US immigration law 'badly broken' say Lutherans

By agency reporter
23 May 2008

Lutherans in America have expressed concern over the impact of immigration enforcement raids on children and families in the US.

They say that US immigration law is 'badly broken' and in desperate need of reform.

The Rev Steven L. Ullestad, bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and Ralston H. Deffenbaugh Jr, president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Baltimore, expressed their concern in a statement submitted to the US Congress and entered into the Congressional Record.

The statement came in response to a federal immigration raid at a meat processing plant in Postville, Iowa, where federal agents arrested more than 310 men and 76 women working at the plant. "Adults were immediately separated from their children and families," said the statement. Ullestad and Deffenbaugh called the raid "the largest of its kind in US history."

Ullestad and Deffenbaugh urged Congress to "exercise rigorous oversight of workplace raids" to ensure that while US Immigration and Customs Enforcement addresses concerns of national security, it mitigates the sociological and economic impact and emotional trauma on a community; communicates and works closely with community social services and pastoral care workers to mitigate trauma among children, families and communities; facilitates access to legal counsel; does not transfer people out of the area but releases them from custody to attend hearings outside of detention; and develops communication mechanisms that allow family members and lawyers to locate those in detention.

"The impact on Postville underscores the need for comprehensive reform of immigration policy. The immigration law needs to protect children and unite families, safeguard human rights and worker rights, enable marginalized undocumented people to come out of the shadows and to live without fear, and provide a path to permanence for those who have put down roots," the statement said.

According to the Rev Mark S Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, the "impact of the immigration raid on Postville's community is similar to what would have happened if the town had been hit by a natural disaster. As a result of the raid, families have been separated, children are traumatized and a once thriving community is devastated."

"Our immigration law is badly broken and in desperate need of reform," said Hanson.

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