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Groups announce 40 days of fasting and prayer for immigration reform

A coalition of leaders and members of different religious faiths announced in a teleconference on Monday that they are participating in a Fast Action for Immigration Reform, which will include fasting, prayer and actions from now until October 18th, to send a strong message to Congress on the importance of comprehensive immigration reform.

“There is no more important moral issue that our country is facing today that can make a difference for people,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.  Saying that the Jewish community is “the quintessential immigrant community – looking for lands where our families could live in relative freedom,” Saperstein was one of several religious leaders who is part of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition  sponsoring the 40-day action.

RELATED: Groups announce major national mobilization for immigration reform in October 

Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby, and leader of the group’s Nuns on the Bus, said her organization has traveled 6,800 miles around the country advocating for changing the nation’s immigration laws. Sister Simone, as she is called, said she met a 19-year-old Latina young woman in Phoenix who is the sole caretaker of her 11-year-old U.S.-born twin siblings because their parents were picked up and subsequently deported on their way home from work.  “Families are suffering; it’s urgent because our children are devastated,” she remarked.

The Catholic nun also said immigration changes would be an economic benefit, mentioning a recent National Association of Real Estate Professionals study which found that passing comprehensive legislation is expected to add a pool of 3 million new homeowners.   “It would be a huge benefit to our economy,” she said. Sister Simone added that she heard from residents in North Carolina that their state’s economy improved after immigrants moved there from neighboring states like Alabama which had passed restrictive immigration laws.

At issue is whether Congress – specifically the House – will take up immigration legislation as it resumes work in Washington this week.  Legislators who have been working on immigration reform legislation, including Idaho Republican Rep. Raúl Labrador and Florida Republican Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, have said they are worried that issues like Syria may sideline or delay any immigration discussion in the next few months.

RELATED: Will Syria debate in Congress delay immigration reform?

But in the call today, Arizona Democratic Congressman Raúl Grijalva said, “We are elected to multitask,” saying there is no reason that Congress cannot focus on immigration reform along with other issues. “In my mind it is the most pressing domestic issue we have,” Grijalva added.

Apart from fasting as well as prayer groups, the members of Fast Action for Immigration Reform say they will be active on social media, write op-eds and continue to put pressure on legislators, especially House Republicans.

“We have to create a compassion surge – we have to raise the issue of immigration reform,” said Sister Carol Zinn, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).  “As people of faith we have decided – now is the time.”

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