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Building Momentum for a Roadmap to Citizenship

As bipartisan leaders in Congress move toward introducing immigration reform legislation, possibly as early as this week, momentum has been building for a roadmap to earned citizenship for aspiring Americans who are here without authorization.

The need for such a path is clear: We are a nation of immigrants, and all of us share the values of freedom and hard work—no matter where we were born. More and more, this sentiment transcends political boundaries and unites voters of all stripes.

What’s different this time around? Voices that have been relatively quiet during immigration reform debates in the past are speaking up. Take, for example, the Evangelical Immigration Table, a group of evangelical leaders from all parts of the political spectrum.

In June 2012, the Table launched and released a statement of principles for immigration reform. And in March, once the discussion about reform began to delve into details, evangelical leaders made a clear call for a road to earned citizenship. They point out that the American ideals of accountability, hard work, and human dignity leave no room for permanent second-class status.

Evangelicals are not the only new (or newly raised) voices speaking out in favor of citizenship. Law enforcement leaders want communities where no one is afraid to call the police because of his or her status—and where officers can focus all of their attention on community safety, rather than being distracted by enforcing federal immigration laws. And business leaders, from small business owners to tech entrepreneurs to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have sent a clear message that reform that truly brings people out of the shadows will mean a shot in the arm for American ingenuity and the American economy.

Most recently, these “Bibles, Badges, and Business” leaders have been holding events around the country during Congress’s two-week Easter recess to reinforce their support for reform—and to urge quick action now that Congress is back in session.

Only with citizenship can all families live without fear of separation. Only with its promise will aspiring Americans be able to contribute fully to our economy and our communities. And only then, with all of us working together to honor our history as a nation of immigrants, will America realize its full potential.

Constituencies across the political map recognize these truths. Thanks to their voices, Republicans and Democrats alike are realizing that as they strive to create a new and better immigration process, including a roadmap to citizenship is not only good policy—it’s good politics.

National Immigration Forum is a grantee of the Open Society Foundations.

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