Illinois Evangelicals Urge Congress to Grant Permanent Legal Status to Afghans

 In Press Releases

Springfield — Today, the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT) sent a letter signed by more than 30 Illinois evangelical pastors, leaders and church members urging Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth and the state’s U.S. representatives to provide permanent legal status to Afghans already resettled across the U.S. 

Since August, more than 70,000 Afghans who were evacuated out of Kabul have been granted humanitarian parole into the United States. Most of them have now been resettled across local communities, many with the direct support of churches and other community organizations, including approximately 1,600 resettled to Illinois. However, these Afghans do not have a clear process to pursue permanent legal status. 

Local evangelical leaders urge Congress to pass legislation that would allow these Afghan parolees “a direct process by which they can apply for permanent legal status,” per the letter. One proposal, the Afghan Adjustment Act, would allow Afghan parolees to be processed similarly to those resettled through the traditional refugee resettlement program, applying for Lawful Permanent Resident status after one year.

The evangelical leaders’ letter, which was affirmed by approximately 900 signatories from across the country, also urges Congress to pass legislation to grant permanent legal status to other categories of immigrants who are currently in the United States only with temporary legal protections, including Dreamers who have benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and long-term beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status.

The following are quotes from several signatories of the letter to Illinois’ congressional delegation:

Chadwick Anderson, Associate Pastor, Mattis Avenue Free Methodist Church, Champaign, said:

“We are thankful for the foundations of our nation which, although admittedly imperfect at times, continue to strive toward a freedom and equality that proclaims the precious value of every human being as made in the image of the Creator. My own grandparents emigrated from Hungary fleeing Jewish persecution, yet still my grandmother chose to have nose surgery to reduce further persecution here in the U.S. It reminds me that simply ‘escaping’ one country is not the goal, but also becoming fully valued and established in ways that promote thriving for generations to come. Many difficulties will exist, no matter what we do, as these refugees pursue healing and a new life. Allowing them a path to permanent legal status (as we already do with so many refugees) is just one small way we can reduce that trauma and powerfully proclaim the values we declare to be so important to our nation; and as Christians — what we believe to be our calling for the world.”

Rev. Eric Landin, Lead Pastor, Batavia Covenant Church, Batavia, said:

We are walking alongside an Afghan family who is facing the challenges of resettlement that all refugees and immigrants face, yet their legal status is in limbo. We need Congress to act to give them — along with DACA recipients and others — the stability of permanent legal status as they rebuild their lives. I support the Afghan Adjustment Act because these resilient families are our friends and neighbors and their presence strengthens our communities. Let’s compassionately remove the barriers that prevent them from putting down roots and thriving.”

Juliet Liu, Co-Pastor, Life on the Vine Church, Lake Zurich, said:

“My family was among the 125,000 people forced to leave their home Vietnam in 1975, their lives endangered because of their affiliation with the United States. While we are well-acquainted with the devastating trauma that happens when war robs you of a home, we also know what a difference it can make, for generations to come, when families are welcomed well and integrated long-term into this nation. As a second-generation Vietnamese American, as a faith leader, and as an American citizen, I am eager to pay forward the welcome my family was shown and support this legislation for Afghan refugees.”

Jeremiah X. Gómez, Network Pastor, Heritage Church, Moline, Rock Hill and Kewaunee, said:

Reminding our leaders of the dignity of every person and challenging those leaders to act with this dignity in mind is part of our calling. Bridging gaps in dignity, security, and flourishing for all people is one of the most Christlike actions we can take; for our immigrant and refugee neighbors the need to bridge these gaps is especially urgent. Calling upon our political leaders to use their God-given authority for the sake of those living on the margins is one way to ‘speak up…and ensure justice’ (Proverbs 31:8).”

Susan Sperry, Executive Director, World Relief Chicagoland, Chicago, Carol Stream and Aurora, said:

“It’s been an honor to partner with so many volunteers, churches and community organizations to welcome Afghans into Illinois over the past six months. The community has stepped up to welcome Afghans who have endured incredible tragedy and, in many cases, already stood by our country as allies of the U.S. military. Now we need Congress to do its job, ensuring that Afghan parolees can apply for permanent legal status one year after arrival, just like those resettled through the traditional refugee resettlement process. And Congress also should create pathways for Dreamers and long-time Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries to pursue permanence in the U.S. Each of these groups belong in our community, and our laws should reflect that.”

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