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Clergy, Social Justice Leaders Cautiously Applaud Gang of 8 Immigration Proposal

- 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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