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Originally published April 20, 2013 at 4:03 PM | Page modified April 22, 2013 at 7:21 AM

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Editorial: Immigration reform has a prayer

Immigration reform introduced in the U.S. Senate enters the legislative process with the political energy and support of U.S. religious leaders.

Seattle Times Editorial

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PROPONENTS of immigration reform are learning from the implosion of gun-safety legislation in the U.S. Senate.

What transpired in the U.S. Capitol is a basic lesson in political science. Humanity and emotion do not trump lobbying muscle.

The collapse of improved background checks and other sensible protections meant that Republican and Democratic lawmakers deferred to the organized, well-financed opponents of any firearms reform, even in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., elementary-school murders.

Grieving parents and their supporters will not give up, but for now they lacked the political clout to move the discussion ahead.

Now in the spotlight is immigration reform, which has been sidelined for nearly three decades. The introduction of an 844-page bill by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who worked with a bipartisan panel, was an achievement in itself.

Passage of the legislation is not to be assumed, but it has a political dynamic missing with gun reforms. Members of both parties, including former opponents, recognize and fear consequences at the polls for a failure to act.

The 17-page summary of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 is as daunting as the title.

How does legislation with a $6.5 billion price tag, creation of a new government bureau, and layers upon layers of rules, definitions and requirements get ahead? With advocacy.

Consider the Evangelical Immigration Table. Hundreds of religious leaders from two dozens states gathered in Washington, D.C., for a national day of prayer and action and lobbying. They turned out the same day the legislation was introduced.

The organization, formed in June 2012, brings a religious intensity to mending a broken immigration system, and the organizational power of churches with vast memberships, that also vote.

These groups are bidding for the attention of 11 million unauthorized immigrants in a variation on a theme that motivates politicians to act.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., called the legislation a tough, but humane response. Millions facing a 13-year process toward citizenship might disagree, but the bill is progress, to be sure.

The sentiments represented by the Evangelical Immigration Table brought together a powerful coalition: This mobilization for immigration is a first.

“As Evangelicals, as born again believers, as the spiritual heirs of Billy Graham and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we affirm our conviction that it is time to reconcile border security with security of our values; values that include faith, hope and charity,” said Dr. Carlos Moran, board member, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

The legislation is complicated, but it has a chance for a positive outcome, because the political push for action is broad and motivated.

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