May 21, 2013 NEWS RELEASE — LIRS Welcomes Pro-Family Unity Amendments to Senate Immigration Reform Bill

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. May 21, 2013 — Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) supports moves by Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) to amend the Senate immigration reform bill, S.744, in ways that would strengthen American communities by keeping families intact.

“This is the moment for members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to show they support family unity,” said LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke. “They can do that by standing up for parts of S. 744 that keep loved ones together, and by adding positive amendments like those proposed by Senator Hirono.”

“Senator Hirono is taking a leading role in protecting families by proposing amendments to S.744 that would strengthen family-based immigration, the bedrock of sound immigration policy,” Hartke said.

“S.744 would reduce family separation caused by lengthy visa wait times and harsh immigration enforcement actions,” Hartke said. “To ensure that families in our communities and congregations are healthy and united, we join Lutherans all across America in calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject amendments that weaken these provisions.”

On May 9, the Senate Judiciary Committee began considering amendments to S.744 (The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act). The “mark-up” of S.744 by the committee is expected to finish this week. For the latest on the legislative process on Capitol Hill, see the LIRS blog series “Immigration Reform 2013: The Update.” For a detailed look at each amendment below, see LIRS’s in-depth analysis.

LIRS is advocating for the inclusion of the following amendments to S. 744:

  • Hirono 6: Restores the ability of U.S. citizens to petition for siblings and adult married children over the age of 31 through the family-based immigration system.
  • Hirono 7: Restores the sibling and older adult married children categories ten years after the enactment of S. 744, making the elimination of these categories temporary.
  • Hirono 8: Increases the age of married adult children of U.S. citizens who qualify for a visa in the family-based immigration system under S.744 from 31 to 39.
  • Hirono 9: Provides certain siblings and adult married children of U.S. citizens the full benefits of a V visa, which is available to people with pending family visa applications, allowing the applicants to work and await a decision with their relatives in the United States.
  • Hirono 10: Reserves some family visas for siblings and children of U.S. citizens. To qualify, the family must show that reunification would alleviate extreme hardship to the petitioning U.S. citizen.

The following amendments would limit family-based immigration and threaten family unity during immigration enforcement:

  • Cruz 4: Overhauls the legal immigration system by decreasing the number of family-based visas available and eliminating unused visa roll-over.
  • Sessions 48: The new merit-based point system created in S. 744 allots points for family relationships. This amendment eliminates points granted to siblings of U.S. citizens.
  • Sessions 24: While S.744’s pathway to citizenship is only open to those currently in the United States, that requirement can be waived for people abroad with a child, spouse, or parent in the U.S. who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. The amendment would eliminate that waiver.
  • Grassley 21: Eliminates discretion granted by S.744 to immigration judges and Department of Homeland Security officials to forego deportations that would cause hardship to spouses, parents, and children who are lawful permanent residents or U.S. citizens.

LIRS is nationally recognized for 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 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States.