Immigration policy took a step in a positive direction when it comes to supporting family reunification. Though far from a panacea, the family unity waiver would allow for petition within the U.S. rather than outside, which often caused a ban of re-entry to keep petitioning members from being with their family for several years. Matt Soerens wrote a post about this answer to prayer for many families. Below is also a letter from our friends at the National Immigration Forum who helped to compiled responses from a number of key evangelical leaders regarding this change.
Faith Values Reinforced In New Rules On Family Unity WaiversWashington, D.C. — The White House announced January 6th plans to improve immigration policy affecting spouses and children of American citizens. Under current law, some spouses and children of U.S. citizens who are otherwise eligible for a green card are forced to return to their country of origin to receive their visas. Upon leaving the U.S., the immigrant family member triggers a three- to ten-year ban on returning to the U.S. unless they apply for a family unity waiver which is only granted abroad and under special “extreme hardship” circumstances. The rule change proposed today would allow family members to petition for this waiver within the U.S. thus reducing the risk of family separation. Following are statements from prominent Evangelical leaders hailing the proposed rule change as a welcome and positive development: “This step by the Obama administration to keep family members of U.S. citizens seeking legal status in our nation unified will make an extraordinary impact, while we wait for a Congressional overhaul of our broken immigration system.” said Noel Castellanos, CEO of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). The Reverend Luis Cortés Jr., President of Esperanza, adds: “I am very pleased to be able to express unconditional support for the Obama administration’s decision to change the waiver process for undocumented spouses and children of United States citizens. In stark contrast to the system that has been in place, this decision puts into action our commitment to certain national values – supporting family unity, and providing humane treatment to all people, even as we abide by a rule of law. This is one crucially important step toward a complete overhaul of our broken system, and we celebrate it, alongside all those whose lives will be changed for the better. We can only hope that this sensible solution will be extended to all immediate family members of United States citizens, and that it signals a move toward more common sense reforms.” Stephen Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief offered his support: “Two of the pillars of evangelical interest in immigration policy are keeping families intact and respecting the rule of law. This proposed change honors the law and exercises compassion. Children will no longer be separated from parents. Spouses will re-unite. This is precisely what we’ve been asking from the White House for years. We are most grateful. “We applaud and commend the administration for taking the appropriate steps in protecting immigrant families. The decision makes economic and practical sense. Family unification stands as a firewall against many social ills,” stated Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. “As a community committed to faith and family, this decision serves as an extension of our Judeo Christian values.” Galen Carey, Vice President of Government Relations, National Association of Evangelicals also praised the announcement: “Keeping families together should be one of the primary goals of our immigration law. The policy of forced family separation instituted under President Clinton is inhumane and counterproductive. We welcome the announcement by the Obama administration that application for waivers can now be done within the U.S. to keep families intact. This is an important step on the path toward comprehensive immigration reform.” Lisa Sharon Harper, Sojourners’ Director of Mobilizing, responded, “Scripture says: ‘Let no one put asunder what God has joined together.’ We applaud today’s announcement that families of U.S. citizens will now be able to stay united as waiver processes are processed. This is a significant step forward toward a more just, compassionate, and efficient immigration system. Sojourners still believes our nation can and should do better. Central to our nation’s values is the belief in the sanctity of the family. These provisions should be extended to include families of persons with legal status.”