Churches welcome US Senate passing of immigration act

(Photo: Reuters / Lucy Nicholson)Guadalupe Rojas, 12, (C) listens to speakers at a 24-hour vigil calling on Congress to pass immigration reform in Los Angeles, June 27, 2013. R

Church-backed groups have praised the U.S. Senate after passing a comprehensive but not perfect immigration act Thursday.

Church World Service, one of nine organizations working with the State Department to resettle refugees in United States praised the Senate on S. 744, The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act with "a robust bipartisan majority of 68-32."

"This vote represents a historic landmark in the path to justice for millions of families across our nation who have spent too long facing family separation wrought by our broken immigration system," said the Rev. John McCullough, president and CEO of Church World Service.

U.S. News and World Report noted that the legislation "will put 11 million immigrants who entered the country illegally on a path to citizenship, boost border security and set up a system to keep American business owners from hiring illegal immigrants."

CWS, an ecumenical grouping works with partners to eradicate hunger and poverty and to promote peace and justice around the world.

(Photo: CWS)Rev. Noel Andersen of Church World Service, Rev. Michael Livingston of Interfaith Worker Justice, Rev. Sharon Stanley-Rae of the Disciples of Christ, and Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block of Bend the Arc march on the U.S. Capitol on June 27 calling for comprehensive immigration reform in anticipation of the Senate vote.

"This unprecedented legislation will help reunite families, create a pathway to citizenship and improve the lives of refugees," it said in its statement.

CWS did not, however, support the additional border security provisions added to the Senate bill and remains opposed to the changes regarding siblings and married children over age 31, CWS did support the overall bill.

"While the bill is not perfect, it certainly is an improvement over the status quo," added McCullough. "This bill will improve the lives of millions of aspiring Americans."

Immigration reform surely will face challenges in the House, and CWS said it will work with Representatives, the conference committee, and the administration to see that the final legislation reunites families, protects refugees, meets the needs of border communities, and provides a pathway to citizenship for as many people as possible.

CWS said it will continue to advocate for immigrants' rights on national, state and local

levels because even this great step forward is not the end of the road to justice.

In Kalamazoo. Michigan, the Hispanic American Council at a meeting Thursday both celebrated and informed local residents on the Senate's passing the historic immigration legislation during its monthly meeting at St. Joseph Catholic Church.

Lori Mercedes, executive director of the Hispanic American Council, said that the bill's passing gives a special meaning to the community because of The Kalamazoo Promise, the universal scholarship program for graduates of Kalamazoo Public Schools, reported.

"For the first time there isn't a fear the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) will come and take students' parents away while they're off at school," Mercedes said. "This is a great victory as we see results materialize for the 11 million immigrants in this country.

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