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Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges has joined a coalition of 15 Democratic mayors urging Congress to pass a sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration laws.

In a letter addressed to House and Senate leaders, the mayors stressed the need for significant reform to address flaws in current U.S. immigration laws that affect immigrants, employers and national security.

The letter signers include city leaders from California to Connecticut, including those from Los Angeles, Boston, Phoenix and Philadelphia.

"As mayors of diverse cities, we see up close the shortcomings of the current immigration system and we keenly understand the need for significant reform," the mayors wrote.

"As a nation of immigrants, we have a historic bipartisan opportunity to seize both the social and economic benefits of immigration reform. We urge Congress to pass significant, common sense legislation this session."

The letter makes the case that current undocumented immigrants should eventually obtain citizenship after meeting a series of requirements such as background checks and paying back taxes. Debate over the fate of undocumented workers is one of the biggest challenges to passing immigration legislation, with some Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, opposed to anything that could be deemed amnesty.

"We want to encourage the full integration of all newcomers and thus, any legalization program should include an opportunity to earn eventual citizenship," the mayors wrote in the letter.

Making the case that "strong families make strong cities," the letter also stressed the need to reunite families and implored lawmakers to create a clear path to citizenship for young documented immigrants, commonly known as "Dreamers."

Through the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a larger coalition of city leaders wrote a letter last month conveying a similar message to lawmakers in the U.S. House.

Four Minnesota mayors – Tim Willson of Brooklyn Center, Elizabeth Kautz of Burnsville, Don Ness of Duluth and Ardell Brede of Rochester – signed that letter.

"We believe strongly that maintaining the status quo will further damage the economic, political and social structure of our cities and our country," the letter read in part. "As Mayors, we have a ground-level understanding of the pressing economic and moral imperatives that necessitate changing our national immigration system, and we urge the House to expeditiously bring legislation to the floor."

In a set of principles released this month, House GOP leaders endorsed legalization for current undocumented immigrants but stopped short at calling for full citizenship.

But pushback from his caucus led Boehner to scale back plans for passing legislation this year. Citing widespread Republican distrust of the Obama administration, Boehner said passing any bills this year would be "difficult."

Mayors Immigration Letter

0131 Letter ImmigrationReform