Point of View

Immigration laws need reform

March 28, 2013 

America is a nation of immigrants and a country built upon values. These are two essential and interwoven parts of our identity both as a nation and as people of faith. As immigration reform moves forward in Congress, we are called as faith leaders to step out and put our belief in human dignity and family values at the heart of the debate.

Faith communities from many traditions have been working for years to highlight how families continue to be torn apart by a broken system. In today’s partisan climate, it’s truly remarkable that virtually all denominations agree on basic principles of reform, including family unity and a roadmap to citizenship for those who are currently undocumented.

With the elections behind us and with clear support from the American people, we commend Congress and the president for taking initial steps to work together in creating a fair and just comprehensive immigration reform policy. While lawmakers and pundits may emphasize the politics surrounding the issue, we urge them not to lose sight of the 11 million aspiring Americans counting on Congress to do the right thing.

Since the Senate is taking the lead on this issue, we urge Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Kay Hagan to support humane and comprehensive reforms that fix the system and offer a reasonable roadmap to citizenship for undocumented Americans currently living in the shadows. Hagan voted against the DREAM Act in 2010. Since then she has said that she does not support piecemeal efforts because the whole system needs to be fixed. That moment is here.

The immigrants living in the United States today have come here motivated by the same thing that motivates all of us: to pursue a better life for their families. They work hard, they contribute to our communities, they go to church and they share the values we hold most dear.

As people of faith, we believe that all people should be treated fairly, because all are children of God and deserve mutual respect and love. The Bible speaks clearly about welcoming the stranger and loving our neighbor as ourselves. As Christians we hold to the following guiding principles to a fair and just immigration policy: Persons have the right to find opportunities in their homeland, and when that is not possible they have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families; sovereign nations have the right to control their borders; refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection; and the human rights and the human dignity of undocumented migrants should be respected. We believe this is what should inform our beliefs and interactions with our immigrant neighbors and the public policies that we support.

During Lent, we focus on the theme of repentance and what it means to change our ways and do right by God. As we observe Good Friday today, we recognize the suffering so many people have endured as a result of our broken immigration system: deaths in the desert, years in detention awaiting an immigration hearing, children left without parents and a class of people marginalized to the shadows. It is time to stop the suffering and to prepare for that Easter moment of transformation to new life.

Please join us in calling on our elected officials to enact humane comprehensive immigration reform that will lead to a path to citizenship for all who seek it and allow families to unite in optimism and celebration of American possibility. Let us work together in creating an immigration policy that will uphold the rule of law, preserve family unity and protect the human rights and dignity of the person.

Michael F. Burbidge is bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh. Michael Curry is bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina.

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