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Interfaith coalition launches to help immigrants

WASHINGTON (JTA) —  A top Reform movement leader joined other faith leaders and members of Congress to urge the enactment of comprehensive immigration reform.

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition called on Congress and the Obama administration to adopt a "humane and equitable" immigration policy by the end of 2009.

"This issue has a special resonance for the Jewish people," Rabbi David Saperstein, the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said Wednesday afternoon at news conference on Capitol Hill. "Throughout history, the Jewish community has been the quintessential immigrant community, often forced to flee from land to land to land. Having struggled to adjust to societies that did not welcome our arrival, we understand many of the challenges faced by today’s immigrants."

The coalition called for a policy that would include upholding family unity as a priority, creating a process for undocumented immigrants to earn legal status and eventual citizenship, restoring due process protections and reforming detention policies and aligning the enforcement of immigration laws with humanitarian values.

The group also said it was launching an education and advocacy campaign through its member organizations and congregations throughout the country.

Saperstein said he would be speaking about the issue to about 700 high school students at a  National Federation of Temple Youth conference this weekend in Washington. He was the only Jewish leader who spoke at the news conference, but the coaltion includes the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and virtually every other major Jewish organization.

U.S. Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) emphasized the importance of preserving "family unity" in any immigration reform. He added that faith-based institutions are places that "really care about immigrants and where immigrants have true power."

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