Carolyn Kaster, ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON — Congress has a window of opportunity to approve common-sense immigration reform and should act, faith leaders, including President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Tuesday after meeting with President Barack Obama.
"The president mentioned in our conversation in the Oval Office he would not use executive orders through the summer because he hopes Congress can find a solution," President Uchtdorf told the Deseret News. "Executive orders aren't permanent. A law can provide a comprehensive, common-sense solution.
"I think there is a window of opportunity now."
Obama and the faith leaders, not always allies, found common ground in immigration reform and the need for it to come from Congress rather than the White House.
"It was good to be with them," President Uchtdorf said of the other leaders. "In many ways we sometimes disagree, but on this matter, common-sense immigration reform, we all agree. We hope the gospel principles of faith, hope and charity will apply to any solution."
That agreement is unique among American religious communities, another leader who attended the meeting said at a news briefing afterward.
“For the first time we have in this country the entire religious community — Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Baha’i — all the major denominations and churches and religious bodies of this country believe that it is a moral imperative that we get immigration reform done,” the Rev. Luis Cortes, president of Esperanza, a nonprofit law office and Hispanic Christian network serving immigrants.
“It is the first and only political issue in this country where we all agree.”
President Uchtdorf shared key points from the 2010 Utah Compact, something he did a year ago in a similar meeting with the president and other faith leaders. At that time, he called the compact a pillar of federal immigration reform.
Tuesday, President Uchtdorf shared the principles behind the compact, which he called a "very responsible program of common-sense immigration reform."
"Our principle, I declared to the president, is that we love our neighbor, which means we love all people, in all places and at all times," President Uchtdorf said. "One of the core values we stand for is families. The separation of families (in U.S. immigration policy) isn't helping."
President Uchtdorf is a citizen of both Germany and the United States, "and I'm proud of it," he said. He said he twice was a refugee during World War II in Germany as a boy and understands the hardships many immigrants face.
He reiterated the important place border security has in the Utah Compact and the LDS Church's stance.
"One of the major pillars is the right to bring and enforce laws, using the rule of law, that enforce our borders," President Uchtdorf said. "First we need a just and caring law balanced with the values and principles that we love our neighbors, that families stay together, and enforce just and compassionate laws."
Role of faith
Bishop John Wester, Catholic bishop of Salt Lake City, hailed the meeting, which didn't include a Catholic representative.
"We're absolutely pleased the meeting took place and pleased other faith leaders like President Uchtdorf are working with the president and pushing forward immigration reform," Bishop Wester said.
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