October 8, 2009 STATEMENT — Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Faith-Based Perspectives

Statement of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Submitted to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security.
For the October 8, 2009 Hearing: “Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Faith-Based Perspectives”.

Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) has assisted and advocated on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration, and other vulnerable populations. LIRS 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. LIRS is a cooperative agency of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, 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 that we 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 August 2009, the ELCA 2009 Churchwide Assembly voted overwhelmingly to urge reform of our nation’s current immigration policy.

LIRS calls upon the 111th Congress and the administration to pass and enact into law fair and humane immigration reform legislation. There are an estimated 12 million people living in the United States with no lawful immigration status. These are people who migrated here to join their families, to work, or to seek refuge from persecution, violence and other horrors. 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. The nation’s immigration system is broken and Congress and the administration must work together to find a just and humane solution while assuring orderly migration.

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 in order 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 in order to ensure the successful integration of refugees, asylees, unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable migrant populations.

LIRS looks forward to working with members of the 111th Congress and the administration to ensure the inclusion of these basic elements into immigration reform legislation. If you have questions about this statement, please direct them to Eric B. Sigmon, LIRS Assistant Director for Legislative Affairs, 202/626-7943, esigmon@lirs.org.