Obama to Uchtdorf, faith leaders: My hands are tied on immigration reform

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama met with President Dieter F. Uchtdorf and other religious leaders Tuesday morning to discuss the importance of taking action on immigration reform and told them a permanent solution lies in the hands of Congress.

Pres. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was one of nine religious leaders invited to meet with Obama. The leaders talked about how the failure in the immigration system has negatively affected their church members and communities.

Obama told the leaders he's concerned about the pain families feel when they are forced to separate because of the current immigration system, a White House press release said.

Following the meeting, the LDS Church released a statement regarding the church's policy on immigration, saying,

“In 2011 the Church publicly endorsed the principles of the Utah Compact as a responsible approach to dealing with the complex issue of immigration reform. The foundational principles on which the Church’s position is based are:

  • We follow Jesus Christ by loving our neighbors. The meaning of “neighbor” includes all of God’s children, in all places, at all times.
  • We recognize an ever-present need to strengthen families. Families are meant to be together. Forced separation of working parents from their children weakens families and damages society.
  • We acknowledge that every nation has the right to enforce its laws and secure its borders. All persons subject to a nation’s laws are accountable for their acts in relation to them."

Religious leaders present at the meeting:
  • Dr. Russell Moore, Southern Baptist Convention, Nashville, TN
  • JoAnne Lyon, General Superintendent, The Wesleyan Church
  • Dr. Noel Castellanos, CEO, CCDA, Chicago, IL
  • Suzii Paynter, Executive Coordinator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (Atlanta, GA)
  • Dieter Uchtdorf, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City
  • Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell, Windsor Village United Methodist Church, Houston, TX
  • Rev Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ, Cleveland, OH
  • Luis Cortes, President, Esperanza

President Uchtdorf is a German immigrant and U.S. citizen who was a refugee in World War II and has personal experience with the complications of the current laws, the church press release said. He reiterated the church's position and said immigration laws should “reflect the best of our aspirations as a just and caring society.”

“Such laws will properly balance love for neighbors, family cohesion and the observance of just and enforceable laws,” President Uchtdorf said.

Luis Cortes, president of the Hispanic faith-based organization Esperanza, and one of the religious leaders in the meeting, told the Associated Press that Obama said "he would not be doing anything to change the law as it currently exists."

However, according to the White House press release, Obama told the faith leaders that while his administration can take steps to start the reformation, only Congress has the power to find a permanent solution for reforming immigration laws.

This meeting comes on the heels of local religious leaders in Utah expressing their support for immigration reform, saying the current laws are unjustly separating families and even killing people who die trying to get into the country illegally.

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Tracie Snowder


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