Office of Government Relations

EPPNAlert : Senate preps for final S. 744 vote – Why The Episcopal Church supports the bill

June 27, 2013
Office of Government Relations

This week, after months of debate in the Senate and advocacy across the country, the United States Senate will vote on S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.   This historic legislation, if passed, will bring our nation that much closer to enacting the first comprehensive reform of our immigration laws since 1986. Drafted by a bipartisan group of Senators, amended by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and then the full Senate, this bill covers nearly every aspect of our immigration system.   As with any legislation of this size and scope, S. 744 involves compromises throughout.

Being a compromise bill, there are some aspects that don’t align with the policies our Church has adopted. The length and projected cost of the pathway to citizenship fall short of what our Church has supported, a problem compounded by the requirement that certain border triggers be completed before the citizenship pathway can begin. We are also dismayed by certain provisions related to families.  These include the elimination of the sibling category and the cap that bars adult married children over the age of 31 from reuniting with their families, along with a merit-based visa system that unfairly, if unintentionally, excludes women from accessing visas.  Finally, with the recent addition of the Corker-Hoeven amendment, communities along our southern border will continue see escalating levels of militarization, at great financial, environmental, and human cost.

The cost of these compromises — to individuals seeking legal status, taxpayers, communities affected by the border provisions, and family members who will no longer be able to reunite — is incredibly high and disheartening. However, we believe the positive amply outweighs the negative in the bill and, after careful study of the bill and our Church resolutions, we believe that this is a bill Episcopalians should support.

The bill provides a pathway to citizenship for so many long pushed to the margins of our society and, once that pathway is enacted, we will fight with all of our collective strength to ensure it serves our community members as it should. This pathway not only includes individual applicants but also their spouses and children (under 21), allowing families to remain together while in Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status.  The bill also contains the strongest version of the DREAM Act ever drafted, with no age cap for these young adults brought here as children, and an expedited pathway to citizenship that would allow them access to a green card within 5 years.  Agricultural workers would also have access to an expedited pathway to citizenship and, like RPIs, they would be allowed to bring their families.  This bill would also improve the lives of refugees and asylum seekers, making long overdue improvements to the asylum and refugee systems, removing the 1 year filing deadline for asylum, protecting vulnerable populations such as victims of trafficking and stateless people, and reuniting refugee families. S. 744 would also reunite many immigrant families by clearing visa backlogs and recapturing unused visas. While we wish the bill did more to combat our nation’s overuse of immigration detention, the improvements to detainee access to due process protections and counsel, especially for the neediest detainees such as children or those with physical and mental disabilities, will improve thousands of lives and potentially bring positive outcomes to thousands of immigration cases.

This bill is far from perfect. However, our pursuit of justice in our immigration policies was never going to end with this bill or with any bill.  Our Baptismal Covenant to “strive for peace and justice among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being” continues well beyond this incremental step in the process toward justice for immigrants.  The question we must ask ourselves at this critical juncture is not whether this is the perfect immigration-reform proposal, but rather whether this bill is better for our communities, our country, and our immigrant brothers and sisters than the current system.   In view of the policies on immigration adopted by The Episcopal Church, we believe the answer to this question is a resounding yes.   

Equally important to the content of this bill, we recognize that if this legislation does not move forward, the likelihood of Congress taking any meaningful steps this year is almost non-existent.  In fact, if this bill fails, it is likely to be years or even decades before Congress returns to the subject and while we retain our opposition to pieces of the bill, we believe that no one would be served by such a perpetuation of our current immigration system. Without these legislative changes our friends, family members and neighbors will continue to face separation from their families, unprecedented levels of detention and deportation, minimal due process protections or protections from unscrupulous employers, and they will be forced to remain in the shadows with no relief in sight.

Supporting this bill allows us to take a step forward in our march towards a just and compassionate immigration system- a step that allows millions of our immigrant brothers and sisters to emerge from the shadows and join us in this pursuit.


Read the Presiding Bishop’s Statement on the introduction of S. 744

Find a comprehensive list of all immigration and refugee related resolutions passed by General Convention and Executive Council

Pray for our lawmakers: "O God, the fountain of wisdom, whose will is good and gracious, and whose law is truth. We beseech thee so to guide and bless our Senators and Representatives in Congress assembled, that they may enact such laws as shall please thee, to the glory of thy Name and the welfare of this people; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." (BCP, p. 821)

Call 1-866-940-2439 to be connected with your Senators and make your voice heard. You can also call the Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121 or find Senators’ direct lines at

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