December 17, 2010 STATEMENT — LIRS and Lutheran Leaders Call for Passage of the DREAM Act

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

Baltimore, December 17, 2010—Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), the national organization established by Lutheran churches in the United States to serve uprooted people, applauds the House of Representatives for passing the DREAM Act (HR 6497) last week and calls on the Senate to immediately pass this important bill.

The DREAM Act is bipartisan legislation that has been introduced in every legislative session since 2001. The bill would allow undocumented students who were brought to the United Statesas children, who are long-term U.S. residents, and have good moral character to become lawful permanent residents provided that for two years they attend college or serve in the U.S.military. Over the past few months, President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and former President George W. Bush Administration officials have all endorsed the DREAM Act and urged Congress to act.

Polling shows that a majority of Americans support the DREAM Act. According to a recent Gallop survey, 54% of Americans support the measure. Moreover, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill would save U.S. taxpayers more than $2 billion between 2011 and 2020.

Last week, LIRS convened inWashington,DC the Lutheran Immigration Leadership Summit, a gathering of more than 40 Lutheran faith leaders from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LC-MS) and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Denominational leaders, representatives from the migrant community and ministry partners discussed the need to overhaul the broken U.S.immigration system and stressed the importance of passing the DREAM Act. Leaders also met with the White House and more than 50 congressional offices to urge passage of the DREAM Act in 2010 and to promote fair and humane immigration reform in the next Congress.

For many years theU.S.immigration system has kept thousands of promising young people from pursuing higher levels of education or U.S.military service, denying them the opportunity to further contribute to the U.S. economy and society. “Many of these children have a difficult life as a result of decisions made on their behalf,” lamented the Rev. Gregory S. Walton, LCMS President of the Georgia-Florida District. “We can give them a hopeful future and help them become responsible, productive citizens.”

The Rev. E. Roy Riley Jr., ELCA Bishop of the New Jersey Synod and Chair of the LIRS Board of Directors added, “These young people have grown up in the United States and should have the opportunity to continue to pursue their education, to work and to earn a path to citizenship. They should not be sent back to a country they do not know.”

“LIRS continues to support comprehensive immigration reform and the imperative of building welcome in every city, town, workplace, school and place of worship,” said LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke. “However, in the absence of a significant overhaul, LIRS urges the Senate to follow the House’s lead and take immediate action and pass the DREAM Act before the end of the year.”

Although House leaders narrowed the scope from earlier versions of the legislation, a recent Migration Policy Institute report estimates that 755,000 migrant youth would likely satisfy HR 6497’s postsecondary or military requirements that would allow them to obtain lawful permanent residency.

LIRS welcomes migrants and refugees on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Founded in 1939, 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 migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners.

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

 

To read the September 24, 2010 LIRS DREAM Act letter to Congress, click here: http://lirs.org/press-inquiries/press-room/112410letter/

To read the December 3-6, 2010 Galluppoll, click here: http://bit.ly/hOGffZ

To read the December 6, 2010 DREAM Act letter from the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, click here: http://bit.ly/goqndi

To read the December 8, 2010 Congressional Budget Office cost estimate, click here: http://bit.ly/g0quho

To read the December 8, 2010 DREAM Act statement from President Obama, click here: http://bit.ly/exFu5E

To read the December 14, 2010 Migration Policy Institute report, click here: http://bit.ly/cl9OwP