(Washington, DC) – As the Senate Judiciary Committee begins the markup of the Immigrant Visa Title II section of the bipartisan immigration bill, prominent clergy leaders are lifting up their prophetic voices and strongly supporting amendments that would strengthen family unity. The faith community remains committed to pro-family immigration reform that unites immigrant families, and is supporting amendments offered by Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) that would restore the ability of U.S. citizens to sponsor their siblings and married children over 30, and allow individuals with registered provisional immigrant status to sponsor their immediate family members outside of the United States.
To arrange media interviews, please contact Casey Schoeneberger at 202-569-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org
While the current immigration reform bill, S. 744, includes some positive provisions that would improve family reunification, it would also eliminate the ability for U.S. citizens to sponsor their siblings and married children over the age of 30. The following quotes from clergy and social justice leaders demonstrate the faith community’s support for amendments that would improve the current immigration reform bill’s family provisions, and opposition to proposals that would prevent family reunification:
Bishop Minerva Carcaño, Resident Bishop of the United Methodist Church, Los Angeles Conference:
“The strength of any society always begins with strong families. Therefore, it is crucial that the Senate Judiciary Committee pass amendments that strengthen the family immigration system. Important changes to S. 744 include allowing individuals with registered provisional immigrant (RPI) status to sponsor their spouse and children outside of the U.S. and reunifying same-sex family members. No one deserves to be cut off from the strongest bond in life they will ever have – their family. As a Christian, I urge the Senate to strengthen our family immigration system for as they do so, they will strengthen our country as well.”
Lisa Sharon Harper, Director of Mobilizing, Sojourners:
“As people of faith, we should urge Senate Judiciary Committee members to support amendments that strengthen an immigration system that protects families. We pray that our leaders will work to preserve the family unity of aspiring Americans as they seek an earned pathway to citizenship.
Christians should strongly urge members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to oppose any amendment that would make it more difficult for families to stay together.”
Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO, Church World Service:
“CWS’s diverse network of member communions and local refugee resettlement offices across the country knows firsthand the value of family unity. As we welcome refugees and assist with immigration legal services, we’ve witnessed the heartbreak caused by our current immigration system. CWS applauds the bipartisan group of Senators’ effort to reform our immigration system, but the bill must keep families together. CWS is fully supportive of the family amendments being offered by Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), which seek to improve the immigration bill by restoring the ability of U.S. citizens to sponsor their siblings and married children, regardless of age. We urge all members of the Senate Judiciary to vote for these amendments that would promote family unity.”
Sister Anne Curtis, RSM, Leadership Team of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy:
“As the Senate Judiciary Committee considers amendments to immigrant visas in Title II, we remind our elected officials that faith communities prioritize family unity in addition to a pathway to citizenship. If the final version of the immigration bill does not provide registered provisional immigrants (RPIs) the ability to sponsor their spouse and children, the law would fail to meet the expectations of many faith traditions and organizations. We believe in order to cherish the human dignity of our immigrant brother and sisters and create a strong social fabric; we cannot deny immediate family members being together.”
Sister Mary Ellen Lacy, NETWORK , A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby:
“Family unity is an extremely high priority for us. Our faith teaches us to recognize and hold up the sacredness of family. Immigrant families must be made whole in order to live as God intended them to live This reality calls us to establish a compassionate and inclusive immigration process which will reunite all family members, including adult children and siblings.”
Bishop Alan Scarfe, Episcopal Diocese of Iowa:
“The idea of limiting the definition of family in the new immigration legislation reminds me that we may not have moved as forward in our thinking as we may assume from the time when we brought people here as slaves and tore up their family structure or forced people off their native lands without regard for the unity of their families. It takes centuries to develop a compassionate people. This is a time for one nation under God to not be afraid of our own gifts and generosity. ”
United States Provincials of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd:
“Since the Order of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd was founded in France in 1835, the Order has dedicated itself to serving poor and marginal people. The work of the Sisters in 70 countries in 5 continents, 22 States, and 2 U.S. Territories is based on the belief that everyone, regardless of age, sex, culture or religion, has the right to a basic quality of life; adequate income, shelter, opportunities for education and employment, quality health care, and nutrition. As Catholics, our faith requires that everyone should be treated with the utmost dignity and respect.
Based upon that belief system, the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd requests that you enact fair and comprehensive immigration reform. This reform should include a path to citizenship, preference for family unity, and job portability which allows workers to change employers. Further, we call for an end to laws and policies that provide for detention for months without charges, secret hearings, and ethnic profiling.”
Janet Mock, CSJ, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious:
“Our broken immigration system too often splits families, separates spouses, and keeps parents from their children. Families are the building blocks of our society. Our nation needs, and our people deserve, immigration reform that reflects the paramount importance of family unity.
We have the opportunity to honor parents who have sacrificed their own safety and risked their lives for the future of their children. We have the opportunity to reunite mothers with their sons, fathers with their daughters and sisters and brothers with their parents and siblings. If we fail to act, we not only place the well-being of our families, we threaten the heart and soul of our nation.”
Bishop Prince Singh, Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, New York:
“When our immigration policy protects the unity and cultural integrity of ‘family’ as understood by those who make our country their home, our common life, security and prosperity are enhanced in the long run.”
Rt. Rev. Kirk S. Smith, Episcopal Diocese of Arizona:
“I support family immigration, and don’t believe that the Senate can restrict the definition of family. It is critical that families be kept together, and citizens need to be able to continue to sponsor their children and loved ones. I find these proposed provisions especially troubling in the refugee resettlement context. For many refugees, a sibling or an adult married child is the only surviving relative with whom they can reunite.”
Rev. Linda Jaramillo, Executive Minister, Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ:
“Family is a core value of the Latina/Latino community. We do not see ourselves as totally independent individuals, but rather as members of an extended community of shared values and blood ties. The tragedy of the present immigration system is that it has kept many families separated from those who are our kin. Family reunification is critical for us and we ask that the Senate take into consideration our traditional family values as they consider the Immigrant Visa Title II of the immigration bill. We ask the Senators to improve the likelihood for family members to be reunited in as short as possible a period of time.”
Rev. Dr. Gerald L. Mansholt, Bishop of the Central States Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
“Families being whole and healthy are of vital importance to Lutheran congregations and local communities. The love, commitment, and support of family is a great gift that creates purpose for individuals, is central to our faith, and grounds the very structure of our society. In recognition of the importance of families, Congress should support amendments to comprehensive immigration reform that expand the ability of families to reunite.” [The Central States Synod includes Missouri and Kansas]
Ronald J. Degges, President, Disciples Home Missions, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the US and Canada denomination:
“As Christians committed to God’s call to ‘welcome the stranger’ and to promote the wholeness and well-being of families, Disciples’ leaders recognize that family unity is not only a national issue, but a personal and church issue as well. We constantly encounter immigrants in our churches whose parents and children, and grandparents and spouses, have been torn apart from one another for years. Such separation causes wrenching pain, and diminishes families’ abilities to focus upon education, progress, and contributions to our society.
Therefore, we strongly support the Senate Judiciary Committee in passing amendments that allow US citizens to sponsor siblings and married children over 30, hopefully without any age limit, but at minimum to age 39. We promote legislation that increases the likelihood that family members can be reunited, and that allows individuals with RPI status to sponsor their spouse and children outside of the US. To not do so can result– as in the case of one of our immigrant pastors recently– in the heartbreaking death of a spouse overseas, despite years of processing and waiting, paying and praying for a reunion under our current broken system.”
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New poll and clergy leaders show black community rejects politics of division
(Washington, DC) – A poll released today by the Service Employees International Union, conducted by Hart Research Associates, shows that African Americans overwhelmingly support immigration reform that includes a roadmap to citizenship for aspiring Americans. Nationally prominent black clergy leaders applauded and echoed this finding.
“For far too long politicians have used immigration to divide Americans along racial lines,” said Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, President of the Skinner Leadership Institute. “But African Americans are rejecting the politics of division and saying that giving our immigrant neighbors the opportunity to become citizens reflects Christian values of justice, compassion and equality.”
In response to the poll question asking “Do you favor or oppose allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the country and eventually qualify for U.S. citizenship, as long as they meet certain requirements like paying taxes, learning English, and passing a background check,” 92% of African Americans said they favored citizenship, and 74% favored it strongly. Overall, just 8% of African Americans said they opposed this policy.
“Any speculation that African Americans oppose immigration reform is incorrect,” said Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr., President of the Progressive National Baptist Convention. “What I hear from people in the pews is that no one should be trapped in second-class status, regardless of race or where you were born. Now is the time to build a road to citizenship for aspiring Americans.”
CONTACT: Casey Schoeneberger, 202-569-4254, email@example.com
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Exploring the Biblical imperative for immigration reform
(Durham, North Carolina) – On Friday, April 26 at 3pm, local women of faith will join business, community and civic leaders at Duke Memorial United Methodist Church for “Ruth’s Journey”, a one of a kind interfaith tea and dialogue to discuss the impact of immigration on women and their families.
As the Senate begins to debate the Gang of 8’s proposed immigration legislation, women who’ve seen the reality of America’s immigration system will come together to discuss how their friendships transcend differences in ethnicity, religion, age, and background, and why those connections are critical to creating a roadmap to citizenship and passing comprehensive immigration reform in 2013.
WHO: More than 100 North Carolina women of faith, business owners, and community leaders, including:
Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple, Bishop Suffragan, Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina
Renee Chou, News Reporter and Anchor at WRAL
Aline Nyirashimwe, Congolese refugee, resettled in Carrborro
Casey Smith, Chapel Hill High School Student
Christine, refugee, now residing in Chapel Hill
Flicka Bateman, Founder and Director, Refugee Support Center, Chapel Hill
Vimala Rajendran, Executive Chef, Vilama’s Curryblossom Café, Chapel Hill
Kristine Barnes, church member, Lus del Pueblo/Light of the People United Methodist Church, Cary
Edith Salazar Veliz, originally from Peru, now pastor at Lus del Pueblo/Light of the People United Methodist Church, Cary
WHAT: Interfaith tea and dialogue on women and immigration
WHERE: Duke Memorial United Methodist Church, 504 W Chapel Hill St Durham, NC
WHEN: Friday, April 26 at 3pm
Women comprise half of all immigrants coming into the U.S. every year, work for universities, hospitals, care for America’s children and the elderly, and are the backbone of America’s economic engine. Torn apart from their own families and with less access to legal and social services than many U.S. citizens, immigrants are often forced to live in a perpetual state of fear as victims of domestic violence and human rights abuses. Now is the time to ensure that every woman and girl can come out of the shadows and fulfill their full potential, and granted full rights under the law.
CONTACT: Casey Schoeneberger, 202-569-4254, firstname.lastname@example.org
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(Washington, DC) - In the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy, prominent faith leaders from across the country are reaffirming their commitment to pass comprehensive immigration reform and a roadmap to citizenship in 2013. While religious leaders agree that the proposal put forth by the Senate Gang of 8 is not perfect, the faith community stands united and committed to working through the upcoming legislative process.
The following quotes from clergy and social justice leaders detail the breadth of the faith community’s support for fixing America’s broken immigrations system:
Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO, Church World Service:
“Church World Service has been calling for immigration reform that creates a roadmap to citizenship, prioritizes family unity, and improves the lives of refugees, and we believe that this legislation meets all of these goals. Immigration reform is not just the right thing to do to improve the lives of our immigrant community members; it also is the smart thing to do for our economy and the country as a whole. Specifically, we are pleased to see in the Senate bill that individuals who qualify for the pathway to citizenship could include their spouse and young children in their application, so that families can go through this process together. We are also supportive of the expedited process for DREAMers, and welcome provisions that would allow individuals who have Temporary Protect Status or Deferred Enforced Departure to apply for a green card and later, to apply for citizenship.”
Nancy K. Kaufman, CEO, National Council of Jewish Women:
“National Council of Jewish Women commends the group of 8 United States Senators who have introduced a groundbreaking immigration bill after months of deliberation. Although it isn’t perfect, this legislation is an historic step toward addressing our nation’s broken immigration system. It is also an example of much-needed bipartisan cooperation in confronting our nation’s challenges, and for that we congratulate the senators and their staff. The bill is a good starting point for the dialogue necessary to overhaul our nation’s broken immigration system with the goal of achieving just, humane and comprehensive reform. We are pleased to see many of its provisions. Its landmark path to citizenship will enable the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the US to emerge from the shadows of our society, and we applaud provisions that expedite citizenship for DREAMers and provide protections for temporary workers.”
Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration:
“I welcome the introduction of legislation in the U.S. Senate. The U.S. bishops look forward to carefully examining the legislation and working with Congress to fashion a final bill that respects the basic human rights and dignity of newcomers to our land — migrants, refugees, and other vulnerable populations.”
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas:
“We call on the President and Congress to examine the root causes of immigration, particularly policies that contribute to poverty and violence and force families to flee their homes in search of economic and physical security. We will continue to support positive aspects of the bipartisan immigration bill, while encouraging a more expedited welcome of our immigrant sisters and brothers and sustaining advocacy against further militarization of the border.”
Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director, NETWORK:
“The need for commonsense immigration reform is urgent, and we are appalled that some in Congress would use the Boston Marathon tragedy as a pretext for slowing down – or even halting – current progress in reaching that goal. We were pleased last week when legislation was finally introduced, and we’ll do everything possible to move it along while pressing hard for the fairest bill possible. Our country deserves to have our broken system addressed now. It is shameful that it has taken this long to get this far.”
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism:
“We welcome this effort to reform our country’s broken immigration system. Reflecting our deeply held Jewish and American values, we are pleased that a path to citizenship, a plan for future flow of immigrants, protections for workers, exciting provisions for DREAMers, and a commitment to family reunification are cornerstones of this legislation. We look forward to working with Congress in the coming weeks and months to further strengthen the bill, and in particular to improve family reunification procedures to include siblings, adult children and spouses of all genders, to ensure crucial social services for immigrants, and to guarantee a feasible and fair pathway to citizenship. Our Jewish tradition is clear in its command to ‘welcome the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.’ As we recognize and appreciate those who have welcomed our own community throughout time, we realize and respect the role we must play in creating an open and welcoming society for immigrants today.”
Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners:
“The introduction of immigration reform legislation is a prime example of forces outside Washington working to influence good decisions — forces like businesses, law enforcement, and faith groups such as the Evangelical Immigration Table. Now, the fate of 11 million undocumented people faces an intense battle, with millions of dollars about to be spent to defeat immigration reform by appealing to fear and anger. But with the continued involvement of the faith community and other voices for sensible reform, I believe the common good will ultimately triumph over these special interests.”
Kim Bobo, Executive Director, Interfaith Worker Justice:
“Our elected officials have a great opportunity – and responsibility – to overhaul a broken system that tears families apart and leaves workers vulnerable to abuse. Passing comprehensive immigration reform and creating a path to citizenship is clearly the way to ‘welcome the immigrant’ and ‘love our neighbor.’ It’s not a perfect bill, but it’s an important first step, and we will continue to push for stronger worker protections. Now is the time for all of us to put our faith into action, our feet to the street, and advocate policies that reflect our values of compassion and justice.”
Mark Hetfield, President and CEO, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society:
“We are thrilled that this legislation was introduced and especially pleased that there are several humanitarian fixes for refugees and asylum seekers in this new legislation, which offers a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, modernizes the immigration system, strengthens our economy, protects families, treats American and immigrant workers fairly, and begins to address the broken refugee and asylum systems. While the bill may not be perfect, it is a comprehensive and common sense approach to immigration reform.”
Naeem Baig, President, Islamic Circle of North America:
“As Americans, we proudly call our country as ‘the land of the free and home of the brave.’ I wish our immigration policy should be reflective of that statement. This is the land where immigrants migrated to avoid persecution and injustice and in search of a better future for themselves and their children. Ironically, today the children of those immigrants do not wish to offer the same to the new immigrants. The people who are here in America seeking legal status include many who have come to this land hoping for religious freedom and peace and justice for themselves and their children. They have come here with a burning desire to use their talents and energies for the sake of a better future. So, let’s make this land a ‘land for the free and a home for the brave.’”
Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A):
“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a growing and diverse immigrant membership and many of our congregations see first-hand how effective integration programs can contribute to the success of our new neighbors and ease their transition. So we’re particularly excited about the parts of the new reform legislation that focuses on the integration of new immigrants. God continues to send and call people to new lands and when we welcome and support those responding to this call on their lives, our whole community is blessed.”
Rabbi Noam E. Marans, Director, Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, American Jewish Committee:
“With potential refinement anticipated, the current comprehensive immigration reform legislation is supported by significant, broad and diverse American religious leadership as an expression of religious values: commitment to law and security; strengthening familial bonds; and enabling economic opportunity. AJC advocates for immigration reform, motivated by the experience of Jewish immigrant history and a commitment to social justice as a core Jewish principle. We have in immigration reform the opportunity to bring millions out of the shadows and enable them to be productive members of the American family.”
Fr. Thomas P. Greene, Secretary for Social and International Ministries, U.S. Jesuit Conference:
“We are encouraged by the bill and this first step toward comprehensive immigration reform. However, we need time to assess its provisions and ensure that the pathway to citizenship is indeed accessible to the millions of undocumented immigrants living and working in our midst. Certain provisions make the path seem narrow, steep and impassable for many immigrants.”
Linda Hartke, President and CEO, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service:
“We’re thrilled that S.744 shows bipartisan agreement on fundamental improvements to America’s immigration process that LIRS has long advocated. 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. Although we’re still analyzing S.744, we are glad that Senate leadership has taken heed of our call for action. Now we’re urging the House of Representatives to show bipartisan leadership like that in the Senate.”
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Ad in Charleston Post & Courier Urges Graham & Gang of 8 to Protect Pro-Family, Pro-Unity Immigration Policies
(Washington, DC) – As the Senate “Gang of Eight” prepares to release immigration reform legislation, clergy and faith groups across the country are urging lawmakers to not place unprecedented restrictions on family visas that would only serve to rip families apart. In an ad published in the Charleston, South Carolina, Post & Courier on Wednesday, clergy strongly urged Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to not separate family members and prayed that he would never have to know what it is like to be separated from his own sister.
The clergy ad reads, “Sen. Lindsey Graham, we pray that you would never have to be separated from your sister. The faith community commends Senator Lindsey Graham’s longstanding support for immigration reform. But Sen. Graham recently proposed limiting family visas, which would mean keeping some family members, like brothers and sisters, permanently separated. As Americans and people of faith, nothing is more important to us than the integrity of the family. Sen. Graham, please reconsider. Don’t let the government separate families.”
Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews, a Baptist minister and Director of Clergy Organizing for PICO National Network urged Congress to protect the family-based visa system and not abandon America’s longstanding recognition of the value of family unity.
“To be truly reflective of American values, immigration reform legislation should do everything possible to keep families together,” Mathews said. “It is an American tradition to take care of our parents as adult children and stay close to our siblings throughout our lives. The family is the absolute foundation of our society, the building block of what makes us one America, one nation under God. As people of faith, we will be unrelenting in our call for a family-based visa system that keeps families together and reduces the current backlog in visa applications that has kept some families apart for more than two decades.”
Recognizing the centuries-long effort of faith-based organizations to support strong families, Nancy Kaufman, CEO of National Council of Jewish Women, stressed that lawmakers should not betray America’s history, or their own religious values, by undermining strong families.
“As a faith-based organization founded 120 years ago, NCJW has always worked on ‘welcoming the stranger’ to our shores – be they new Jewish Americans at the turn of the century, or refugees and immigrants who have fled more recently in search of religious freedom, safety, and greater economic opportunity” Kaufman said. “We strongly urge Congress to embrace fair and compassionate immigration reform that unites and supports strong families. To do otherwise is to betray our own individual moral, ethical, and religious values as well as our proud national principles of equality for all.”
Recognizing that parents and children don’t stop being family when kids grow up, Rev. Jennifer Butler, a Presbyterian minister and executive director of Faith in Public Life, made clear that anti-family policies are a non-starter for the faith community.
“The deep bonds between brothers and sisters lasts a lifetime,” Butler said. “Members of Congress know this, and how much pain and harm restricting family visas would cause. There is no moral justification for keeping these loved ones apart.”
Speaking to his faith tradition’s long-term work for immigrant justice, The Rev. Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, said Unitarians “…will continue to stand on the side of love for immigration reform that protects families. We call upon our elected leaders to do the same on the legislative floor.”
While the faith community agrees that employment visas should be increased, clergy voiced on a press call last week that they would oppose measures that would increase employment visas at the expense of family-based visas. It does not need to be a zero-sum game.
“Family-based immigration improves communities and our economy, and helps families develop most quickly to be satisfied and productive contributors in their new U.S. communities,” said Rev. Dr. Ronald J. Degges, President of Disciples Home Missions, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. and Canada. “Family reunification must remain a priority in any immigration reform. No categories of family visas should be eliminated, including married adult children and siblings. Any limiting of categories would directly affect many families within our congregations and communities.”
The Post & Courier ad is sponsored by PICO National Network; National Council of Jewish Women; Unitarian Universalist Association; Disciples Home Missions, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); and Faith in Public Life. The faith community across the nation is sending a clear message to lawmakers: family unification must be a nonnegotiable priority in immigration reform efforts.
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