A new coalition of business and religious leaders launched Monday to advocate for changes to the nation’s immigration policy.

Eighteen individuals from churches, colleges and businesses have formed the Iowa Coalition for Immigration Reform. The coalition is sponsored by the New American Economy, a group that says it is bringing together mayors and business leaders to “support immigration reforms that will help create jobs” in the United States.

Many of the initial coalition members are based in central Iowa, including officials from Des Moines Area Community College, the Ames Chamber of Commerce, the Waukee City Council and Simpson College.

While the Iowa coalition is pushing for comprehensive immigration reform, it is not “prescriptive” on what that reform should be, said Megan Peiffer, a representative for New American Economy, during a conference call Monday.

“The intention with this particular coalition is to bring together all those different voices from different areas to create one united voice to get the attention of our congressional delegation to talk about the issue” of immigration reform, Peiffer said.

During the call, some coalition members said they would support a pathway to citizenship, securing the borders of the United States and argued that foreign-born members of the state’s workforce can help address a shortage of workers.

“It’s not about us, it’s about the jobs that we need to fill to keep Iowa strong economically,” said Rob Denson, president of Des Moines Area Community College.

Bishop Richard Pates of the Des Moines Roman Catholic Diocese said he supports a controlled immigration system at the country’s borders but also protections for immigrants who already reside in the country.

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“We need to speak to justice as we address those individuals and families that have been in our country, and that’s why we advocate very strongly for a pathway to citizenship, recognizing the economic contributions of these individuals and the values they have brought to our country,” Pates said.

Rob Barron, a Des Moines School Board member, said his board is focused on supporting families and students already residing in the United States.

“For us, what we want to see out of comprehensive immigration (reform) is some level of certainty for families that are already here,” he said.

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