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Faith Leaders on Immigration: 'Families Aren't Chains'


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Faith leaders are ready to hear the President spell out his plans to fix immigration in his State of the Union speech tonight, but they're hoping he won't use the newly popular term "chain migration."

Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition has urged evangelicals to condemn the wording saying "the appropriate term is family unification, not chain migration. By changing the language many obfuscate the human toll of separating families."

Likewise, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), told CBN News recently that he does not prefer the term.

Sister Donna Markham, president of Catholic Charities USA called it "deeply problematic" that political leaders are using the expression and said "families aren't chains. They are mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, grandmothers, grandfathers and brothers, and sisters."

Matthew Soerens, US Director of Church Mobilization for World Relief, says he hopes the president will not use the term in his first State of the Union address.  

"I think it's based on a misconception," he told CBN News.

Soerens says he believes many Americans think that immigrants can bring a large number of family members to the U.S. with them. In reality, green card holders can only petition to bring spouses and unmarried children and the process can often take years, even decades.  

"The idea that it's a huge number of people--it's not," said Soerens, "that's not how the current law is but I think a number of Americans are under the impression that that is how it works."

Currently, citizens can file petitions to bring in more relatives including parents and siblings.  However, the latest proposal from the administration would restrict that and place the same limits on citizens that green card holders have.

The Evangelical Immigration Table(EIT), a coalition including Southern Baptists, the NHCLC, World Relief and the National Association of Evangelicals, is encouraging the president to clarify his plan to provide legal status for Dreamers, young adults brought to the U.S. illegally as children by family members. The EIT is also speaking out against the proposal to limit legal immigration.  

"We believe that enacting strict limitations to legal immigration will only increase pressure for illegal immigration," the coalition said in a statement released Monday.  

Whatever the president chooses to say about immigration tonight will likely set the stage for down-to-the-wire negotiations in Congress over plans for Dreamers and immigration policy regarding families.  

For Dreamers, the clock appears to be running out.  In September, the president rescinded an Obama-era executive order giving Dreamers temporary legal status. It's set to end in March although some lawmakers believe the president could extend the deadline.

Regardless, negotiators are well aware that this fall's mid-term elections could change the majority in the House and unravel current coalitions working to pass Dreamer legislation.

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About The Author


Heather Sells covers wide-ranging stories for CBN News that include religious liberty, ministry trends, immigration, and education. She’s known for telling personal stories that capture the issues of the day, from the border sheriff who rescues migrants in the desert to the parents struggling with a child that identifies as transgender. In the last year, she has reported on immigration at the Texas border, from Washington, D.C., in advance of the Dobbs abortion case, at crisis pregnancy centers in Massachusetts, and on sexual abuse reform at the annual Southern Baptist meeting in Anaheim