Comprehensive immigration reform

Melissa came to the United States from Peru with her mother when she was seven and has been living in New Jersey for 20 years. She said, "I did my best in school because I believed that hard work pays off. In high school, I didn't think I could go to college because I was undocumented, yet I continued to work hard just in case that changed.

Rev. John L. McCullough
Rev. John L. McCullough
Photo: T.Abraham/CWS

It’s time to fix our broken system

You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in Egypt.
Exodus 22:21

I was a stranger, and you welcomed me…
Matthew 25:35b

Melissa came to the United States from Peru with her mother when she was seven and has been living in New Jersey for 20 years. She said, “I did my best in school because I believed that hard work pays off.  In high school, I didn’t think I could go to college because I was undocumented, yet I continued to work hard just in case that changed.  It didn’t, and I graduated with honors and with no college plans.  Knowing that I could not give up, I went after my college dreams and completed college with two degrees, one in Biology and one in Nursing. Recently, I shared my story with a church leader and was asked, ‘Do you want to be undocumented?’ I thought this was a rather odd question; of course I don’t want to be undocumented! I asked myself several questions during our silence: Do I want to live without fear?  Do I want to see my grandmother?  Do I want to do something with my Biology and Nursing degrees I have worked so hard for?  Do I want to travel and see all this world has to offer?  The answer to all these questions is ‘yes.’”  

Without immigration reform that provides undocumented immigrants like Melissa an opportunity to rectify their status with the law, she will not be able to do any of them.

Melissa’s story is about the American dream, and it reminds me of how urgently humane Immigration Reform is needed. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12)  Many hard working but vulnerable sisters and brothers have waited long enough for an opportunity to become recognized members of the American community. For this reason CWS is making every effort to see immigration reform enacted this year. Current U.S. immigration laws offer no hope for undocumented immigrants, separated families, or exploited workers. Undocumented workers are often exploited, paid less than minimum wage and made to work overtime without pay. This breeds divisions in the workplace and in communities.

For nearly 65 years Church World Service has provided direct service and advocacy for refugees, immigrants, and other marginalized communities based on the premise that here in America we have enough to share with those who suffer and seek refuge from hunger, poverty, injustice, and violent conflict. This experience and biblically-rooted convictions about compassionate treatment of immigrants leads us to advocate for reform that keeps families together and enables undocumented immigrants to earn their legal status and eventual citizenship.

The inhumane consequences of our broken immigration system can be most poignantly seen in the stories of immigrants who have been torn from their families, detained, deported, exploited, and who live in fear. Melissa reflects, “It is hard to believe that I grew up with the constant fear and anxiety that someone would find out about my situation and that I would be deported. Or that my mom might not come back from work one day because Immigration and Customs Enforcement had taken her away.”  It is hard to believe that there are millions of children growing up in this country with an undocumented status.

I’m convinced that the way to reduce undocumented immigration is to fix the immigration system so that people seeking work and family reunification can enter legally, and so that those who are here illegally can rectify their status with the law. We are not calling for amnesty, but for a system that allows people to register with the government, pass background checks, learn English, and get on the tax rolls in order to gain legal status and eventually work toward citizenship. Such a plan is not only the right thing to do and the best practical way to fix our immigration system, it would also contribute to U.S. economic prosperity, bringing increases in tax revenue, investments, consumption, wage growth, and job creation. Immigration reform would help heal our communities, reunite families, improve our economy, and fulfill our call to welcome the stranger.

We have a chance right now to transform a dysfunctional, unjust, anti-family system into something that represents the best of who we are.

President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid along with Senators Lindsay Graham and Charles Schumer endorsed immigration reform as an urgent national agenda. Please join us and urge Congress to enact immigration reform this year. I have added my name to millions of people of faith who are signing petitions, sending postcards, hosting prayer vigils, and calling their members of Congress to advocate for reform. Will you also help?

 

See also:
More on CWS’s nationwide efforts

CWS resources and worship materials for church and community groups

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, lcrosson@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526, jdragin@gis.net


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