Washington, D.C. – The immigration reform bill introduced last week came before the senate judiciary committee this morning. Church World Service, which supports reform of the nation’s immigration laws, is grateful that a bill finally has been introduced and pleased that committee chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has committed to an “open process” to debate the bill in committee.
“CWS 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," said CWS President and CEO the Rev. John McCullough, “it also is the smart thing to do for our economy and the country as a whole.”
The bill, S.744 or the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, was introduced by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)
CWS supports the path to citizenship outlined in the bill, which would create a gradual process for individuals to apply for “Registered Provisional Immigrant” status, followed by the opportunity to apply for a green card in 10 years, and citizenship three years after that.
“Specifically, we are pleased to see 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 as well as the expedited process for DREAMers,” said McCullough. “We also welcome provisions that would allow individuals who have Temporary Protect Status or Deferred Enforced Departure to apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status and later, to apply for citizenship.”
CWS emphasized its support for many improvements for refugees and asylum seekers and for the promotion of integration programs.
“This bill would improve access to protection for individuals fleeing persecution and help them keep their families together as they rebuild their lives,” said Erol Kekic, director of CWS’s Immigration and Refugee Program.
CWS did, however, express concern about certain provisions in the legislation, particularly changes that would make it impossible for U.S. citizens to sponsor their siblings or married adult children over the age of 30.
“While this bill includes many positive provisions that promote family unity, such as expediting the processing of current family visa backlogs and allowing green card holders to reunite with their spouses and young children in a more timely manner, we are opposed to the bill’s provisions that would eliminate the ability for U.S. citizens to sponsor their brothers, sisters and children who are married and over the age of 30. Brothers and sisters should not be separated by the government, and the parent-child bond does not vanish with adulthood,” said McCullough.
CWS also opposes the pathway to citizenship being contingent upon border security “triggers”, which include stipulations for additional fencing, surveillance, technology and additional border patrol and customs agents, as well as full implementation of an employment verification system and an electronic entry/exit system at all air and sea ports.
CWS has urged the Senate to adopt a shorter time frame for the pathway to citizenship and emphasized the need to expand the eligibility criteria and allow those going through this process to have access to health care and other services.
“We strongly hold that these provisions should not be used to delay the pathway to citizenship. In addition to our opposition to ‘triggers,’ CWS is opposed to the bill’s provisions to send the National Guard to the border and spend an additional $4.5 billion on border and interior enforcement, because of the impact this would have on border communities, vulnerable migrants, religious sites and the environment. Enough already has been spent – $18 billion in 2012 alone – on border enforcement. We do not need to lengthen the pathway to citizenship with such unrealistic and unnecessary demands,” said Kekic.
CWS, which for years has provided services to refugees and immigrants across the U.S., pledged to help improve this bill through the amendment process and urged all Senators to support a timely process to consider, improve, and enact the legislation.
CWS is one of just nine organizations the government works with to resettle refugees within the U.S.