and other Washington officials fell short of expectations, the leaders remain strong in their call for legislation that addresses the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States, especially on the issue of keeping families together.
Bishop Gerald Kicanas of the Tucson Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church told the Catholic News Service (CNS) that legislation should include "an earned pathway to citizenship, not amnesty but an earned path," as well as ways to keep families together because "the family is the nucleus of society and any breakdown of family life causes problems."
"Illegal immigration is not good for anyone," Kicanas said. "It's not good for someone dying in the desert, trying to come into this country to work. It's not good for country to not know who is entering the country. We need legal avenues, which would prevent the difficulties we currently face."
Along with Carcaño and Kicanas, other members of the delegation included the Rev. Monsignor Richard William O'Keefe, Episcopal Vicar of Yuma - La Paz Vicariate Immaculate Conception Parish; the Rev. Dr. Gary D. Kinnaman, pastor of City of Grace Church, and Chairman; the Rev. Jan Olav Flaaten, executive director of the Arizona Ecumenical Council; Rabbi John Andrew Linder of Temple Solel in Scottsdale, Arizona; and Joseph David Rubio, lead organizer for Industrial Areas Foundation in Arizona.
Meanwhile, a recent poll from the Pew Research Center showed that 59 percent of Americans are in support of Arizona's strict immigration law, while only 32 percent disapprove of it.
Notably, the poll finds that 73 percent of Americans are in support of the laws' provision that requires migrants to produce documents verifying their legal status if police ask for them.
Furthermore, two-thirds (67%) approve of allowing police to detain anyone who cannot verify their legal status, while 62% approve of allowing police to question people they think may be in the country illegally.