March 3, 2015 STATEMENT- LIRS Statement for the Record on the “Immigration Rule of Law Act of 2015”

Washington, D.C., March 3, 2015–Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS)[1], opposes the “Immigration Rule of Law Act of 2015” (S. 534) introduced by Senator Collins (R-ME).

As the national organization established by Lutheran churches in the United States to serve uprooted people, LIRS has long advocated for the rights and protections of migrants, refugees and other vulnerable populations.  LIRS is deeply concerned that if passed, this legislation would needlessly separate families, hinder smart law enforcement, and halt the adjudications of protections for vulnerable children, asylum seekers and trafficking survivors.

S. 534 prohibits the use of funds, resources, or fees for the implementation or enforcement of any of President Obama’s November 2014 executive actions on immigration. Specifically, this Act would stop implementation of the Deferred Action for Parents of U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents and the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programs.  While these executive actions are not a substitute for legislation creating a fair and workable immigration system, LIRS welcomed the significant steps taken by these actions to invite our family members, neighbors and congregants out of the shadows, to bring greater hope and security into the place of fear, and to stabilize the lives of millions of immigrants living in the United States.  We strongly feel that family unity should be upheld wherever possible; families are the building blocks of strong communities and churches.

S. 534 would also threaten the humane enforcement of immigration law by eliminating the administration’s ability to utilize prosecutorial discretion in enforcing our immigration laws.  Prosecutorial discretion is critically important in ensuring that vulnerable individuals receive the care and protection they need, and that families are not needlessly torn apart by haphazard detentions and deportations.

Further, S. 534 states a Congressional preference that all immigration petitions or applications submitted by persons without valid immigration authorization be processed after those of authorized persons. This would effectively halt the adjudication of claims filed by extremely vulnerable individuals, including those seeking asylum; abused, abandoned, or neglected children seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) relief; and survivors of crimes and trafficking seeking protection.

We urge members of the Senate to oppose S. 534, which would separate families and harm vulnerable migrants and refugees.  Instead, our nation needs an immigration system that keeps families together, protects children, refugees and other vulnerable persons, and upholds the American value of justice for all.

For questions or comments, please contact Brittney Nystrom, Director for Advocacy, at 202-626-7943 or bnystrom@lirs.org

[1] Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is the second largest refugee resettlement agency in the United States. It is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating with refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through more than 75 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.