Thursday, June 18, 2009

Faith Leaders Announce Support for the Reuniting Families Act

Rabbi, Quaker, United Methodists and Eucharistic Minister Call on Congress to Uphold Family Unity

Washington, D.C. – Today, several leaders from diverse faith denominations joined with Congressman Mike Honda at a telephone press conference to announce their support of his bill, the Reuniting Families Act (H.R. 2709). If enacted, this bill would implement critically needed reforms to the U.S. family immigration system and restore family unity as a fundamental principle of U.S. immigration policy. At least 10 mainstream faith organizations support this bill.

“Family is the fundamental unit in society through which individuals are able to grow and experience the love of God,” said Joe Volk, Executive Secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation. “As people of faith, we are given hope by Congressman Honda’s introduction of the Reuniting Families Act. The passage of this bill would offer pragmatic solutions to a broken system and ensure that families are reunited in a timely and humane manner.”

The Reuniting Families Act, introduced on June 4, 2009, reforms the U.S. family immigration system to end the lengthy separation of loved ones, promote family stability, and foster economic growth. There are 5.8 million people caught in the backlog of family immigration cases waiting unconscionable periods of time to reunite with their relatives. The current immigration system has not been updated in 20 years – keeping spouses, children, and their parents separated for years and often decades, despite the fact that the family has played by the rules. The Reuniting Families Act takes important steps toward fixing the broken family immigration system by reducing wait times for legal immigrants and ending discrimination against same-sex, permanent partners and their families.

“The United States is based on family values,” said Congressman Honda. “Upholding family is the American thing to do.”

This sentiment was echoed by other faith leaders during the conference. “The fair treatment of the stranger, the sojourner, the immigrant is a core concern of biblical religions and the Bible itself. This is part of the reason why we who are Christians care so much about this legislation,” said Rev. Dean Snyder of the United Methodist Church. “Keeping spouses, children and their parents separated for years and often decades is unnecessary and unacceptable.”

“For the Jewish community, immigration is a core concern. So rarely have we been accepted openly, yet this is one country that did,” said Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. “We came for love of our families, to create for them the life that families deserve. To have an immigration system that tears and keeps families apart is counterproductive.”

Shirley Tan, a Filipina and Eucharistic minister from the Good Shephard Catholic Church in Pacifica, California, also shared her personal story of getting caught in the broken family immigration system. “Our lives were almost perfect until January 28, 2009 when Immigration and Customs agents came to our door. I was handcuffed and taken away like a criminal,” she said. “My partner and my children are all US citizens, yet none of them can petition for me to stay in the United States.”

Rev. Bud Heckman of the World Conference of Religions for Peace concluded by stating, “Why should religious communities speak up about this issue? Because immigrants and their families are also people of faith.”

The faith leaders expressed their hopes that the Reuniting Families Act will be included in a broader comprehensive immigration reform bill this fall.

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The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) is the oldest registered religious lobby in Washington, DC. Founded in 1943 by members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), FCNL staff and volunteers work with a nationwide network of tens of thousands of people from many different races, religions, and cultures to advocate social and economic justice, peace, and good government. FCNL is a nonpartisan 501(c)4 public interest lobby.

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