March 15, 2013 NEWS RELEASE — LIRS Co-hosts Congressional Briefings to Urge Protection of Family Unity in Immigration Reform

Press Contact: Jon Pattee
202-591-5778, jpattee@lirs.org

WASHINGTON, DC March 15, 2013 — Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) today joins  the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Asian American Justice Center, National Council of La Raza, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and South Asian Americans Leading Together in hosting House and Senate briefings on “Family Unity in America’s Legal Immigration System.”

“LIRS is pleased to contribute our leadership and that of our national network by co-hosting these briefings on the critical importance of protecting family unity in our immigration system.  This is a message close to the heart of all Americans, and is a core value that must be honored in the efforts of Congress and the Administration to draft and enact comprehensive immigration reform,” said LIRS CEO and President Linda Hartke.

The Rev. Dr. Gerald L. Mansholt, Bishop of the Central States Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), is a panelist for the briefings. The events give context to yesterday’s House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security hearing, “The Separation of Nuclear Families Under U.S. Immigration Law.”

“Families being whole and healthy are of vital importance to Lutheran congregations and local communities,” said Bishop Mansholt. “The love, commitment, and support of family are a great gift that creates purpose for individuals, is central to our faith, and grounds the very structure of our society.”

In his prepared remarks for today’s briefings, Bishop Mansholt said: “As they are rewriting our immigration laws, I plead with lawmakers to remember that the United States has a moral imperative to ensure that our immigration system upholds the family as a central component to American society. For the sake of our communities, society and economy, it is essential to both safeguard and enhance the family-based immigration system in the United States.”

LIRS’s statement for the record on family unity makes numerous recommendations to Congress, including:

  • Protect the ability of close family members of U.S. citizens (spouses, married and unmarried children of all ages, parents, and siblings) and legal permanent residents (spouses and unmarried children) to reunify.
  • Provide for faster reunification for the spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents by reclassifying them as immediate relatives.
  • Make available unused and unclaimed family-based and employment-based visas and ensure that future unused visas are not wasted.
  • Swiftly review, resolve, and process family visa backlogs, ending the hardships faced by families who remain separated.
  • Allow the spouse or child of a refugee to bring their children to the United States or follow to join the spouse or parent who was originally awarded refugee status.
  • Admit children who have been living under the care of a refugee awarded status if it is in the best interest of that child join the refugee caregiver in the United States.
  • Raise the per-country visa limits from seven to fifteen percent of total admissions to reduce long wait times for certain nationalities.
  • Provide due relief for surviving relatives of refugees and asylees and the surviving spouses and stepchildren of U.S. citizens.
  • Ensure that families with children who become adults during the course of seeking visas are not subject to processing delays, and prevent delays for individuals whose family relationship or marital status changes while waiting for approval.
  • Give the government authority to ameliorate hardship faced by families who might otherwise be forced apart by detention or removal from the United States.

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.