Wednesday, May 23, 2007

All in the Family: Senate Amendments

Sen. Clinton at Press conference
This afternoon Senators Clinton (D-NY), Menendez (D-NJ), and Hagel (R-NE) introduced an amendment to the Senate bill that would allow legal permanent residents to reunite with spouses and unmarried children (under 21 years old) by categorizing them as "immediate relatives." For the official press release click here.

"Hundreds of thousands of lawful permanent residents have been waiting for years to be reunited with their spouses and children due to visa backlogs," said Senator Clinton. "This amendment is about fundamental fairness," she said.

Sen. Menendez at press conferenceIn his support of the amendment Senator Menendez said, "We are facing a fundamental change to the values of our immigration system. The bedrock principle of family would be drastically diminished under this deal. Passing this amendment would promote social stability and show that family values do not, in fact, end at the Rio Grande, as the president likes to say."

Senator Menendez said that "sometimes we lose sight of who these people really are." He recounted that one of the first soldiers to die in Iraq was Jose Gutierrez, a lawful permanent resident from Guatemala. Even if he had survived, he would not have been able to claim his family, Menendez emphasized.

Senators Menendez and Hagel are also introducing a substitute amendmendment, which changes the cut-off of May 2005 for family reunification visas and establish the same cut off date for backlog reduction visas as the deadline for legalization for undocumented immigrants.

Many faith-based and advocacy organizations spoke at a press conference in support of the Clinton-Menendez amendment among these, Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Services, NETWORK a Catholic Social Justice Lobby, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"It [the amendment] would take care of the current backlog of over 1 million spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents who are facing separation of 5 to 7 years," said Karen Nagasaki of the Asian American Justice Center. "Proponents of the deal in the Senate have been pointing to Canada's immigration system as their blue print. Canada's family system allows spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents to come in with no quota, which is what this amendment would accomplish," she said.

Rev. Luis Leon, Rector of St. John's Lafayette Square Episocal Church located near the White House, emphasized the faith perspective. "We are called to love our neighbors as God loves us," he said "Ironically, immigrants reflect the best of what citizens want to see in themselves."

Two Step Action You Can Take
Family unity is a basic value of our country and its laws. Family unification, the cornerstone of U.S. immigration policy, will be more difficult under the legislation.

(1) Contact Your Senators: Click this link to e-mail your Senators take action in support of keeping families together. You can also call your member by using the Capitol Switchboard at (202)224-3121. For talking points click here.

(2) Action Alert: To view an action alert on the Menendez-Hagel Amendment click here.