Mitt Romney is hoping for immigration reform before the 2016 presidential election, he told reporters after a campaign rally for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst in Iowa.
In his 2012 presidential bid Romney was relatively unpopular among Latino voters and other groups that often support immigration reform — he won just 27 percent of the Latino vote, according to Politico — but today Romney represents part of a growing demand within the Republican party to push for reformed immigration laws.
"I do believe it's important for us, before the presidential contest in 2016, to finally have immigration reform in place," Romney said, as reported by The Des Moines Register. "I just don't think it's healthy for the country to continue to have this issue open and unresolved, particularly with so many families that are waiting for the answers."
Romney’s views are not only characteristic of invested Republicans, but of many members of the religious community as well. Romney, an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, garnered the votes of 78 percent of white evangelicals in the 2012 election, The Washington Post reported, and today, many religious institutions are pushing for immigration change.
However, while many in the religious community are hoping to see immigration reform, desired outcomes vary. For example, Romney believes that immigrants who came to the United States illegally "should not be given a special pathway to citizenship or permanent residency," the Register reported, and the official LDS Church stance on immigration, according to Mormon Newsroom, is to support “measures that will allow those who are now here illegally to work legally, provide for their families and become better contributing members of our community—but without establishing a path to citizenship or granting amnesty.”
Meanwhile, groups like the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Presbyterian Church believe in policies such as earned legalization, with The Reverend Gradye Parsons of the Presbyterian Church writing in an October 2013 letter to the U.S. General Assembly that now is the time to "create a pathway to citizenship" for those who arrived in the country illegally and to "eliminate programs" that unite "local law enforcement and federal immigration agencies," among other ideas.
For many religious activists, reforming immigration is based on a desire to keep families together. There are families who have been “waiting for years and years to understand what the status is of those who have come here illegally in the past, and those that want to come here legally to know what their prospects are," Romney told the Register.
In a Mass held on Capitol Hill in May, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski called the nation’s political failure to improve immigration reform “a stain on the soul of our nation,” reported The Washington Post, and a group of prominent Catholic leaders sent an open letter to House Speaker John Boehner.
“Legislative obstruction in the face of preventable suffering and death is not only a failure of leadership. It is immoral and shameful,” the letter said, according to the Post. “The eyes of our God — who hungers for justice and commands us to welcome the stranger and bind the wounds of those left by the side of the road — are on us.”
Bethan Owen is a writer for the Deseret News Moneywise and Opinion sections. Twitter: BethanO2