Donate to RNS

ELCA leaders call on Congress to pass US Citizenship Act of 2021 in new letter

Leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America threw their support behind what they called ‘fair and compassionate transformations to our nation’s broken immigration system.’

President Joe Biden waits to sign his first executive order in the Oval Office of the White House, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. As one of his first acts, Biden offered a sweeping immigration overhaul that would provide a path to U.S. citizenship for the estimated 11 million people who are in the United States illegally. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

(RNS) — Pastors, bishops and the head of the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States are calling on Congress to support the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which President Joe Biden proposed on the first day of his administration.

In a letter published Thursday (March 4), leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America threw their support behind what they called “fair and compassionate transformations to our nation’s broken immigration system.” 


RELATED: Faith-based groups cheer, share hopes for Biden’s family reunification task force


The proposed legislation would create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. It also would provide resources to address a backlog of immigration cases and funding for alternatives to detention, and it would make so-called Dreamers — undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children — eligible for green cards.

The Lutherans’ letter was initiated by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, which works with the federal government to resettle refugees and reunite families nationwide. The letter was signed by 568 clergy, including the denomination’s presiding bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, as well as the heads of organizations such as LIRS and Lutheran Services in America.

It explains how its 3.3 million members are “called by God to love our neighbor, accompany the vulnerable, and welcome the stranger.” It also briefly recounts the denomination’s history of “welcoming and caring for newcomers,” noting that its predecessor bodies have been helping immigrants and other displaced peoples as far back as the 1860s.

The bill, introduced by Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, in mid-February, is stalled in the House, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying recently that Democrats don’t have the votes necessary to pass it in its current form. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, called the bill “important and serious” in a recent statement to Politico magazine, and he said the legislation would likely be the subject of hearings in April.


RELATED: Two more leave church sanctuary as immigration policies ease


“Making progress on these long overdue immigration reforms is important to us as leaders who serve in church and society,” the letter from ELCA leaders closes.

“We ask God to guide our nation and grant the grace of a welcoming heart. To that end, we ask you to work collaboratively, with haste, to promote this comprehensive legislative solution through Congress and provide lasting solutions that will strengthen our nation for generations to come.”