Gay groups reacted to America’s strong stance on immigration this week by persuading the Senate Judiciary Committee to adopt an amendment that would protect church and charitable groups, from prosecution for providing care to undocumented immigrants.

The action essentially rebuffs a controversial House measure passed in December that makes it a felony to provide nonemergency aid to undocumented immigrants. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have rallied against get-tough immigration legislation in the US.

Four of the leading national Hispanic advocacy organisations in the United States, the League of United Latin American Citizens, Mexican American Legal Defence and Educational Fund, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund and National Council of La Raza , released a letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist expressing their concern with his threat to bypass the Senate Judiciary Committee and introduce his own border security bill.

In the letter, the groups warned that the “colossal task of reforming our broken immigration system is too complex, and the stakes too high, to be rushed.”

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is urging federal lawmakers to enact humane immigration policies and reject extreme measures that go so far as to criminalize humanitarian assistance to undocumented immigrants.

A statement from Eleanor (Eldie) D. Acheson Task Force Public Policy Government Affairs Director, said: “The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force calls upon the leadership of the U.S. Senate to suspend today’s arbitrary and nonsensical deadline for the Judiciary Committee to send immigration reform legislation to the full Senate. The committee deserves the time necessary to develop a comprehensive, fair and balanced bill that, as the National Council of La Raza and other leading Hispanic groups so aptly noted in their letter, ‘will restore the rule of law and enhance security, reunite families, protect workers, promote citizenship and civic participation, and help local communities.’

“A reasonably paced and deliberative process in the Senate is critical to counter the politically opportunistic and gratuitously punitive enforcement-only bill that emerged from the House. That piece of legislation is Exhibit A in mean-spirited election-year pandering to the ‘send them home’ crowd and scapegoating of yet another group in our country perceived to be unpopular and powerless.

“America can do much better than this and is looking to our Senate to lead us to that better place in immigration reform. But the Judiciary Committee needs sufficient time, and the full Senate needs sufficient time, for this ‘colossal’ and ‘complex’ task. So, Senator Frist, dissolve your artificial deadline and let the Senate do its critically important work.”

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