The benefits of immigration reform
When I look at the current heated debate over immigration reform, I can’t help but do it through the lens of my own experiences, and those of my congregation.
Many members of my congregation, Trinity Lutheran Congregation (ELCA) near Augsburg College in Minneapolis, have been warmly welcomed in other countries as missionaries, teachers, students, or visitors. Some, like me, are dismayed that their government is creating barriers to entry to immigrants and refugees, even in cases where current laws are intended to extend hospitality and unify families. People like me are also aware of our broken immigration system’s over-reliance on detention and record-high numbers of deportations.
I feel we can do better as a nation, and in the process honor America’s commitment to fairness and our faith’s value of preserving families.
The CBO calculates that a functioning immigration system would reduce federal budget deficits by over $200 billion over the next decade.
In that light, we badly need the House of Representatives to pass an immigration reform bill this summer. An effective bill would establish a roadmap to earned lawful permanent residency and subsequent citizenship for undocumented immigrants and their families. It would put in place laws that are humanely enforced by limiting the use of immigration detention and broadening community support programs.
A common-sense bill would also preserve families from separation and better guarantee a sufficient supply of visas for families seeking to reunite. Moreover, it would provide sufficient resources to ensure the healthy assimilation of refugees and migrants. Lastly, the bill would include better protections for American citizen and migrant laborers.
Gospel call to fairness
From my conversations with many people in my congregation and community, I know that I’m just one of many Lutherans and people of all faiths who are calling on the House to pass this type of bill. Our commitment to fairness and compassion in this realm is not unique; it unites us with a majority of Americans seeking a new law that keeps families together and offers a roadmap to earned citizenship for 11 million aspiring new Americans.
In fact, fixing our broken system can benefit all Americans. The Congressional Budget Office calculates that a functioning immigration system, as proposed in comprehensive legislation passed recently by the Senate, would reduce federal budget deficits by over $200 billion over the next decade. Our nation’s economy could benefit in other ways, too. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has found that immigrants strengthen the economy and create jobs.
It’s important that reform go forward, because even for those whose entry to the United States is consistent with existing law, the immigration process is confusing, cumbersome, and fraught with obstacles and delay. For an example, I need look no further than a family of refugees Trinity Lutheran has helped to resettle. Their efforts to reunite with family members have been an uphill battle. I’d like to see things change, not just for them, but for everyone who could benefit from reform.
All this makes it crucially important that the House of Representatives act now to pass a fair and comprehensive immigration reform bill. Members of both parties will have to reach across the aisle to put national interests ahead of partisan quarrels, but the Senate has proved that can be done.
I pray that our elected officials will act with wisdom on this urgent issue, and I trust that they will, if enough of us call on them to do the right thing.
Nancy Homans is a member of Trinity Lutheran Congregation, a congregation founded by Scandinavian immigrants in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis. Having welcomed, over the years, new Americans from Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and South America, Cedar-Riverside is now home to one of the largest Somali communities in the United States.