April 17, 2013 NEWS RELEASE — S.744 Offers Historic and Bipartisan Progress on Immigration Reform

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. April 17, 2013 — Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) welcomes the introduction of S.744, particularly the way this new Senate bill embodies bipartisan agreement on basic improvements that LIRS has long championed for welcoming newcomers to the United States.

“We’re thrilled that S.744 shows bipartisan agreement on fundamental improvements to America’s immigration process that LIRS has long advocated,” said LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke. “The majority of Americans are calling for immigration reform that keeps families together and offers a roadmap to earned citizenship – because family unity is vital to our congregations and communities, and because this reform is smart for our economy and our country.”

“It’s no coincidence that 40 Lutheran leaders from across the country were on Capitol Hill this week calling for passage of a bill that creates a fair and humane immigration system,” said Hartke. “Although we’re still analyzing S.744, we are glad that Senate leadership has taken heed of their call for action. Now we’re urging the House of Representatives to show bipartisan leadership like that in the Senate.”

S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, aligns with the LIRS Principles for Comprehensive Immigration Reform as follows:

Principle 1. Provide an earned pathway to lawful permanent residency and eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants and their families.

We are overall quite pleased with the creation of a process for undocumented immigrants to eventually earn citizenship in the country they consider home. This pathway towards citizenship must be accessible and fairly adjudicated, and this bill is a positive step towards that outcome.

Principle 2. Ensure humane and just enforcement of immigration laws by reducing use of immigration detention and expanding community support programs.

This bill improves access to justice for migrants and refugees navigating our immigration system.  LIRS welcomes the increased provision of counsel and legal protections for unaccompanied migrant children and individuals facing deportation and detention. The bill also recognizes the promise of community based alternatives to detention, which LIRS has begun to cultivate nationwide, as a cost-effective and humane way to promote integration and make our communities stronger.

Principle 3. Protect families from separation and ensure an adequate supply of visas for families seeking to reunite. LIRS remains committed to family unity for all migrants and refugees.

We are encouraged by improvements for refugee children in need of protection and children separated from their parents by immigration detention and deportation. Although this bill does improve the options for family unity for many immigrants who have been seeking to reunite with loved ones in the United States for years, LIRS is disappointed by the creation of an age cap on married children hoping to reunite with their U.S. citizen parents and the proposed elimination of immigration channels for brothers and sisters of American citizens.

Principle 4. Provide adequate resources and protections to ensure the successful integration of refugees, asylees, survivors of torture and trafficking, unaccompanied minors, and other vulnerable migrants.

We welcome the bill’s recognition of how essential integration is for new Americans and their communities. Especially exciting are improvements that would better protect refugees, asylum seekers, stateless individuals, and migrants who are victims of serious crimes.  These changes bring America closer to fulfilling humanitarian obligations to those seeking a safe haven and new life, while also improving efficiencies in current immigration processes.

Principle 5. Ensure the protection of U.S. citizen and migrant workers.

The bipartisan bill makes changes that would treat workers fairly and recognize the contributions of immigrant workers to this country.

LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership in advocating on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations, and for serving migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States.