Wed., 9:19 pm: Catholics, evangelicals press GOP on immigration

WASHINGTON – A group of Catholic bishops, evangelical leaders and advocates pressured top House Republicans to vote this year on overhauling immigration in a series of private meetings today.

With legislation stalled in the House and prospects dimming, proponents argued that action is a moral imperative and offered the unique, united front of Catholics and evangelicals imploring the House to move ahead.

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of Seattle called it an “historic moment” and said they “reaffirmed that every day of delay, the consequences are separated families.”

The group met with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., the chairman of the House Republican Conference; Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the Budget Committee chairman who has spoken favorably about acting on immigration; Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Becky Tallent, a top aide to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on immigration issues.

The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill last June with strong bipartisan support that would create a pathway for citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally, tighten border security and establish new visa and enforcement programs. The measure has languished in the House despite calls from national Republicans, business groups, religious organizations and labor for lawmakers to act.