The United Church of Christ national officers applaud President Barack Obama's support for the comprehensive immigration reform framework introduced yesterday by a group of bipartisan senators. The president praised the "straightforward" plan Tuesday during a speech at a Las Vegas high school.
"The good news is that—for the first time in many years—republicans and democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together," said President Obama. "At this moment, it looks like there's a genuine desire to get this done soon. And that's very encouraging."
The UCC national officers released a statement in support of immigration reform efforts led by President Obama and four democrats and four republicans who drafted the framework during five meetings since the November election. They urge government representatives to act now, and stress the importance of the faith community's voice in this national debate.
"We applaud the renewed efforts by President Obama and a bipartisan committee of senators to bring proposals for comprehensive immigration reform legislation to the Congress that will move our country beyond the strategy of simply securing our borders. The United Church of Christ has long supported compassionate reform in our country's approach to immigration and we will look to see that the recommendations being proposed will protect the human rights and dignity of our brothers and sisters. We are encouraged by proposals to establish a pathway to citizenship for those who quality, for students and children brought into this country, for family reunification, and for equal rights for bi-national same-sex couples.
The issue of immigration reform has been stalled for too long. Now is the time to insure a humane, sound and workable immigration policy, one that is realistic, just and fair. The voice of the religious community is essential in this national debate. We call upon members of our churches to connect with local, state and national coalitions and initiatives engaged in supporting comprehensive immigration reform consistent with the measures advocated by the UCC and our interfaith and ecumenical partners. Advocacy opportunities will be forthcoming from the public policy office of the UCC as comprehensive immigration reform moves along."
The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, the Rev J. Bennett Guess, the Rev. James Moos, W. Mark Clark - The UCC Collegium of Officers
While President Obama's plan offers a quicker, more direct path to citizenship, his plan aligns closely with the senators' framework to address the country's "broken" immigration system and its 11 million undocumented immigrants. The four legislative pillars include the creation of a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the U.S., reformation of the legal immigration system, creation of an effective employment verification system to prevent identity theft and the hiring of future unauthorized workers, and the establishment of an improved process for admitting future workers.
One fundamental difference is that President Obama's plan does not require the U.S./Mexico border to be deemed secure before granting citizenship to illegal immigrants currently living in the U.S. Obama administration officials say this may be a part of the senators' plan the president will not support. While the president said the senators' plan was "very much in line" with principles he has proposed and campaigned for in the past, he also said he will not hesitate to introduce his own bill if lawmakers are unable to agree on the proposed legislation.
"I believe we are at a moment where comprehensive immigration reform is in our grasp," said President Obama. "But the closer we get, the more emotional this debate is going to become. Immigration has always been an issue that inflames passions."
The United Church of Christ has a long history of affirming the dignity of immigrants and working for comprehensive U.S. Immigration policy. Since 1995, General Synod – the main deliberative body of the UCC – has repeatedly called for a fair and human approach to U.S. immigration policy that protects families and respects the humanity of our immigrant brothers and sisters.