California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein wrote to their House of Representatives colleagues Wednesday, pleading for a vote on an immigration bill as a matter of economic and moral imperative for a state that's home to nearly a quarter of the country's undocumented immigrants.
House Republicans have been reluctant to consider a bipartisan bill the Senate approved last month, which would increase spending on border security, create a guest-worker visa program and establish a path to citizenship for the 11 million people living illegally in the U.S.
The letter from Boxer and Feinstein to the 53 House members from California echoed a video last week from the California Chamber of Commerce in making a case that the immigration bill would give the state, and the country, a crucial economic boost.
"Our state has the most at stake in any immigration reform debate," the senators wrote. "We are home to nearly a quarter of the nation's undocumented immigrant population - more than any other state."
They wrote that earned citizenship for 2.6 million undocumented residents in California would bring billions of dollars into the state's economy and create thousands of jobs. A path to citizenship would be consistent with the values of a nation built by immigrants, they added.
California's 38 House Democrats largely agree. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco responded to a letter from 15 Democratic governors Wednesday encouraging House leaders to embrace a comprehensive approach to immigration.
"The Senate has already worked in a bipartisan way to take this step, and now it is the House's turn to act," Pelosi wrote.
But how and when the debate moves forward is largely up to House Republicans. Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said he won't bring any immigration bill to a vote unless it has the support of a majority of House Republicans.
California has 15 GOP House members, including the No. 3 Republican, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield.
PHOTO: The U.S. Capitol, with the Senate at right and the House of Representatives at far left, is seen in Washington, D.C., on June 17, 2013. Associated Press/ J. Scott Applewhite