At a forum today in Washington, D.C., faith, civic, community and Congressional leaders gathered to rally the immigration reform faithful, endorse Sen. Reid’s (D-NV) DREAM Act amendment, announce the introduction of a forthcoming immigration overhaul bill in the U.S. Senate and a meeting with President Obama this week on immigration. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) announced that he will introduce a comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill—one that addresses the nation’s economic and security needs— presumably during the lame duck session while Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) revealed a meeting between herself, President Obama, Sen. Menendez, and Rep. Gutierrez to discuss immigration, deportations and the DREAM Act. The forum also highlighted personal stories from legal permanent residents (LPRs)—military veterans, mothers, families—and the complications of being caught up in a broken immigration system.

In front of a full house at Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) took to the stage and threw his support behind Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid’s (D-NV) recent announcement that he will put the DREAM Act up for a vote when he attaches it as an amendment to a Defense Authorization bill next week. Senator Menendez then made an announcement that he will soon introduce an immigration reform bill in the senate:

I will introduce legislation, not a framework, but legislation in the U.S. Senate, outlining comprehensive immigration reform … to ensure that we secure our country as we all wanted to, that we look at how we deal with the economic needs of our country, but it will also have a pathway toward earned legalization for those who are in the shadows who will be able to come into the full light and observe the dignity that they deserve with what they are helping America to achieve. And so we will pursue that legislation in the Senate and we will create clear basis of what we see. I believe that [CIR] is in the national security interest. I believe that the economy is not a reason to oppose immigration reform, but a reason to have immigration reform. I believe in the dignity of each and every individual and the concept of family values that we hear so often in the senate needs to be preserved. We cannot see families ripped apart.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), announced a White House meeting tomorrow as well as the CHC’s support for Senator Reid’s DREAM Act efforts, arguing that supporting DREAM Act students is just step one in the CHC’s continuing efforts to secure immigration reform for the Latino community:

If we can protect one part of our community by continuing to fight for our entire community, it is our responsibility to do so. So a call for a vote on the DREAM Act is a sign that things are marching in the right direction. The message for America is that these students will finally be embraced by the only country they know as home and finally be able to contribute to our society and make us a better nation … We will not rest until we get CIR.

Finally, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a long-time immigration advocate and a member of the House Judiciary committee, called on President Obama to throw full White House support behind both the DREAM Act and Sen. Menendez’s forthcoming immigration reform bill.

We need the President to embrace. We need the President to say “Enough!” We need to the President to speak loudly and clearly and decisively that when Sen. Bob Menendez introduces that bill that he is strongly behind and supporting that bill. We will also ask him to use all his power, to use all his influence, to use all his might and to use that bully pulpit of the White House and Presidency to make sure that the DREAM Act has a successful vote next week. We talked to Harry Reid, and he’s moving forward. Tomorrow we talk to President Obama and make sure that Harry Reid has everything he needs in order to be successful next week for the vote on the DREAM Act.

While today’s immigration forum ended in a GOP pray-in (faith leaders literally went to the offices of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and George LeMieux (R-FL) and pray for reform), only time will tell whether Sen. Reid can conjure the 60 votes necessary for cloture on the DREAM Act amendment next week.

Photo by RI4A.