While the press conference for the release of the Gang of 8—a bipartisan group of eight Senators who were appointed to craft a proposal for comprehensive immigration reform—to officially introduce their proposed legislation* to the American public has been postponed due to the tragedy in Boston on Monday, an outline of the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013” has been released.

The Gang of 8 has negotiated and compromised to come to agreement on this proposed legislation.  Their cooperation and hard work to fix our broken immigration system is commendable. We applaud their efforts and join them in the call that this is the time for reform. This is the year for justice and a commonsense immigration plan.

The 17-page memo that was released leaves many questions unanswered, and of those provisions that are explained, many are not perfect. However, it is a start toward the modernization of our immigration laws. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has set forth elements that should be incorporated into a comprehensive and fair reform.  Those elements include a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people now living and working in the U.S. without authorization, eliminating the backlogs in family and employment-based immigration, maintaining family unity as the foundation of our immigration policy, creating a commonsense workable approach to future flow, and maintenance of our nation’s borders in a way that respects due process and human dignity.  These are just a few of the elements endorsed by the General Assembly, others can be viewed at our website.

Some of these goals are shared in the Senators’ memo but the status of others is unclear. In the coming weeks the staff of the office of Immigration Issues will work with our interfaith partners to analyze the legislation. Because staff will be sharing details as they come to light, I invite you to monitor our website.

Now we begin the hard work of mobilizing our communities and working to have our voice heard in Congress.  Many Presbyterians will be directly impacted by this legislation and it is up to us to ensure that we improve the bill and that amendments that will undermine the bill’s success are not added. You can help by educating yourself and your community about the need for reform and the plight of our sisters and brothers who suffer most directly the effects of an unjust immigration system. 

Join me in the prayer for a reform that recognizes the contributions of the many aspiring citizens who are Americans in every way but on paper. Then join the work to ensure that our prayer is heard by Congress. Our church and country have been built by new immigrants who have worked in partnership with those already here. We want to continue this legacy so that others may be blessed as we have.

* The bill, which was unavailable when this statement was written, is now online at Senator Schumer’s website (PDF).

Read this article in Spanish/Encuentre esta declaración en español.