January 30, 2014

CWS Responds to House Republican "Standards for Immigration Reform"

Faith leaders and DREAMers at a prayer service on Capitol Hill for immigration reform. Photo: © Jim Coates

Church World Service believes that the recently released standards from U.S. House Republicans are a step forward in addressing urgently needed immigration reform. However, these standards fall short of the reform needed to create an immigration system that honors families, creates opportunity and lives up to our best potential as a nation.

"We are pleased that the Republican leadership agrees that inaction is unsustainable," says the Rev. John L. McCullough, CWS President and CEO. "These standards are an important stepping stone toward legislation, but they leave open many questions for what the real implications will be on families and immigrant communities."

The standards state that individuals could live “legally and without fear in the U.S.” As CWS staff at work with these communities can attest, this fear is real and hurts entire communities. But removing fear is not enough. Our country needs immigration reform that will embrace aspiring Americans so they can be fully included and equal, with the opportunity to live as full citizens.

"It is immoral to benefit from individuals who contribute to our economy while preventing them from being fully part of this country," continues McCullough.

The standards document suggests that the U.S. government has emphasized "extended family members" over employment-based immigration. In fact, the current system does not allow for extended family reunification. It only allows U.S. citizens to sponsor their spouses, children, parents and siblings, and green card holders to sponsor their spouses and children. CWS firmly believes that both family and employment visas need to be increased in order to truly fix the U.S. immigration system. Families are the fabric of strong economies, providing foundations for learning English, starting businesses and preparing children for school. All undocumented individuals, including youth, need the opportunity to reunite with their family members.

The standards prioritize enforcement in overhauling the U.S. immigration system. The reality is that the U.S. government spends $18 billion every year on immigration enforcement efforts - more than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined. Prioritizing enforcement even further is a distraction from the real solutions needed for families and communities. CWS looks forward to working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to bring priority to our families instead.

"CWS and its member communions will continue to mobilize and advocate across the U.S. for genuine immigration reform," McCullough says. "The urgent need for reform requires us to bring a prophetic witness to the legislative process, calling for full citizenship, family unity and community wholeness."

See also Rev. McCullough's opinion editorial with other religious leaders on the need for a pathway to citizenship published in The Hill.