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Lutheran Leaders' Message on Immigration Reform: 'Now, Get it Right'

Contact: Liz O'Neill, Interim Director for Communications, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), 410-230-2791, lirspress@lirs.org

BALTIMORE, June 8 /Christian Newswire/ -- Ralston H. Deffenbaugh Jr., president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) and several Lutheran bishops call on Congress and the White House to renew efforts to achieve fair immigration reform.

"Now is the time for President Bush and Congress to enact a bill that is truly humane and pro-family," said LIRS President Ralston H. Deffenbaugh Jr. "LIRS has long supported comprehensive immigration reform, but the Senate bill that stalled last night fell far short of what is needed. Reform must protect family unity, secure the rights of immigrants, allow immigrant workers to come out of the shadows and live with dignity, and provide a path to permanence for those who are undocumented.

"After painstaking deliberation, we opposed the Senate bill," said Deffenbaugh. "While it would have had some positive impact in the short term, such as providing documentation to undocumented people and reducing the family backlog, the long-term consequences would have been to abandon family unity as a cornerstone of U.S. immigration law. That would have had a devastating impact on family unity. Overall, it was not the comprehensive fix that our broken immigration system requires."

"I'm disappointed with the current Senate bill," added the Rev. Gerald L. Mansholt, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's Central States Synod. "I hope that our leaders in the Senate, the House, and the office of the president can come together to find a way to bring about comprehensive immigration reform in such a way that it lifts up the importance of the family and keeps families united, which is what the current proposal is missing this year."

"Core spiritual values unite us in this diverse cultural and religious place called America," noted the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, bishop of the ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod. "Central to these shared values is the family. Senate Bill 1348 failed to speak to our common spiritual foundations."

"Our nation is founded on strong families that stand at the center of our communities," observed the Rev. H. Gerard Knoche, bishop of the ELCA Delaware-Maryland Synod. "The Senate's proposal turned away from that long-standing tradition and from the Christian principle that we should welcome the stranger in our homes and families."

"This proposal was very problematic," said the Rev. Paul Stumme-Diers, bishop of the ELCA Greater Milwaukee Synod. "The family is the first community for us as human beings, and is the strongest building block for creating stable, productive societies."

"Under the Senate bill U.S. citizens would have completely lost the ability to petition for adult children and siblings and would have to have waited years to unify with their parents," explained Deffenbaugh. "LIRS applauds Senators Clinton, Menendez and others for their efforts to put the principle of 'families first' back into this legislation, and we commend Senator Joseph Lieberman for an amendment that would afford greater protection to asylum seekers. That kind of resolve gives us hope that the day of truly comprehensive immigration reform will come. We call on the White House and Congress to revive real immigration reform and, in good faith, achieve a truly workable compromise."