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THE REAL SOLUTION TO DEFEND OUR VALUES

The faith-based communities in America have come together in 2007 on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. The United States has a proud history of immigration, and has been continually reshaped by new groups of people bringing to it diverse cultures, perspectives, and resources. And at the heart of our nation’s immigrant story has been the welcome and sanctuary offered new Americans by our institutions and people of faith. That proud tradition continues today.


“The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
—The Hebrew Bible, Leviticus 19:33-34

““I was a stranger and you welcomed me…. What you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me.”
—The New Testament, Matthew 25:35, 40-41

““Serve God…and do good to…orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer that you meet, [and those who have nothing].”
—The Qur’an, 4:36

““The guest is a representative of God.”
—The Hindu Taitiriya Upanishad, 1.11.2

Our nation’s immigration policies affect millions of people who are seeking to build better life in this country. The current U.S. immigration system is broken, and now is the time for a fair and compassionate solution. We think it is entirely possible to protect our borders while establishing a viable, humane, and realistic immigration system, one that is consistent with our faith-based values and increases national security while protecting the livelihood of Americans.

Much of the debate about immigration reform focuses on the economy and security—both of which are important. But to ignore the importance of family values, human dignity and the need to act with love and compassion would leave a gaping hole in our immigration policy. Immigration reform that is comprehensive and strengthens our American values will enrich the vitality of America and advance the common good. We need real reform, and real solutions, to defend our values.

Maintaining Human Dignity
It is in our national interest that refugees fleeing persecution continue to look to the United States as a champion of refugee protection. The United States should develop effective programs to assist and protect refugees in locations around the world, such as the Sudanese refugees in Chad who fled genocide in their homeland. The U.S. should also offer compassionate and fair asylum policies that recognize the particular vulnerabilities of refugees who enter the United States seeking safe haven from persecution. Victims of gender violence, children, persecuted religious minorities and other particularly vulnerable migrants should receive special attention and protection by the United States.

Protecting Family Values and Family Unity
Traditionally, immigration laws have upheld the value of family and placed priority on keeping families united. In our country today, however, there are hundreds of immigrant families that have been separated for an average of 6-8 years. Many of these families have been separated due to two types of backlogs- an administrative backlog as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services do not have enough resources to handle the workload, and also a visa backlog due to the limited number of visas that allow immigrants to enter into our country. Due to these backlogs, immigrants often have had to face the hard choice of being separated from family members for long periods of time, or entering illegally to be with their loved ones.

Currently, the annual ceiling for family-based immigration is 480,000 individuals per year. This number is divided into immediate relatives of U.S. citizens as well as 4 different family preferences based on different criteria. There is also a cap on how many people are allowed into the United States from any one country. A combination of these visa ceilings as well as the per-country cap often contributes to long waits for the average immigrant family. For example, a wife, husband, or child of a U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident is only now receiving a visa after a 5 year wait.

Conducting Ourselves with Compassion, Love and Civility
During periods of rapid change and economic uncertainty, it is often the vulnerable and marginalized people who are blamed for the misfortune that everyone else experiences or expects to experience. Today a significant amount of attention and blame for a perceived threat to the American way of life is being directed at immigrants. As people of faith, we must ensure that the debate on immigration reform civil and respectful manner, mindful not to blame immigrants for our social and economic ills or for the atrocities committed by the few who have carried out acts of terrorism.