Ad in Charleston Post & Courier Urges Graham & Gang of 8 to Protect Pro-Family, Pro-Unity Immigration Policies
( 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.