Lutherans meet with Obama over Immigration

Baltimore, August 20, 2009–At a White House meeting today, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) continued to call for fair and humane immigration reform. LIRS Director for Access to Justice Leslie Vélez, participating in today’s meeting with administration officials, offered, “People of faith recognize the moral imperative and are looking for practical solutions. We must be humane and just to newcomers while assuring orderly migration. We must also recognize that newcomers are integral to the social, economic and cultural fabric of America’s communities.”

Hosted by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, today’s immigration discussion brought together law enforcement officials, religious groups, immigrant rights advocates and members of the business community. The main focus of the meeting was to reaffirm the administration’s commitment to immigration reform and to encourage dialog among all parties involved in the complicated issue of fixing our broken immigration system.

President Barack Obama closed the session, offering a glimmer of hope for those committed to reform: “We need sensible and humane immigration reform that reflects our nation of laws and of immigrants.” Obama called the immigration issue a “problem begging to be fixed” and shared that Napolitano is on the job because she knows how to get things done. “In the meantime, we need to work administratively to fix the problem,” the president continued. “Ultimately, the American people want the right thing done.”

The Rev. David Vasquez, a Lutheran pastor, witnessed firsthand the humanitarian crisis and economic devastation caused by a large-scale workplace raid in Postville, Iowa, last year. “Rather than recognizing immigrants’ vital contributions, our current broken immigration system punishes many as they seek safety and a better future for themselves and their families,” Vasquez explained. “Our immigration policies should be shaped by intentional commitments and values rather than fear. While guarding our safety, our policies and laws should capitalize on the contributions of immigrants willing to join in the work of building our shared future.”

Earlier this week, voting members at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s 2009 Churchwide Assembly voted overwhelmingly to urge reform of our nation’s current immigration policy and to call for suspension of immigration raids until reform is enacted. The assembly is the chief legislative authority of the ELCA, the largest U.S. Lutheran church body with 4.8 million members in 10,500 congregations across the country.

“As members of an immigrant church, Lutherans recognize that welcome begins in our communities, in our neighborhoods and in our churches-with each one of us.” Vélez continued. “LIRS looks forward to working with the administration and Congress to create meaningful reforms that restore a rule of law that reflects the realities in which we live in our communities.”

Since 1939 LIRS has created welcoming communities for America’s newcomers. It is one of the nation’s leading agencies serving refugees and immigrants. The organization resettles refugees, protects migrant children, advocates for just treatment of asylum seekers, seeks alternatives to immigration detention and stands for unity for families fractured by unfair laws. To learn more about LIRS’s work of welcome, please visit

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