The National Council of Churches (NCC) praised the U.S. Senate yesterday (June 27) for its bipartisan support of comprehensive immigration reform. 

The bill received wide support from Democrats and Republicans and passed by a vote of 68 to 32.

The Senate bill offers a 13-year path to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the country, as well as tough border security provisions that must be in place before the immigrants can gain legal status.

A similar immigration reform measure faces stiff opposition among conservative members of the House of Representatives.

The National Council of Churches has supported immigration reform for years. A “Call to Action on Comprehensive Immigration Reform” was unanimously approved by the General Assembly of the NCC and Church World Service (CWS) in New Orleans in November 2010. 

National Council of Churches President Kathryn Lohre of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America expressed thanks today for the Senate’s “bold step forward,” and said NCC members “pray that the House of Representatives will continue to build on this momentum.” 

Lohre noted that the bill passed by the Senate is “not perfect but it is a way forward.”

Lohre said, “We continue to pray for and with all of God’s children whose lives hang in the balance until our broken system is repaired and restored and to advocate for just laws, policies, and practices that support human dignity and the integrity of families. As Paul reminds us in Romans 15:5 we are to ‘welcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed you, to the glory of God.’ As ambassadors of Jesus’ radical welcome, we stand firm in our hope that the time for reform has arrived.”   

The Rev. José Luis Casal, a Presbyterian who is executive presbyter for Tres Rios Presbytery and the NCC’s vice-president, said the time for comprehensive immigration reform is now. “When justice is delayed,” he said, “injustice prevails.”

“We have in this country good people who have been a part of this nation for years, and it is not fair to continue delaying their dreams and hopes,” Casal said. “Now is the time to offer these people a path to citizenship. Now is the time to re-unify families who are suffering. Now is the time to stop deportations. Now is the time to allow youth opportunities that have been withheld from them to study in universities. Now is the time to rebuild America on its founding principles: a country of immigrants who created the land of the free.”