Colo. religious leaders call for dialogue on immigration |

Colo. religious leaders call for dialogue on immigration

Steven K. Paulson
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado ” A coalition of religious leaders called Thursday for a respectful discussion on immigration issues, asking Coloradans to reject politics of division and isolation that they say only fans anger and hate.

Gov. Bill Ritter joined Jewish leaders, Methodists, Catholics, Muslims and other church leaders on the steps of the Capitol Thursday by agreeing to a pledge on immigration to defend core community values.

Ritter said despite the national focus on the faltering economy, immigration reform is still a major issue.

“Immigration reform remains one of the most significant issues facing America today,” he said.

He also said current laws must be enforced.

“There is no question we must work together to enforce our current laws and protect our borders,” he said

The coalition said by signing the pledge, people are agreeing to work for “just and humane immigration reform” that will uphold the human dignity of every resident and value the family unit.

Rabbi Joel Schwartzman said critics of immigration reform are persecuting 12 million illegal immigrants who were let into this country by administrations that for decades looked the other way and that Americans now have a duty to take care of them and show compassion.

“They’re not really a threat. We’re talking about 12 million people. Get a grip,” he said.

A coalition of business leaders later held a news conference with the nonprofit group Mexicans and Americans Thinking together to promote negotiations on immigration reform.

“Even with our economy slowing, laborers are still hard to find in Colorado. Those American citizens who are unemployed are looking for jobs that fit their education, training and experience, not manual, unskilled labor using a pick and shovel or picking vegetables,” said Mike Gilsdorf, chairman of Colorado Employers for Immigration Reform.

The group said it will begin airing commercials this week in Phoenix, Albuquerque, Denver and Las Vegas. The ads claim the country has made “incredible gains” with border security, deportation of criminals and stronger penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants.

The ad calls on federal officials to finish the job by finding solutions that bring illegal immigrants into a legal system of employment that requires them to pay taxes, learn English and abide by U.S. laws.

State Sen. Dave Schultheis, a Republican from Colorado Springs and outspoken opponent of illegal immigration, said both groups were wrong on immigration reform.

“I think one of the first ideals we should have in this country is the rule of law, which they

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