CWS Hails New Senate Immigration Reform Bill

Global humanitarian agency Church World Service is applauding Sens. Robert Menendez (D‐N.J.) and Patrick Leahy (D‐Vt.) for their introduction of a broad immigration reform bill that would put the nation's approximately 12 million illegal immigrants on a path toward citizenship and enact other sweeping reforms.

"This legislation offers concrete policy solutions to fix our broken immigration system," said Erol Kekic, director of the CWS Immigration and Refugee Program, on Friday. "We urge all Senators to cosponsor this bill and support its enactment."

Introduced Wednesday, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010 seeks to reduce waiting times for separated families to be reunited, protect both U.S.-born and immigrant workers, provide a pathway by which undocumented immigrants could earn their legal status and eventual citizenship, admit refugees as lawful permanent residents, improve immigration detention conditions, and increase the quality of border enforcement by working with local border communities.

According to Kekic, the new legislation is a welcome contrast to controversial immigration proposals in Arizona and elsewhere as it offers "true solutions that will put our immigration system back on track and benefit the United States as a whole."

"Immigration reform isn't just the moral thing to do – it's the practical thing to do and what's best for the United States," Kekic stated.

Although Congress doesn't typically debate major bills during the lame-duck sessions that follow elections, Menendez, a Democrat and the only Hispanic in the Senate, introduced the sweeping bill as Congress adjourned until the Nov. 2 elections.

On Thursday, he urged his colleagues to unite behind the measure and to finally take action on a problem that has generated a lot of talk over the past decade but few results.

"If we can put political grandstanding aside and work together on a comprehensive, middle-of-the-road bill like this one, we can bring all sides to the table" Menendez said in a statement.

Leahy, the measure's co-sponsor, meanwhile, said the measure would bring illegal immigrants "out of the shadows" while beefing up border security.

"These are goals we can all share," he said in a statement.

Though the immigration issue had faded into the background for many after Congress failed to overhaul the immigration system in 2007, it was revived earlier this year with the signing of Arizona's contentious new law, which instructed police to demand proof of a questionable person's legal status.

An Associated Press-GfK poll this past summer found that 85 percent of people ranked immigration as an important issue.

Amid the immigration debate, several prominent conservative evangelicals have also come out to side with the Latino community and split with the GOP on the issue.

The National Association of Evangelicals, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Liberty Counsel have all issued statements in support of comprehensive immigration reform that provides a pathway for undocumented immigrants already in the country.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, there are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. And an estimated 3.8 million illegal immigrants in the country have children who are U.S. citizens.

"We applaud the leadership exhibited by Senators Menendez and Leahy in introducing this bill, and we urge all members of the Senate to cosponsor this legislation and help enact it as soon as possible," CWS's Kekic reiterated.