Immigration Reform 2013: As Obama Delivers Speech, Faith Communities Stand for Welcome | LIRS
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Immigration Reform 2013: As Obama Delivers Speech, Faith Communities Stand for Welcome

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capitol 300President Obama called on each of us and Democratic and Republican leaders to come together, for the well-being of our nation, to build an immigration system that works for America.   His words of conviction, together with the announcement of bipartisan principles for reform by eight senators, show that now is the moment for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.  The American people want reform now, and communities yearn to truly welcome their neighbors as they move out of the shadows and strengthen the fabric of our nation’s economy and culture as immigrants always have.

The framework for comprehensive immigration reform released yesterday by a bipartisan group of senators is a reminder that, when taken seriously, the values that underpin our faith can inform how America is governed and treats the most vulnerable people.  If that framework is transformed into a law that is just and compassionate, it would provide a workable process for migrants to continue contributing meaningfully to life in the United States, be protected under the law, and see a future that provides the possibility of citizenship. This moves us towards a day when we treat all immigrants fairly, welcoming the strangers among us and even loving them (Leviticus 19:33, 34). These values also become a standard of accountability in Matthew 25, which reminds us that the nations will be judged on how they have welcomed the stranger.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) calls for comprehensive immigration reform that reflects American values by:

  • Providing a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and their families
  • Ensuring humane and just immigration enforcement, specifically by reducing use of detention
  • Safeguarding families from separation and ensuring sufficient visas for families seeking to reunite
  • Promoting integration of those fleeing persecution and other vulnerable migrants
  • Protecting U.S. citizen and migrant workers

The responsibility for forging ahead on reform doesn’t stop at the doors of the Senate or even the White House. This moment is an opportunity for all people of good will to urge our political leaders  to come together, for the well-being of our nation, and to answer the president’s call to build an immigration system that works for America.

It’s exciting to hear some of the voices that are being lifted to welcome this week’s announcements.   Rev. Bart Day, Executive Director of National Mission of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and LIRS board member, has this to say:

The principles the senators have agreed upon represent a good starting place for Democrats and Republicans to come together to create a reformed immigration system that better serves families and the common good. LIRS and our broad national network of social ministry organizations, congregations, and church leaders are committed to working with Congress and the President to ensure that immigration reform will be just and protect vulnerable migrants.

Bishop Julian Gordy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Southeastern Synod writes:

We applaud the president’s leadership and the bipartisan approach in the Senate to delivering a framework for compassionate immigration reform, including an emphasis on a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented migrants, the importance of family unity, and acknowledgement that oversight and safeguards are necessary components. For too long, our families and communities have felt the harmful consequences of federal inaction on immigration reform.

LIRS and Lutherans all across this country will be lifting up our voices and engaging lawmakers from both parties to answer the President Obama’s call for fair and compassionate immigration reform that is both business and family friendly.  We wholeheartedly agree on the need for a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented migrants and an improvement of the immigration process for families, though we note that some of the enforcement measures outlined in the Senate principles could also impact communities and families negatively.

As people of faith, our work is not done. We are not yet ready to be judged on how well we have welcomed the stranger.  Our communities have not yet been transformed into places of welcome for all of the neighbors that God gives to us.  Join us in prayer, in study and in action  to reform our immigration system in to that protects family unity, secures migrants’ rights, and treats everyone with dignity and fairness.

The announcements this week by the president and the bipartisan group of senators in support of comprehensive immigration reform are a sign of hope.  The migration stories told by leaders and laborers alike are a sign of courage.  The opportunity is here for Congress to act quickly to pass comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform. Now it is up to our lawmakers to listen to our voices, our values, and our votes – and make reform a reality.

Image credit: Diliff

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