As President Obama laid out his plan today to change the country’s broken immigration laws, OCO leaders felt a renewed sense of hope that citizenship for all aspiring Americans will soon come to pass.

In a historic speech from Las Vegas, Obama called for an expedited plan that includes a clear pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are in this country, at our jobs, in our schools and in our communities-just like everyone else.

Additionally, Obama called for smarter enforcement to strengthen the way businesses verify the employment status of workers and improvements in the legal immigration system to bring it into the 21stcentury. His proposal models the legislation currently being developed by a bipartisan group of senators in Washington.

Fr. Jesus Nieto-Ruiz, pastor of St. Anthony Catholic Church and the OCO co-chair, was among several PICO clergy from California who, along with faith leaders and DREAM Act students from throughout the country, were invited by the White House to witness Obama’s speech.

As he was sitting in the audience, Fr. Nieto-Ruiz said he felt reassured that the day would soon come when the 11 million aspiring Americans would no longer be called strangers but citizens.

“Finally, those tears of pain and sorrow that caused families to be torn apart can now begin to be tears of joy,” Fr. Nieto-Ruiz said after the speech. “Justice has now begun for the 11 million undocumented brothers and sisters who came in this country, have been earning a living and have had to wait in the back of the line.”

Mireya Chavarria, an OCO leader from St. Bernard Catholic Church, said Obama’s words spoke directly to her and her family.

“President Obama’s message is important for me because he is talking about a citizenship pathway, and that’s what the 11 million aspiring Americans and I need,” she said. “This is only the beginning of what we hope would be a process. We still have a long way to go, but we won’t stop until we make the citizenship legislation a reality so we can be first-class American citizens like everyone else.”

As a multi-faith network of clergy and people of faith, OCO-like our umbrella organization PICO-believes that citizenship is the only moral response to the current, broken immigration system-a system that has had a disastrous impact on immigrant families.

Americans of faith believe that full citizenship rights for 11 million aspiring Americans is the only response to our broken patchwork of immigration laws consistent with the American values of freedom, fairness and family.