Interfaith Letter on Family Immigration - Faith Leaders
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[DATE]

Dear Members of Congress,

As faith-based organizations, denominations, congregations, and religious leaders across the United States, we stand united to preserve and strengthen the family-based immigration system and call on Congress to pass the Reuniting Families Act (RFA) - without undermining immigrant or border communities. We also urge you to oppose any attempts to curtail family-based immigration, the diversity visa program, or otherwise prolong family separation. Such efforts deny millions the opportunity to reunite with family members and contribute to our shared communities.

As faith leaders and faith-based organizations across traditions, we look to the fundamental tenets that inform our core beliefs: “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:33-34). Further, that “You shall not oppress the stranger, for you know the soul of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9). To live out our faith requires us to embody the qualities of compassion, tolerance, non-discrimination, inclusion, and empathy for the suffering of others.

Together, we firmly support the family-based immigration system and diversity immigrant visa program, which have created the rich, vibrant, and multicultural communities that make up our congregations and have strengthened America today. Our faith communities are sustained through family unity and we affirm the value that immigrants and refugees bring to our country.

America needs, and deserves, an immigration system that prioritizes family unity. Family-based visas are already restricted to spouses, children, parents and siblings of U.S. citizens and spouses and children of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs, or “green card holders”). Due to tight numerical restrictions, backlogs average seven years and can be as long as 23 years. Across faith traditions our sacred texts include many examples of close relationships between adult children and their parents, as well as siblings, demonstrating the importance of a unified family. Many people of faith first learn about the brokenness of the immigration system by witnessing families in their congregations suffer through separation due to visa backlogs, detention, and deportation. As people of faith, we believe that a parent’s desire to be with their children is real, regardless of age, and that the government should not separate siblings or crush the dreams of those who have waited years and even decades to be reunited with their family members.

Diversity is our strength. The Diversity Visa provides up to 50,000 visas annually for immigrants who do not have access to employment- or family-based visas. Congress established the Diversity Visa in 1990 to encourage and facilitate immigration to the United States from countries with historically low rates of immigration. The program reaches beyond those with family or business ties in the United States and creates a mechanism for racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse populations to lawfully immigrate that would otherwise not exist. As people of faith, we recognize the inherent dignity and worth of every person and lift up the diverse contributions they make to our communities. We strongly oppose attacks against the Diversity Visa (DV) program that would serve only to exacerbate the unjust nature of the U.S. immigration system.

Immigration is integral to the growth of our economy, our schools, and our congregations. Today, immigrants and their families are key members of our communities, serving as religious leaders, teachers, business owners, and elected officials. Immigration is also a critical component of building a strong American economy. A 2016 study conducted by 14 prominent economists found that immigrants have no negative effects on the wages and employment of native-born workers. In fact, in the long term, immigrants and their families give billions back to the economy and the government. Furthermore, states across the nation rely on immigrants to grow the industries that allow their communities to thrive. Recent studies have concluded that immigrants are entrepreneurs and business-owners at higher rates than native-born Americans, owning three million businesses, generating more than $65 million a year in income, and employing nearly six million Americans.

As faith-based organizations, denominations, congregations and faith leaders representing millions of constituents across the country, we urge all Members of Congress to support the Reuniting Families Act (RFA) to facilitate family reunification and improve efficiencies within the family-based immigration system, as well as protect the diversity immigrant visa program, which has created the rich, vibrant, and multicultural U.S. communities of today.

We remember that our faith traditions and sacred texts are filled with stories of migration to escape famine and political oppression and we recognize how important family unity is in such journeys. Our faith backgrounds commit us to supporting policy reforms that improve our immigration system and oppose proposals that take us backwards. Together, we stand ready to work with you on immigration reform that strengthens our families, communities, economy, and country.


Sincerely,

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