Each day colleagues across the Church World Service network – in congregations, service programs, headquarters and affiliate offices, along with thousands of volunteers – witness the human consequences of the broken and outdated immigration system.
They see the exploitation of undocumented workers and the plight of separated families, along with the escalation of community fear due to indiscriminate raids and local police acting as federal immigration agents. They visit asylum seekers and others held in immigration detention facilities, in which immigrants often lack access to adequate medical care, time outdoors, faith-appropriate religious services and basic psychological services.
CWS affiliates and partners provide ESL classes and free and low-cost legal services to immigrants seeking asylum from persecution, employment or reunification with family members. Congregations across the United States are assisting families threatened or already shattered by the deportation of an immigrant parent, leaving behind a U.S. citizen spouse and/or children.
Congregation members find themselves helpless in comforting a mother separated from her children, a husband separated from his wife, and friends and neighbors hesitant to leave their homes for fear of deportation. It is the moral obligation of the ecumenical community to work toward putting an end to this suffering, which should offend everyone who believes in the dignity of all human beings. To this end, voices for humane, equitable immigration reform must be heard.
What is immigration reform?
Fair, humane immigration reform would reunite families separated due to visa backlogs as long as 22 years, protect the rights of all workers, reform inhumane detention and deportation processes, make the visa system more efficient, and provide a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants so they can rectify their status with the law by paying taxes, learning English, and showing they have a criminal-free background. It would provide not just temporary, but permanent relief, for “DREAMers” – undocumented young people who ’ve grown up in the United States.
Immigration reform is important to help these men, women, and children stay, or be reunited, with their families and achieve legal status so they can work, study, and continue to contribute to our communities. Immigration reform is not only morally right, it is also the most practical response to the broken immigration system, and would benefit our economy – by some estimates by adding $1.5 trillion to GDP over 10 years.
Americans know the immigration system is broken, and they want it fixed. By a 3:1 margin, voters nationwide want to turn undocumented immigrants into taxpaying American citizens. We have a chance, right before us, to transform a dysfunctional, unjust, anti-family system into something that is the best of who we are, while helping our economy.
Why should churches and communities get involved?
We are all God’s children and care about the well-being of our immigrant brothers and sisters. Our communities suffer when U.S. immigration laws offer no hope for undocumented immigrants, separated families, or exploited workers to achieve a better life. Millions of people across the country have proven their commitment to immigration reform by hosting hundreds of prayer vigils, signing the Interfaith Platform on Humane Immigration Reform*, sending hundreds of thousands of postcards to Congress, and serving immigrants and refugees every day.
Separated families, exploited workers, and devastated communities cannot wait any longer for immigration reform, and people of faith should not be silent about a dehumanizing, broken immigration system. Reforming our immigration system would not only help immigrants, but the United States as a whole by leveling the playing field, improving workplace standards, reducing undocumented immigration, and adding $1.5 trillion to the U.S. economy.
We need Congress to enact immigration reform this year, and for them to do that, we must show that people of faith, service providers, and entire communities care about and stand in solidarity with immigrants by advocating for immigration reform. As people who care about our communities, it is our responsibility to see that everyone is treated with respect and can access the opportunity for a better life.