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5/18: Lutheran Bishops and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Express Grave Concern That Senate Immigration Deal Devalues Families
Released 21 May 2007  By Lutheran Bishops and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

Lutheran Bishops and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Express Grave Concern That Senate Immigration Deal Devalues Families

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 18, 2007 -- Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) today voiced grave concern over Thursday’s Senate compromise on immigration reform legislation. The Lutheran leaders objected to the plan’s severe cuts to the family-sponsored immigration system and its failure to present a fair and workable plan.

“LIRS has long supported comprehensive immigration reform, but reform must protect family unity, secure the rights of immigrants, treat immigrant workers with dignity, and provide a path to permanence for those who are undocumented,” said LIRS President Ralston H. Deffenbaugh Jr. “Yesterday’s compromise falls far short of those objectives. It proposes an untested merit-based system that values immigrants who have financial resources and education, but devalues family relationships.”

“Our country can’t tell people who have been waiting patiently in line for visas that we are now rewriting the rules and effectively forcing them to start from scratch,” said Deffenbaugh. The plan would retroactively set a May 2005 cut-off date for many categories of family visa applications. Those who applied after the cut-off would have to requalify under a new, still-undefined points-based system.

“This bill would make it far more difficult for family members to reunite in the United States in the future,” said the Rev. Gerald H. Mansholt, the Kansas City, Kan.-based bishop of the ELCA Central States Synod. The proposal would all but eliminate visas for adult children and siblings who are seeking to join their U.S. citizen and permanent resident relatives, and would greatly reduce the number of visas available for parents of adult children. “Our family-based immigration system has been the cornerstone of U.S. immigration law for decades, and we should not lightly abandon it in response to political pressures,” said Bishop Mansholt.

“Our nation is founded on strong families that stand at the center of our communities,” said the Rev. H. Gerard Knoche, bishop of the ELCA Delaware-Maryland Synod from his office in Baltimore. “This proposal turns away from that long-standing tradition and from the Christian principle that we should welcome the stranger in our homes and families.”

“This proposal is very problematic,” said the Rev. Paul Stumme-Diers, bishop of the ELCA Greater Milwaukee Synod. “The family is the first community for us as human beings, and is the strongest building block for creating stable, productive societies.”

“We commend the Senate and administration for their hard work on immigration reform, but we urge them to redouble their efforts to develop truly comprehensive reform that better serves families and the common good,” continued Deffenbaugh. “We are committed to working with legislators who value the importance of family, and who are willing to do the hard work to improve this bill, but LIRS will oppose a plan that fails to meet the needs of American families.”


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