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Catholic Church turns up support for immigration reform

The ICE Homeland Security Investigations agents detain workers at Danny's Family Car Wash in Phoenix, Arizona August 17, 2013. The agents raided 16 different Danny's Family Car Wash locations across the Phoenix metropolitan area in a crackdown on illegal immigration, local media reported. REUTERS/Joshua Lott (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW SOCIETY IMMIGRATION POLITICS) ICE agents detain workers at Danny's Family Car Wash in Phoenix on Aug. 17, 2013, as part of  a crackdown on illegal immigration. (Joshua Lott/Reuters)

The Catholic Church is ramping up support for immigration reform with plans to mobilize up to two dozen dioceses in key states in hopes of convincing House Republicans to support a comprehensive bill, organizers said.

The church is planning a series of loosely coordinated events, including an immigration-focused Mass at some churches Sept. 8 — the day before Congress returns from a five-week summer recess — and pilgrimages of church members to regional offices of lawmakers.

The goal is to help convince them that there is widespread support in the Catholic community for legislation that includes a path to citizenship for immigrants who are in the country illegally, said Kevin Appleby, director of migration policy for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. House leaders have not supported a Senate-approved plan that includes such a provision, instead focusing on smaller-scale bills that deal with increased border security.

Lawmakers being targeted include House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Appleby said. The church also will target Catholic lawmakers in Florida, California and Pennsylvania.

About a dozen dioceses are on board now, and the church hopes to double that by early September, Appleby said.

"The reason we decided to do it now is that this is just a crucial moment for the fate of the bill," Appleby said.

The church's plans were first reported by the New York Times. Also this week, a coalition of evangelical churches announced that it was spending $400,000 on pro-immigration advertisements on Christian radio stations.

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.

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