June 24, 2011 STATEMENT — LIRS Welcomes the Introduction of Immigration Reform Legislation

Press Contact: Fabio Lomelino, Assistant Director for Media Relations
410-230-2721, lirspress@lirs.org

BALTIMORE, June 24, 2011—Earlier this week, Senators Menendez (D-NJ), Reid (D-NV), Leahy (D-VT), Durbin (D-IL), Schumer (D-NY), Kerry (D-MA), Gillibrand (D-NY), and Murray (D-WA) introduced S. 1258, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) Act of 2011, legislation that would overhaul the U.S. immigration system. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), the national organization established by Lutheran churches in the United States to serve uprooted people, welcomes the introduction of this much-needed legislation. “LIRS applauds these Senators for their commitment to reforming the broken federal immigration system,” said Linda Hartke, LIRS President and CEO. “Recently we have seen the passage of punitive state immigration bills and the increased detention and deportation of migrants. LIRS stands with people all across this country counting on Democrats and Republicans to come together, for the well-being of our nation, to finally reform the U.S. immigration system.”

“The United States has a long tradition of welcoming newcomers and Lutherans have played an important role in this process,” added the Rev. Jotham Johann, Esq., former executive director of National Missions, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and current LIRS Board member. Following World War II, 6,000 Lutheran congregations in the United States opened their homes, churches and communities to assist tens of thousands of migrants and their families. Lutherans have continued this ministry and every day bear witness to how our society is strengthened and renewed by the contributions of migrants.

On May 10, 2011 President Obama visited El Paso, TX and issued a speech to call on Congress to advance an immigration reform overhaul bill. The introduction of the CIR Act of 2011 follows through on the President’s request for legislative action. While much more work is needed to build bipartisan support, the CIR Act of 2011 represents a good start. The bill proposes a number of important reforms, including a tough but fair legalization program for undocumented immigrants living in the United States, the DREAM Act, protections for families at risk of being separated, reforms to the U.S. detention system, expedited reunification for spouses and minor children, and safeguards for refugees and asylum seekers in the United States.

As Congress continues to fail to deliver a bipartisan immigration reform bill, state legislatures across the country have taken immigration policy into their own hands. For example, on June 9, 2011, Alabama Governor Bentley signed into law a measure that would subject Alabamians to intense scrutiny, criminalize basic community and family activities, and intimidate children from attending public school. Alabama business owners and economists have said that the law will be costly for businesses, resulting in higher prices for consumers.[1] The Rev. H. Julian Gordy, bishop of the Southeastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American and leader of the Conference of Bishops’ immigration task force, lamented, “This year alone, in my synod both Georgia and Alabama have passed harmful immigration laws. This is a deeply troubling trend. It is time for Congress to claim the federal government’s control over U.S. immigration laws by passing fair and humane immigration reform.”

LIRS welcomes refugees and migrants on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations, and for providing services to migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States.

If you have questions about this statement, please contact Eric B. Sigmon, Director for Advocacy, at 202/626-7943 or via email at esigmon@lirs.org.

The White House blueprint, “Building a 21st Century Immigration System,” can be found here: http://1.usa.gov/joxqiU.


[1] “Alabama Immigration Law Court Hurt Area Economy,” Anniston Star, June 22, 2011, http://www.annistonstar.com/view/full_story/14427343/article-Alabama-immigration-law-could-hurt-area-economy?instance=home_news