Religious leaders had praised the momentum for immigration reform.
"Honestly we are thrilled, we think this is a great first step," said Fresno Diocese Bishop Armando Ochoa.
Last week, Senate leaders announced a bipartisan framework for immigration reform, just a day before President Obama also set out similar proposals that will guide the upcoming debate over a new immigration process, which eventually would include a road to citizenship.
Los Ángeles Archbishop José H. Gómez, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, also welcomed the proposal set forth by the eight Senators.
"I welcome the introduction of a bipartisan framework to help guide Congress on immigration reform," said Gómez.
When asked if both proposals were enough, Ochoa said, "I don't think it is enough. And certainly as proposed by the Archbishop (Gómez), there is always room for improvement."
"But I think it is wonderful that the group of eight has put this together and hopefully they can come up with a bill that they can present to the president, because he is certainly pushing for it," Ochoa said.
Ochoa said there are areas of need.
"Obviously there is a lot more that can be done," he said.
"The restoration of due process protections for immigrants, specially, removed by the 1996 Illegal Immigrant Responsibility Act for example," Ochoa said. "Once again it doesn't address the root causes such as the absent of living wages in jobs in sending certain communities, weather be from Latin América or other countries."
"It is an important first step in the process and sets a bipartisan tone," Gómez said.
The framework released by the 'Group of Eight' would include a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented in the nation. It also would reduce family backlogs in the immigration system, which requires family members to wait years to reunite with their loved ones.
Obama's immigration reform proposal has four parts: continuing to strengthen border security; cracking down on employers hiring undocumented workers; earned citizenship and streamlining legal immigrations.
"It is vital that the framework includes a path to citizenship, so that undocumented immigrants can come out of the shadows and into the light and have a chance to become Americans," Gómez said. "It gives hope to millions of our fellow human beings."
Gómez pledged the support of the USCCB in pushing sound immigration legislation forward and working with Congress to create an immigration system, which respects basic human rights and dignity while also ensuring the integrity of our borders.
"A reformed system can protect human dignity and the homeland at the same time," he said.
Back in 2003, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) outlined several policy goals for immigration reform in its pastoral letter, 'Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.' Many of which are consistent with the framework outlined last week by the U.S. Senate: A path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented in the nation; The protection and enhancement of the family-based immigration system, including the reduction in backlogs and shortening of waiting times for husbands and wives and their families; A program which allows low-skilled migrant workers to enter and work in the United States legally and safely and includes appropriate wage and worker protections.
It is not only Catholic leaders who welcome the immigration reform proposals. Evangelical leaders responded favorably to the new momentum for immigration reform in Congress and at the White House.
"I was present as President Obama laid out a comprehensive solution to America's immigration crisis. His presentation serves as a reconciliatory prescription to a nation torn apart by this debate," said Rev. Samuel Rodríguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. "I commend him for his courage and call upon all the followers of Christ to pray for our president and Congress as together we marry conviction with compassion."
Rodríguez is a member of the Evangelical Immigration Table. The table will keep pressure on Congress to pass broad reform in 2013, including via its 'I Was a Stranger' immigration prayer challenge.
Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition said, "Hispanic Evangelicals are convinced that our nation can do immigration reform because we are a nation that knows how to work through its most contentious issues. It is the just and moral thing to do. Inaction is not an option. Immigration reform now!"
Clergy leaders with PICO California also welcomed Obama's speech and his commitment to creating a roadmap to citizenship for immigrant American families.
In California, PICO's 450,000 families and 480 congregations are part of the Campaign for Citizenship, a project of the PICO National Network, which was launched in early January. The campaign aims to bring the voices of people of faith together with DREAMers to witness and work for citizenship for immigrant Americans.
Campaign for Citizenship includes education and outreach in congregations and communities throughout the state, and outreach to state and federal officials to build the understanding and political will necessary to create a pathway to citizenship.
"This country was made stronger by the generations of immigrants that came to this land. They wove the strengths of their labor, their culture, and their families into the fabric of the society," said Fr. José Nieto, pastor of St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Oakland, who was in Las Vegas last week for the president's announcement. "We must not close the door to our most recent immigrants. As people of faith, we believe that any reform must include a manageable road to citizenship and the reunification of families in order to build strong, whole, and healthy communities."