CWS Statement Supporting H.R. 4798, the “Reuniting Families Act”

March 18, 2016

Dear Members of the United States House of Representatives,

I am writing on behalf of Church World Service, a 70-year old humanitarian organization representing 37 Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox communions and 33 refugee resettlement offices across the United States. As an organization concerned with the well-being of immigrant and refugee families, we urge you to co-sponsor the “Reuniting Families Act” (H.R.4798), championed by Representative Michael Honda (D-CA) and co-sponsored by Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Xavier Becerra (D-CA), and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and 70 other other cosponsors.

The United States Congress has the opportunity to reunite the families of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. In many cases, the families covered by this bill have been separated for decades as their cases have stalled in the backlogged and bureaucratic immigration system. These families and the U.S. government deserve a more efficient process for a timely reunification of their families in the United States.

The “Reuniting Families Act” would reduce lengthy backlogs by rightfully classifying spouses and children of lawful permanent residents as “immediate relatives.” The bill would eliminate discrimination facing LGBT families by granting individuals in a permanent partnership the ability to obtain family-based visas to which they currently lack access. It would recapture certain unused visas and distribute visas more equitably between countries, increasing the per-country limit from 7% to 15% and thereby reduce the backlog. It would also recognize the sacrifices of World War II Filipino veterans by exempting their children from the numerical caps. The bill would allow the government discretion and flexibility when addressing family separation for undocumented immigrants. It would also strengthen protections for children and widows by allowing families to reunite after the death of the sponsoring relative and by ensuring children do not age out of their visa application simply because of processing delays. 

If Congress fails to act, the tragedy of broken families will continue as spouses are separated from each other and children are separated from a parent, or in some cases, both parents. By allowing family separation to continue due to our broken immigration laws, the United States is responsible for disrupting the emotional, social, and intellectual growth of children and decreasing the economic contribution of entire family units.

Family unity is a priority of our immigration system. This bill upholds our American values, and will strengthen the integrity of our legal system for all Americans, improve our economic future, and give families the opportunity to truly pursue the American Dream. I urge you to consider the plight of all families affected by our immigration system and uphold the integrity of the family unit by cosponsoring the “Reuniting Families Act” (H.R.4798).


Erol Kekic

Executive Director, IRP+

Church World Service

475 Riverside Dr., Suite 700

New York, NY 10115