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Take Up Immigration Reform, Civil Rights Activists Urge Congress

The Rev. Jesse Jackson was among a group of civil- and immigrant-rights leaders in Los Angeles Monday calling on Congress to act on immigration legislation.

“The immigration debate is really about family values,” Jackson said at the downtown headquarters of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “The deportation of 400,000 people is a sin against the founding spirit of America, and if left unchecked, might well undermine the very idea of the American family as we will soon come to know it.’’

Jackson, founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition said immigration is a “moral issue.’’

In June, the U.S. Senate approved immigration legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for millions of people living in the country illegally. But Republican leaders in the House have condemned the bill, with Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, saying it was unlikely to ever come up for consideration.

Jackson and officials from MALDEF and other immigrant-rights groups said a raging congressional debate over ways to avert a government shutdown should not push issues such as immigration and poverty aside.

“Inevitably, new and pressing issues of importance will arise, but that does not excuse the failure of a full-time Congress to address the longstanding and critical issue of immigration reform,’’ according to Thomas Saenz, president of general counsel for MALDEF. “Reforming our current, counter-productive system is a moral and political imperative, and Congress must place top priority on addressing this issue.’’