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Friday, January 31, 2014

GBCS Statement on House Republican Standards for Immigration Reform

The General Board of Church & Society of the United Methodist Church acknowledges the release of the Standards for Immigration Reform by House Republicans on Thursday. United Methodists have eagerly anticipated legislative progress for quite some time as we witness the impact the broken immigration system has had on families, congregations and entire communities. Real solutions are needed as immigrant families face the crisis of an uncertain future, possible deportation and family separation. The Standards fall far short of the solutions that are needed, and at present are a step in the wrong direction.

The solution-based reforms The United Methodist Church advocates for include:
  • Citizenship for undocumented migrants, with any process or "pathway" created having minimal obstacles and maximum accessibility,
  • Reunifying families separated by migration or detainment,
  • Protection of the basic civil and human rights of all migrants, especially the preservation of due process and the rights of migrant workers.
The Standards for Immigration Reform seem to deny undocumented immigrants any kind of "pathway" to citizenship and in addition, create significant hardship for immigrants to even attain legal status. The Standards hold that immigrants must "pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits)."

Further, before undocumented immigrants can obtain legal status the Standards state that "enforcement triggers" must be fulfilled. A possibility exists that legislation in keeping with the Standards would keep immigrants in legal status without full benefits of citizenship, in essence making them permanent second-class citizens. The intention of the Standards seems to make any process of legality as inaccessible as possible, with citizenship potentially impossible.

We do strongly endorse the Standards' call for citizenship for DREAM Act students. At the same time, however, the Standards mandate that available visas would no longer be used to reunite families. This would dismantle the emphasis on family reunification that has been the cornerstone of the U.S. immigration system for almost fifty years. Instead, visas would be used solely for "individuals to help grow our economy."

The Standards call for a "step by step process" and refuse to consider conferencing with the Senate legislation. The only steps, though, the Standards identify towards reform include border security and interior enforcement. With no accessible process to attain citizenship spelled out and the dismantling of the family immigration system, the Standards fail to bring forth the solutions our immigrant sisters and brothers genuinely need.

The Standards fall short because they fail to see that immigration is innately a human-rights issue. More than an issue of national security or economic prosperity, immigration is about immigrants: individuals and families who have bravely sojourned to the United States in search of basic human survival, safety, and freedom. If we believe that the United States is a place of freedom, equality, and justice, then it is our responsibility and privilege to make those ideals a reality for native born and immigrant alike.

We encourage House Republican leadership to continue to work on these Standards and as they are perfected, we stand ready to work with them to bring solutions that are genuine and lasting to the broken immigration system.