May 3, 2010 STATEMENT — LIRS Applauds Launch of Comprehensive Immigration Reform Framework

Press Contact: Stacy Martin, Vice President for Mission Advancement
410-230-2847, lirspress@lirs.org

BALTIMORE, May 3, 2010 — Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) applauds the April 29 launch of the Real Enforcement with Practical Answers for Immigration Reform (REPAIR) Proposal by Senators Reid (D-NV), Schumer (D-NY) and Menendez (D-NJ). The proposal provides a broad framework for comprehensive immigration reform and builds on months of bipartisan discussions between Senators Schumer and Graham (R-SC). It represents a good starting place for Democrats and Republicans to come together to work out the details of a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws. “LIRS and our broad national network of social ministry organizations, churches and church leaders are committed to working with Congress and the administration to build support for this framework and to ensure that when the details are developed, immigration reform legislation will be just and protect vulnerable migrants,” said LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke.

The REPAIR proposal addresses border security, interior enforcement, employer verification, the legal immigration system and the legalization of eligible undocumented immigrants. Although LIRS has concerns about the impact some of the enforcement measures would have on communities and families, the framework includes the following important reforms:

  • Earned pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants.
  • Reduction of long delays currently experienced by immigrants awaiting family reunification.
  • Consideration of the welfare of children when making decisions about the detention, release or transfer of parents.
  • Special protections for refugees, children seeking asylum other vulnerable populations.

The U.S. immigration system is broken and deserves the attention of all members of Congress. In 2009, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) passed a social policy resolution which declared that “now is the time…to pursue comprehensive immigration reform through the establishment of laws better aligned with America’s historic values…and more responsive to the needs of immigrants, society, and the economy.” In 2006, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) acknowledged that people “may reasonably arrive at different conclusions” but that the “challenges of illegal immigration are real and solutions must be found.”

Unless Congress immediately acts, states will continue to take immigration policy into their own hands. On April 23, Arizona signed into law legislation that would place immigrants and U.S. citizens at risk of being interrogated, arrested or even jailed if local police have “reasonable suspicion” about their immigration status. Rev. Gale Schmidt, a Lutheran pastor in Phoenix, Arizona, is concerned about the impact of the new state law. Even before the bill was signed into law, he noted that U.S. citizens were being hand-cuffed and jailed simply because they looked Latino and were not carrying their birth certificates with them. “Something needs to be done about fixing the immigration system, but don’t criminalize immigrants, demean people, and offend our Latino citizens. There is a better way.” To date, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and a number of other states are considering similar initiatives.

LIRS, like many people in the United States, is frustrated by the lack of movement on comprehensive immigration reform and recognizes the significant challenges states face in confronting the broken immigration system. However, instead of creating a patchwork of state laws, Congress and the administration must make comprehensive immigration reform a priority. Rev. Carlos Hernandez, Director of Districts and Congregations of LCMS World Relief and Human Care, added, “Compelled by our biblical faith, we are praying for immigration reform that makes us a safer and more secure nation, but that also safeguards the dignity of human beings as Scripture tells us to do.”

Since 1939 LIRS has assisted and advocated on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, migrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. LIRS is the national agency established by Lutheran church bodies in the United States to carry out the churches’ ministry with uprooted people and provides services to migrants and refugees through over 60 legal and social service partners. LIRS is a cooperative agency of the ELCA, the LCMS and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, whose members comprise over 7 million congregants nationwide.

The REPAIR proposal can be found here.

The March 19, 2010 blueprint from Senators Schumer and Graham can be found here.

The 2009 ELCA social policy resolution on immigration can be found here.

The 2006 LCMS immigration statement can be found here.

The October 8, 2009 LIRS testimony for the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security hearing, “Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Faith-Based Perspectives,” can be found here.