“We ask God to guide our nation and grant the grace of a welcoming heart.”
That’s the message the leadership of the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States used to end an open letter to Congress in support of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s presiding bishop and synod, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and Lutheran Services in America sent the letter, saying that the introduction of the act is, “a new opportunity to make fair and compassionate transformations to our nation’s broken immigration system.”
The legislation in question, if passed, would allow so-called Dreamers — people who were brought to the United States as children — the chance to get Green Cards. It would also direct resources to address the backlogged immigration system and would open opportunities for citizenship for approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants.
The letter continues:
The ELCA has a long legacy of welcoming and caring for newcomers. Our churches began helping immigrants and uprooted people as early as the 1860s. Today, as always, we are called by God to love our neighbor, accompany the vulnerable, and welcome the stranger. Our congregants share our concern for displaced children and families and support our sister organizations, like LIRS and Lutheran Services in America, in their work. Lutheran Services in America leads one of the largest health and human services networks in the country, made up of over 300 Lutheran social ministry organizations that operate with over $22 billion in annual revenue and help improve the lives of 1 in 50 Americans each year. LIRS, one of the most prominent refugee resettlement agencies, has worked to assist over half a million people seeking safety, hope, and a life in the U.S. over the course of its 80-year history. Our deep levels of expertise and experience serving the most vulnerable compels us to lift our voices and ask legislators from both parties to preserve human dignity through our federal immigration policies.
Currently, our immigration system is saddled with ineffective approaches that stir fear and turmoil among migrants fleeing persecution and those seeking better futures for their families. Administrative barriers, backlogs, and punitive policies have led to the separation of immigrant families and their marginalization as human beings. The root causes of displacement in Central America, including inequality, violence, corruption, and environmental degradation, all of which advance insecurity, continue to be ignored and demand we simultaneously offer protection to those who need it while recognizing the driving factors that motivate last-resort migration.
Guided by our faith values and biblical teachings, we believe that immigration policies must prioritize and honor the God-given dignity of each person, especially those who live on the margins of society. We regard the family as an indispensable social institution and stand firmly against policies that cause the separation of families. We are therefore pleased to see that the proposed legislation works to recognize these values. The act promotes family unity by establishing a roadmap to earned citizenship for undocumented individuals, including Dreamers, who as children and adults have invested in local communities far and wide. It reduces visa backlogs, processing delays, and barriers to reunification. The act supports the flourishing of our communities by increasing immigrant integration services and strengthens protections for immigrant workers. Its approach to regional migration develops opportunities for children and families to safely seek protection and reunify, while pushing for long-term sustainable growth and stability to address the root causes of migration.
Read the entire letter here.