Written by Emily Margosian, WRDA Communications Intern
Much of the debate surrounding Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) comes from a lack of public familiarity with the legislation. As the issue becomes more imminent, people desire current information about the bill, but often don’t know where to turn. At World Relief DuPage/Aurora [WRDA], we support the ongoing push for CIR, applaud the Senate’s decision to pass S.744, and look forward to a similar outcome in the House of Representatives by the end of the summer.
Due to the complexity of the issue, immigration reform digs up a host of emotions, questions, and uncertainties. And over the years, a lack of action has resulted in a political stalemate at the federal level. However, not only will CIR strengthen the economy, reunite families, and provide a tangible path to citizenship, but it will also help Christians uphold the Biblical mandate to “Welcome the Stranger.”
“This is an urgent moral issue,” says Matthew Soerens, U.S. Church Training Specialist at World Relief, “We are given Biblical principles that speak very clearly as to how we should treat immigrants in our country.” As a faith-based organization, we value compassion, morality, and family unity and believe that immigration reform and policy should take into account these values.
Scott Capp, a pastor at Village Bible Church in Aurora, has taken steps to discuss immigration reform with his congregation, and wants a more detailed understanding of the upcoming legislation. At a World Relief ‘Lunch N’ Learn’ session in June he said, “We want to do more than just talk about God’s love for others—we want to show God’s love as well. I hope today brings more clarity on how to practically address the issue.”
Capp is not alone. Many leaders and church members seek to understand CIR from a legal and moral standpoint, but don’t feel equipped to address the issue within their church or organization.
Cheryl Pacilio, Director of Local Serving at First Baptist Church, admits that her congregation seems insulated from the issue of immigration. As a WRDA volunteer for the past six years, Pacilio feels comfortable with the issues surrounding refugees but hopes to gain more insight into the reality of what the reform bill could mean for World Relief’s immigrant clients. “World Relief has provided us with quality information over the last six years. I want to be able to talk about welcoming our neighbors by educating first,” said Pacilio.
To help make information on CIR more accessible to our church and community partners, WRDA has hosted informational sessions throughout the summer. In addition, WRDA co-sponsored a Bibles, Badges, and Business meeting in late June as a forum for law enforcement, business, and church leaders to discuss immigration reform. Events such as these are just a few ways WRDA has sought to address the potential concerns and misconceptions associated with CIR.
- Myth: Weakened Economy and Loss of Jobs
- Reality: A Stronger Economy
Economists agree that immigration reform is good for all Americans, not just immigrants. If done properly, CIR will reduce the federal deficit—not increase government spending. In a July 2013 report, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in June would reduce the current federal deficit by 158 billion with net savings of 135 billion during the 2014-2023 cycle.
Catherine Norquist, Immigrant Legal Services Director at WRDA, agrees. “There would be huge economic benefits for our country if we do this,” she explains, noting that providing an accessible and defined path to citizenship would enable more immigrants to pay taxes—helping to combat federal debt, not increase it.
CIR will increase jobs, not only for immigrants, but for all Americans. Immigrants fill a significant role in a range of American industries; however their presence as a labor force is not something to be threatened by,but welcomed. “The best policy for the United States is one that sides with freedom and innovation, not restriction,” said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a June statement.
- Myth: Grants Amnesty
- Reality: Earned Path to Citizenship
Despite concerns, the bill’s proposed path to citizenship would not indiscriminately award citizenship to immigrants currently residing in the United States. The proposed CIR bill creates more flexible avenues for future workers to achieve citizen status, providing a pathway to earned legalization through a series of steps.
– Upon initial registration, people will have one year to apply for “Registered Provisional Immigrant [RPI] Status” and pay a $1,000 fee.
– After a six year period, people with RPI must apply for renewal and pay another fine.
– After 10 years total in RPI status, people can apply for Lawful Permanent Residency upon paying a $500 fee
– After three years with LPR status, individuals can apply for U.S. Citizenship, which costs $680
– Qualifying agricultural workers and individuals who are eligible under the DREAM Act may apply for LPR status only five years after receiving RPI status. Additionally, individuals who have committed a felony or three misdemeanors are not eligible to apply for RPI under proposed CIR legislation.
- Myth: Open Border
- Reality: A More Secure Border
Furthermore, current legislation would address the public’s concern over border security. S. 744 would increase border security by establishing mandatory employment verification and an electronic entry/exit system, as well as a 700 mile U.S./Mexico border fence with more border agents . Since 2000, illegal border crossings have decreased by 80%, according to a statement released by the White House this January. CIR’s proposed adjustments to border security and enforcement would cause further decreases in the number of illegal crossings by improving infrastructure at points of entry and enhancing investigative resources.
WRDA encourages all Americans to STAND with us on this issue— especially the Church.
“The Church should view immigration as a mission opportunity,” says Soerens. “It can do that with or without immigration reform, but it has too often allowed political narrative to shape how we view immigrants.”
Norquist agrees that it is crucial for the Church to engage with this issue, not pull away. “Our faith is based on a migration story. We are truly called to love people no matter their status. If we take Scripture seriously, it speaks specifically on how to treat the foreigner, with equality and acceptance.”
In addition, our Immigrant Legal Services staff or another trained staff member is available to conduct an informational meeting at your church or home. If you would like to arrange a speaker, contact ILS directly at (630) 462-7660 To learn more about Comprehensive Immigration Reform, click here to visit our ILS Advocay page.