WASHINGTON, D.C. –– Following this morning’s United States Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform, global humanitarian agency Church World Service issued a statement to all Senate members urging comprehensive reforms that include measures to strengthen family unity and “a workable, clear and attainable path to full citizenship for the approximately 11 million men, women and children who are undocumented.”
Following the hearing, Congress’ first official deliberations on reforms, CWS called for a fix to the broken immigration system “not only because it is the right thing to do to improve the lives of our immigrant brothers and sisters, but also because it is the smart thing to do for our economy and communities.
“These aspiring citizens are American in all but paperwork, and should be provided an opportunity to take the citizenship exam and pledge the oath of allegiance.”
In a recent bipartisan poll conducted by Hart and Public Opinion Strategies, 80 percent of Americans support immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.
CWS said reform that will keep families together and provide a pathway to citizenship “would mark real progress. We need to make our immigration system work better for our economy and for the fabric of our communities – families. We urge all members of the Senate to strive toward this goal.”
A 67-year-old relief, development, refugee resettlement and immigration services agency, CWS said reform legislation that prioritizes family unity is “integral to the economic contribution of immigrants, and also key to the function of our immigration system.”
CWS urged Senators to authorize additional visas so families no longer have to wait years to be reunited. “We are opposed to any reduction in family visas or proposals that claim a false-choice between family visas and employment visas.”
In the existing U.S. system, visa backlogs can be as long as seven years for a spouse or minor child of legal permanent residents, and up to a 27 year wait for a sibling of a U.S. citizen. “When families are separated by lengthy visa backlogs, bars to re-entry, and no option to adjust their status, our immigration system, by failing to function in a timely way, incentivizes illegal entry,” said the statement.
CWS also underscored the significant contribution to the U.S. economy of more than $775 billion annually by immigrant-owned companies, “many of which are run by families.”
Calling for an end to rather than an increase in “harmful enforcement policies that have proved ineffective and inhumane,” in its statement CWS said, “Last year alone, the U.S. spent more than $18 billion on immigration enforcement, more than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined. ”
But, CWS noted, “Increased border measures, raids to workplaces and homes, utilizing local police to enforce immigration laws and inhumane detention, coupled with congress’s failure to enact real solutions, have only further damaged an already broken system.”
In Tuesday evening’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said, “As we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill … let’s get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away.”
Prior to the Senate hearing this morning, CWS and other advocates and clergy from the interfaith community led an Ash Wednesday Service across the street from the Hart Senate building, calling for “repentance from a broken immigration system.” Among the participants were clergy representing the Franciscans, Interfaith Worker Justice and the United Church of Christ.