Immigration Reform 2013: S.744 Arrives as Lutheran Leaders Finish Capitol Hill Advocacy for Reform

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Bishop Michael Rinehart (Gulf Coast Synod, ELCA) with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)

News Flash! The Senate immigration reform bill, S.744, has been released.  Please check here for the latest.

Forty faith leaders from all over the country gathered in Washington, D.C. April 15-16 for the Lutheran Immigration Leadership Summit, bringing the message that economic security and personal responsibility start with strong families and citizenship, and that America would be foolish to rebuild its immigration system on any other bedrock.

I’m proud that LIRS could convene so many skilled and respected leaders at such a critical time, as the Senate rolls out history-making immigration legislation. There’s never been a more important time for us, as Lutherans and Americans, to make our voices heard. We count on these leaders’ faith perspective, leadership, and the lived experience of the Lutherans they serve to help guide the immigration reform debate towards a humane and welcoming conclusion.

In fact, the time is now for Lutherans to prayerfully consider urging Congress to pass     immigration reform that keeps families together and offers a roadmap to earned   citizenship – because family unity is vital to our congregations and communities, because reform is smart for our economy and our country, and because our faith calls us to welcome the stranger.

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Bishop Gerald Mansholt (Central States Synod, ELCA)

Participants in the summit included a wide variety of Lutheran leaders, including five ELCA bishops and two LCMS presidents.  On Monday, the attendees participated in strategy sessions and workshops around immigration reform messaging.  Tuesday began with a Lutheran Prayer Breakfast featuring remarks from Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA), Rep. Scott Peters of California (D-CA), and staffers of Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN), followed by Hill visits with congressional delegations from over 15 states.

LIRS’s advocacy goals for comprehensive immigration reform include providing a roadmap to citizenship, ensuring enforcement measures are humane and just, protecting families from separation, promoting integration of vulnerable migrants, and protecting U.S. and migrant workers.

Participants had a wide variety of backgrounds and motivations, but were all united in their belief in the dire need for reform of our broken immigration system:

Coming to Capitol Hill with other faith leaders today is my way of giving back to the past generations of my family and many others like them who found their way to the United States from other countries. Especially coming from the Southwest, I have seen the richness that past and present immigrants have added to the area in which I live.  As the grandson of immigrants, I am sensitive to the plight of those who are looking for refuge here and feel many untapped gifts and talents are being lost due to our current immigration laws. – Mr. Carlos Pena, Vice President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

Refugees and immigrants have blessed my congregations and my own family. Using my voice to advocate for comprehensive, compassionate immigration reform is just one way I’m giving thanks for their ministry and companionship. – Pastor Wilker, Pastor of Lutheran Church of the Reformation, Washington, D.C.

Scriptures teaches us the need of hospitality to the strangers and care for the others. As a first generation immigrant and a grateful citizen I thank all who tend to these sensitive, personal, and communal and life transforming issues of immigration. – Rev. Amsalu Geleta, Pastor of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Springfield, VA

I have seen in my own family how much patience and hard work it can take a citizen to get a visa for his or her spouse.  We need more family visas.  No one should have to wait 20 years to bring a disabled brother or sister to live with them.  The system needs to work faster.  I am particularly grieved that legal permanent residents get deported for misdemeanors and immigration judges are not allowed to grant exceptions, not even for veterans or parents of vulnerable children. I have visited many mothers in immigration detention who grieve because they may never see their children again.  It is way past time to reform our immigration system and make it family friendly, instead of family destroying. –  Rev. Linda Theophilus, Pastor at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Pittsburgh, PA

As a former refugee who was blessed by the generosity of this great nation, and as a naturalized proud citizen, who has been blessed in my ministry by the presence and leadership of refugees, this is the least I can do to show my support, appreciation and encouragement for our nation to continue her support for refugees and migrants. –  Rev. Mengsteab, Director of Ministry Programs at the Lutheran Foundation, Fort Wayne, IN

We would like to extend our thanks to all of the participants of this year’s Lutheran Immigration Leadership Summit.  Their leadership in championing humane and just immigration reform is a great testament to a steadfast faith and deep conviction in standing for welcome.  It is only through the combined efforts of strong advocates like these that we will be able to finally achieve a fair and humane immigration system that promotes opportunity and justice for all.

Photo Credit: Kate Gaskill, ELCA Advocacy

 

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