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Family Unity Must Be Focus of Immigration Reform, Evangelicals Say

Contact: Jenny Hwang, Director of Advocacy and Policy, World Relief, 410-258-5970, jhwang@wr.org


WASHINGTON, May 22, /Christian Newswire/ -- Evangelicals weighed into the immigration reform debate today, calling on Congress to keep families together.


"We have seen the consequences of a broken system that has separated families for many years," said Dan Kosten, director of immigrant programs at evangelical agency World Relief, a key player in immigration reform gathering momentum on Capitol Hill.


Speaking before a House of Representatives subcommittee Tuesday, Kosten urged lawmakers to pursue a family oriented approach to comprehensive immigration reform. World Relief is concerned that a proposed point system would favor employment-based immigration and elevate the educational level of immigrants over reuniting families.


"Immigration through family is the cornerstone of our system and we must continue to value and strengthen what has made our country great," Kosten told the subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law. "Any means to undercut family reunification undermines the value of family," he said.


Kosten said the evangelical community does not condone immigrants living in the United States illegally, but "we recognize that our complex and inadequate immigration system has made it nearly impossible for many of the hard-working people our country needs to enter or remain in the country legally and reunite with family."


"We often hear that immigrants do not share American values," Kosten continued. "I strongly object to this thinking because the vast majority of immigrants are hard-working, family-loving, and willing to integrate into our communities. We must teach them our American values, and churches play an integral role in this."


Representing the 30-million-strong National Association of Evangelicals, World Relief has resettled more than 200,000 refugees since 1979 and assisted thousands of immigrant families across the U.S. The Baltimore-based group wants Congress to reduce visa waiting times for separated families, create more opportunities for migrant workers, implement border controls "consistent with humanitarian values," and place certain undocumented workers already in the U.S. on a path to legalization and eventual citizenship.