World Relief is very involved in Immigration Reform and if the law passes, we have already been contacted to lead the training within the Evangelical Alliance of Churches.
After months of careful deliberation and negotiation, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The introduction of the bill coincided with the Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action on Immigration Reform in which hundreds of evangelicals gathered in Washington, DC to pray, worship and advocate for immigration reform.
World Relief welcomes the introduction of the bill and is pleased that the bill reflects several principles we believe are important to reforming our immigration laws, including:
• An earned pathway to legal status and citizenship for undocumented immigrants that would allow undocumented immigrants who entered before Jan 1, 2012 to apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status, after 10 years to apply for lawful permanent residence (LPR) status and after three years U.S. citizenship, after fines and processing fees.
•Expedited pathway to legal status for DREAMers as well as for agricultural workers in which, after meeting certain criteria, they would be eligible to receive LPR status and citizenship after five years.
• Reduced waiting times for families to be together including by reclassifying the spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents as immediate relatives and increasing the per-country caps from 7 percent to 15 percent.
• Provisions that strengthen immigrant integration including an expansion of the newly named Office of Citizenship and New Americans and the establishment of the U.S. Citizenship Foundation which would strengthen public-private partnerships to assist immigrants through the integration process.
•Improved access to justice for vulnerable migrants by codifying the Legal Orientation Program which provides detainees basic information about their rights and responsibilities, providing alternatives to detention, providing access to counsel in certain proceedings to ensure due process, and increasing resources for immigration courts.
•The extension of the Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program, which allows individuals in danger as a result of their work for the U.S. government to seek safety in the United States.
• Stronger protections for asylum-seekers and stateless persons, including the elimination of the 1-year filing deadline and provisions to allow stateless persons to apply for LPR status.
• Stronger protections for refugees, including provisions to keep refugee families together, improve overseas refugee processing overseas and extend the authority of the Administration to designate some groups of humanitarian concern as eligible for resettlement, including religious minorities.
• Stronger protections for victims of trafficking by ensuring those who engage in foreign labor contracting must disclose to workers pertinent information related to their terms of employment. World Relief strongly supports family-based immigration as families are the fundamental building blocks for social stability but also contribute to economic growth. In that regard, World Relief has concerns about the elimination of the ability for U.S. citizens to sponsor their brothers, sisters, and adult married children over the age of 30. Although the new merit-based visa would provide points for these family relationships, the emphasis on employment, education, and English language ability could negatively impact the ability of immigrants who often rely on family members for social support to be reunited.
While the bill will change in the months ahead, we believe the steps taken by the Senators to introduce the bill and create an open process for debate will move our country in the right direction towards reforming our immigration laws. We urge both parties to work together with the President to ensure that immigrant families are kept together, robust legal avenues are provided for future workers, stronger protections are provided for refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless persons, and victims of trafficking, and a fair process is instituted for immigrants to come out of the shadows and regularize their status. World Relief remains committed to working with both the Senate and House to ensure the best possible laws are enacted that will uphold and strengthen the U.S. tradition of welcoming immigrants to our country.
Mark Kadel is the director of World Relief Spokane.