LIRS continues to call for immigration reform

At a White House meeting Aug. 20, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) continued to call for fair and humane immigration reform.

“People of faith recognize the moral imperative and are looking for practical solutions,” said Leslie Vélez, LIRS director for Access to Justice, who participated in the meeting with administration officials.  “We must be humane and just to newcomers while assuring orderly migration.  We must also recognize that newcomers are integral to the social, economic and cultural fabric of America’s communities.”

Hosted by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the immigration discussion brought together law enforcement officials, religious groups, immigrant rights advocates, and members of the business community. The main focus of the meeting was to reaffirm the administration’s commitment to immigration reform and to encourage dialogue among all parties involved in the complicated issue of fixing the country’s “broken” immigration system.

President Barack Obama addressed the session, offering a glimmer of hope for those committed to reform: “We need sensible and humane immigration reform that reflects our nation of laws and of immigrants.”

Obama called the immigration issue a “problem begging to be fixed” and said Napolitano is on the job because she knows how to get things done. “In the meantime, we need to work administratively to fix the problem,” the president continued. “Ultimately, the American people want the right thing done.”

Rev. David Vasquez, a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) serving Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, said he witnessed firsthand the humanitarian crisis and economic devastation caused by a large-scale workplace raid in Postville, Iowa, last year.

“Rather than recognizing immigrants’ vital contributions, our current broken immigration system punishes many as they seek safety and a better future for themselves and their families,” Vasquez said. “Our immigration policies should be shaped by intentional commitments and values rather than fear. While guarding our safety, our policies and laws should capitalize on the contributions of immigrants willing to join in the work of building our shared future.”

Said Vélez: “As members of an immigrant church, Lutherans recognize that welcome begins in our communities, in our neighborhoods, and in our churches — with each one of us.  LIRS looks forward to working with the administration and Congress to create meaningful reforms that restore a rule of law that reflects the realities in which we live in our communities.”

Now in its 70th year, LIRS is one of the nation’s leading agencies serving refugees and immigrants. The organization resettles refugees, protects migrant children, advocates for just treatment of asylum seekers, seeks alternatives to immigration detention, and stands for unity for families fractured by unfair laws. To learn more, visit

Posted Sept. 9, 2009

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