U.S. churches body joins call for immigration reform

(Photo: Reuters / Mario Anzuoni)Members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) United Service Workers West chant before a public viewing of President Barack Obama's speech on immigration in Los Angeles, California Jan. 29, 2013.

An ecumenical group that brings together major U.S. churches and denominations has joined lawmakers and President Barack Obama in calling immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for 11 million immigrants in the United States illegally.

Churches Together in the U.S.A. - which represents leadership from Catholic, Evangelical/Pentecostal, traditonal  Protestant, Orthodox, and historic black churches - issued its call on Friday at the end of a four–day gathering in Austin, Texas.

"As Christian leaders and Christian communities, we engage in this debate as followers of Jesus Christ, who commanded us to 'welcome the stranger,' and advised that 'just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me," the group said in a statement.

The group also criticized the current immigration system.

"Each day in our congregations and communities, we bear witness to the effects of a system that continues this legacy of separation of families and the exploitation, abuse, and deaths of migrants. This suffering must end.

A diverse group representing the breadth of Christian churches and denominations in the U.S. called for fundamental immigration reform

CTUSA outlined five principles it hopes will be included in the bill An earned path to citizenship for the 11 million people in the United States without authorization.

- The priority of family reunification in any immigration reform.

- Protecting the integrity of our borders and protecting due process for immigrants and their families.

- Improving refugee protection laws and asylum laws.

- Reviewing international economic policies to address the root causes of unauthorized immigration.

Christian Churches Together began in the United States in 2001 as a meeting of church leaders lamenting the lack of one place where diverse U.S. churches could "come together officially to strengthen their unity in Christ and empower their mission."

The group notes CCT is the first national ecumenical group that U.S. Catholics have joined.

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