Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), the national organization established by Lutheran churches in the United States to serve uprooted people, applauds the House of Representatives for passing the DREAM Act (HR 6497) last week and calls on the Senate to immediately pass this important bill.
The DREAM Act is bipartisan legislation that has been introduced in every legislative session since 2001. The bill would allow undocumented students who were brought to the United States as children, who are long-term U.S. residents, and have good moral character to become lawful permanent residents provided that for two years they attend college or serve in the U.S. military. Over the past few months, President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and former President George W. Bush Administration officials have all endorsed the DREAM Act and urged Congress to act.
Polling shows that a majority of Americans support the DREAM Act. According to a recent Gallop survey, 54% of Americans support the measure. Moreover, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill would save U.S. taxpayers more than $2 billion between 2011 and 2020.
Last week, LIRS convened in Washington, DC the Lutheran Immigration Leadership Summit, a gathering of more than 40 Lutheran faith leaders from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LC-MS) and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Denominational leaders, representatives from the migrant community and ministry partners discussed the need to overhaul the broken U.S. immigration system and stressed the importance of passing the DREAM Act. Leaders also met with the White House and more than 50 congressional offices to urge passage of the DREAM Act in 2010 and to promote fair and humane immigration reform in the next Congress.
For many years the U.S. immigration system has kept thousands of promising young people from pursuing higher levels of education or U.S. military service, denying them the opportunity to further contribute to the U.S. economy and society. “Many of these children have a difficult life as a result of decisions made on their behalf,” lamented the Rev. Gregory S. Walton, LC-MS President of the Georgia-Florida District. “We can give them a hopeful future and help them become responsible, productive citizens.”
The Rev. E. Roy Riley Jr., ELCA Bishop of the New Jersey Synod and Chair of the LIRS Board of Directors added, “These young people have grown up in the United States and should have the opportunity to continue to pursue their education, to work and to earn a path to citizenship. They should not be sent back to a country they do not know.”
“LIRS continues to support comprehensive immigration reform and the imperative of building welcome in every city, town, workplace, school and place of worship,” said LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke. “However, in the absence of a significant overhaul, LIRS urges the Senate to follow the House’s lead and take immediate action and pass the DREAM Act before the end of the year.”