July 14, 2010 STATEMENT — The Ethical Imperative for Reform of Our Immigration System

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

For the July 14, 2010 Hearing: Hearing on the Ethical Imperative for Reform of our Immigration System

Submitted to the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees Border Security and International Law

BALTIMORE, JULY 14, 2010–Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) assists and advocates on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration, and other vulnerable populations and provides services to immigrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners. LIRS is the national agency established by Lutheran churches in the United States to carry out the churches’ ministry with uprooted people and is a cooperative agency of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, whose members comprise over 7 million congregants nationwide.

Lutherans recognize the importance of providing welcome to migrants. Following World War II, one out of every six Lutherans in the world was displaced. With the participation of 6,000 congregations, Lutherans 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.

In setting forth immigration reform principles, LIRS draws upon our faith tradition and the biblical imperative to display compassion toward newcomers in our midst (Exodus 23; Matthew 25). The Bible teaches, “When an alien resides with you in your land you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you,” (Leviticus 19:33-34, NRSV).

LIRS also takes into account the positions of our Lutheran church partners. In November 2009, the ELCA approved 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 LCMS acknowledged that people “may reasonably arrive at different conclusions” but that the “challenges of illegal immigration are real and solutions must be found.”

There are an estimated 11 million people living in the United States with no lawful immigration status. These are people who have migrated to this country to join their families, to work, or to seek refuge from persecution, violence and other dangerous situations. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants are detained every year in jail-like settings when more humane alternatives are available. Moreover, countless families are separated by stringent immigration laws or must wait years, even decades to receive a visa to reunite.

President Obama’s July 2, 2010 speech in support of comprehensive immigration reform was a much welcomed step, but members of Congress and the administration must redouble their efforts to develop and advance bipartisan solutions to the nation’s broken immigration system. Any comprehensive immigration reform legislation must accomplish the following:

  • Provide an earned pathway to lawful permanent residency and eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants and their families.
  • Ensure the humane enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, specifically within the immigration detention system to reduce the reliance upon the incarceration of vulnerable immigrants and to promote the use of community-based alternatives-to-detention programs.
  • Protect families from separation and ensure an adequate supply of visas for families seeking to reunite to reduce the long delays currently experienced by immigrants awaiting family reunification.
  • Ensure the protection of U.S. citizen and immigrant workers.
  • Provide adequate resources and protections to ensure the successful integration of refugees, asylees, unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable migrant populations.

LIRS looks forward to working with members of Congress and the administration to ensure the inclusion of these basic elements into immigration reform legislation.

If you have questions about this statement, please contact Eric B. Sigmon, Interim Director for LIRS Washington Office, 202/626-7943, esigmon@lirs.org.

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

The 2006 LCMS immigration statement can be found here.