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

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

June 27, 2013

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.


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

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 www.senate.gov

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