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ELCA, Episcopal Leaders Celebrate Senate Passage of Immigration Reform

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Episcopal Church released a joint statement that commends the U.S. Senate for passing comprehensive immigration reform. On June 27, the bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 68 to 32.

"Lutherans and Episcopalians celebrate the Senate's passage of comprehensive immigration reform. As people called by our faith to welcome the newcomer, we are thankful for the relief the bill seeks to provide to migrants who are our friends, family, neighbors and members of our congregations," the statement reads. Noting "this joyful moment," the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA and the Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, write that "serious and long-standing problems in our current immigration system will be remedied if the Senate's bill becomes law."

The legislation provides a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people who are undocumented and living in the United States. In the statement, Hanson and Jefferts Schori recognize the hardships these individuals and families face and underscore the importance of the churches' ministry to the immigrant population. "Our clergy are often among the first people families turn to for help when separated from a loved one and this ministry makes clear the pressing need for reform. The legislation recognizes the many blessings migrants bring to our communities and moves our immigration system closer to compassion."

The bill now goes before the House of Representatives. Hanson and Jefferts Schori say if the proposed legislation becomes law it will benefit both U.S. citizens and aspiring Americans as "families are reunited, businesses are opened, and vulnerable migrants and refugees receive the protection they seek." "As the legislative process moves to the House of Representatives, we will continue our witness for justice, calling for immigration laws and policies that unite all families and treat all persons with dignity and compassion. Ongoing and bold advocacy, in partnership with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and Episcopal Migration Ministries, will not stop until our laws, policies and practices offer welcome, compassion and justice to migrants and refugees."

The 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly approved resolutions designed to advocate for comprehensive federal immigration reform and support of the DREAM Act -- legislation that provides a path for citizenship for undocumented youth. "We pray members of the House of Representatives will continue this momentous work and keep the plight of migrants and refugees in their hearts as they consider immigration reform," the statement closes.