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President of Nation's Leading Lutheran Voice on Immigration Reform Speaks Out in Favor of New Senate Amendment

Contact: Liz O'Neill, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, 410-230-2791, loneill@lirs.org

WASHINGTON, May 24 /Christian Newswire/ -- Ralston Deffenbaugh Jr., president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), spoke out this week in favor of a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) to the contentious immigration reform bill currently being debated in the Senate. The amendment would reclassify the spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents as "immediate relatives," thereby exempting them from visa caps, and expediting the reunification of families.

"Without this amendment, a U.S. legal permanent resident could remain separated from his or her spouse and young children for more than five years," said Deffenbaugh. "Current immigration law puts a cap on the number of annual visas available for spouses and children of legal permanent residents. The Clinton-Hagel-Menendez amendment would remove that cap and lead to quicker reunification of family members, which has always been a public policy priority for LIRS."

Currently, the spouse or minor child of a lawful permanent resident is not allowed to enter the United States, even for a brief visit. At the same time, the legal permanent resident is required to reside predominately in the United States – otherwise he or she risks losing their permanent residency status.

"Our policies should unite families--not divide them. Our immigration laws should reflect our nation's strong commitment to family values. Unfortunately, because the current system is broken, it does not fully reflect that commitment." said Deffenbaugh.

"We are encouraged by the bi-partisan leadership of Senators Hagel, Clinton, and Menendez. Our hope is that their leadership might serve as a catalyst that will embolden other Senators to step forward and introduce amendments that lead to the overall goal of reuniting families in the most humane and expeditious way possible. As we go forward, we should remember that united families are stronger families; stronger families make stronger communities; and stronger communities create an America that gives us all new hope and new life," he said.

LIRS is a cooperative agency of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. With initiative and stewardship, LIRS seeks creative solutions for uprooted people regardless of race, ethnicity or religious beliefs.

For more information, contact Liz O'Neill at 410/230-2791 or loneill@lirs.org.