(House of Representatives - April 25, 2013)

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[Pages H2343-H2345]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                           IMMIGRATION REFORM

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 3, 2013, the Chair recognizes the gentleman from California 
(Mr. Vargas) for 30 minutes.
  Mr. VARGAS. Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak on our Nation's need 
for comprehensive immigration reform. I did want to, however, 
congratulate my friend, Marlin Stutzman, and his family. What a 
beautiful family. And it was a delight looking over and seeing both 
boys. What a terrific family.
  I come today, though, to thank, really, the faith community in this 
country that has come together around comprehensive immigration reform. 
It's been interesting to see how, literally, every denomination, every 
faith group, has come together and said that we must have comprehensive 
immigration reform because of the values that they have, as religious 
people and religious groups, but also, more importantly, the religious 
values that we share as Americans.
  So I want to thank all of the groups that have been praying for us, 
that have come to the Capitol to speak to us, to say, open up your 
hearts, open up your minds and take a look at the stranger among you.
  I would like to read a letter that I received yesterday that, I 
think, puts it into context, certainly in the Judeo-Christian context, 
and that was a letter that I received from Rabbi Ron Stern from the 
Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles, California.
  He wrote this:

       Among the fundamental stories of the Jewish people is the 
     classic telling of the experience of slavery in Egypt.
       The story is not only told each year during the Passover 
     Seder held by Jews around the world but it is also referenced 
     repeatedly as the rationale for many Jewish ethical 
       The tradition teaches us that we must always remember that 
     we were strangers in a strange land, that we were powerless 
     immigrants with no choice but to rely upon the grace and 
     mercy of others who not only had power over our subsistence, 
     but sometimes over our lives.
       The truth of the Exodus story for the Jewish people is 
     eternal because we have often been wanderers in lands that 
     were not our own.
       Subsequent to the Exodus story, the first encounter with 
     the landless powerlessness occurred nearly 2,500 years ago in 
     the land of Babylonia.
       It was there that we also learned the strength that comes 
     when a people exits the shadows and is able to take its place 
     in the light of the Nation's destiny. A vibrant Jewish 
     community thrived there for thousands of years as citizens of 
     a Persian nation.
       Elsewhere in the world over the centuries Jews encountered 
     wandering, rootlessness and powerlessness in Europe, Russia 
     and Northern Africa. With each move, we endured the 
     insecurity of foreigners never fully welcomed in a land that 
     benefited from our labor and our skills.
       The all too infrequent eras of stability, security and 
     peace were welcomed isles of harmony that allowed our people 
     to prosper.
       Because of our history, because of our collective memory of 
     wandering and existing as immigrants in lands that were not 
     our own from birth, because we were wanderers who traveled to 
     nations looking for better fortunes and left nations where 
     fortune and safety eluded, the Jewish people have a mission 
     to extend compassion and embrace to others who seek the very 
     security that we often sought for ourselves.
       Now that we have found peace, comfort, stability and 
     strength in this great country, we demand nothing less than 
     that for others who seek these essential components of life 
     for themselves and for their families.
       Eleven million immigrants have cared for our children, 
     attended our schools, worked in our factories, fought our 
     wars, frequented our businesses, and made our way of life 
       The time is now for those who have become a part of our 
     American fabric through the sweat of their hands to be given 
     the place in our society that we cherish for ourselves as 
     well: citizens of the United States of America.
       Sincerely, Rabbi Ron Stern.

  I want to thank Rabbi Stern. I think that he, along with so many 
others, have really set the stage for something that I think is not 
only overdue but that we're going to do, and that is, we're going to 
look into our hearts, and we're going to see that the stranger among us 
is not so strange.
  It was interesting that the rabbi mentioned fought our wars. For 
those of us that have been working with immigrants, I think probably 
the saddest things, the saddest occurrences that we've encountered are 
these, when military men and women have spouses who are undocumented.

                              {time}  1710

  A good example is a story I gave before, and I'll give it again, it 
was so compelling.
  Here in the Capitol, on the Senate side, we heard testimony from an 
Army soldier who had, unfortunately, been injured. He came home and his 
wife is taking care of him and his young family. And what he's had to 
do is line the car windows and all over the car with stickers that say, 
``Injured Soldier,''

[[Page H2344]]

``Go Army,'' and all sorts of other stickers that show that he is 
someone that went and fought for us overseas. And the reason he does 
this, he says, is because he doesn't want to get pulled over for some 
small traffic violation because his wife is the only one that's able to 
drive, and she could be deported because she's undocumented.
  And probably even more compelling, we had, afterwards, a member of 
the Marines come forward and say, tragically, that he is fearful when 
he is sent overseas, but not of dying, interestingly. He said that he 
served two tours of duty in Iraq. He said that he was scared the whole 
time he was there, but not of what I thought. He said, You wouldn't 
guess. He said, I'm going back now to Afghanistan, and I have the same 
fear. And you know what his fear is? His fear is not of dying. 
Interestingly and starkly, he said, That's what Marines do. We fight 
and we die. I'm not afraid of that. I'm afraid that my wife will get 
deported because she's undocumented. I'm afraid that my wife will get 
deported. That's what his fear is, that his wife may be deported.
  He says, What then will happen to not only my wife but my children? 
I'm off in Afghanistan doing what I think is right, defending our 
country, defending our liberty, and at the same time my wife could get 
deported to a nation she doesn't really even know anymore. She came as 
a child. She came from Mexico. How is that fair?
  And I can tell him, Of course, that's not fair. But I think that more 
and more of us are hearing these stories. And I thank him for his 
bravery to come forward because it does, in fact, put his family in 
peril because she could get deported. But I thank him and I thank the 
other brave members of the military that have come forward and given us 
their stories. I've heard from many now.
  Now I would like to take a moment to share with you a letter written 
by the Evangelical Immigration Table to us here in the United States 
  They wrote:

       Dear Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi,
       Congratulations to you and your campaign teams on your 
     election victories.
       Our Nation faces many great challenges and opportunities. 
     We pray that God will lead and guide your steps and provide 
     you with the wisdom during the years ahead. As evangelical 
     leaders, we live every day with the reality that our 
     immigration system doesn't reflect our commitment to the 
     values of human dignity, family unity, and respect for the 
     rule of law that define us as Americans.
       Initiatives by both parties to advance commonsense fixes to 
     our immigration policies have stalled in the years past. With 
     your leadership, this can change. In the next Congress, 
     Republicans and Democrats need to come together to pass and 
     implement a national immigration strategy that addresses our 
     Nation's broken immigration system. We commit to supporting 
     you. We are already working across the country to educate and 
     mobilize our fellow evangelical Christians to support just 
     immigration laws. Support for reform is growing in our 
     churches, denominations, campuses, and communities.

  As an aside, it is. And we see it here at the Capitol. We see more 
and more church groups and pastors coming and speaking to us, and 
speaking to us in a very united way and a very compassionate way and a 
very values-filled way, saying that we have to do something. And I 
thank them again for that.
  They go on:

       We stand ready to support legislation that reflects our 
     Christian values and builds the common good. We are driven by 
     moral obligation rooted deeply in our faith to address the 
     needs of immigrants in our country. Compassionate and just 
     treatment of immigrants is a frequent topic in the Scripture. 
     The Hebrew word for immigrant, ``ger'', occurs 92 times 
     throughout the Bible.
       We respectfully request that you meet personally with 
     leadership from the Evangelical Immigration Table in the 
     first 92 days of the next Congress to discuss bipartisan 
     immigration reform legislation that:
       One, guarantees secure national borders;
       Two, respects the God-given dignity of every person;
       Three, ensures fairness to taxpayers;
       Four, protects the unity of the immediate family;
       Five, establishes a path toward legal status and/or 
     citizenship for those who qualify and those who wish to 
     become permanent residents;
       Six, respects the rule of law.
       These principles are endorsed by the signers of this letter 
     and by more than 150 other prominent evangelical leaders from 
     around the Nation. The principles reflect a growing 
     convergence with the position of other religious, civic, 
     business, labor, and law enforcement leaders.
       We urge you to reach across the aisle and to work to create 
     a bipartisan solution that reflects our values, creates just 
     and humane immigration laws, and moves us forward together.

  The letter was signed by Leith Anderson, President, National 
Association of Evangelicals; Stephan Bauman President and CEO, World 
Relief; David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World; Noel 
Castellanos, CEO, Christian Development Community Association; Robert 
Gittelson, President, Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration 
Reform; Richard Land, President, Ethics and Religious Liberty 
Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Samuel Rodriguez, 
President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Gabriel 
Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition; Richard 
Stearns, President, World Vision United States; and Jim Wallis, 
President and CEO of Sojourners.
  So why have all of these evangelical leaders and why have so many 
other faith groups come together and said with a unified voice that we 
have to have comprehensive immigration reform? Well, as they say, the 
reason is because of their values. Because they believe in the Bible 
and they believe that the stranger among us must be treated as 
ourselves. In fact, interestingly, some of them quote Leviticus.

  In Leviticus, of course, it says that you shall love the alien, the 
stranger, as you love yourselves, because you have to remember that you 
once were strangers, too, in the land of Egypt.
  And so I thank all of these religious leaders, all of these faith 
communities that have come together. Interestingly, I can't recall 
another time when you've had so many different religious faith groups, 
pastors, reverends, and rabbis come together with one voice and say, 
This is the path forward; we all agree. But we have it here.
  The nice thing about it is that I think we are getting to a point 
where we are going to agree that we have to have a comprehensive 
immigration package that reflects the values that they have spoken to, 
the values that we hold dear as Americans, and I think that we are 
going to get there. And I thank each and every one of them that prays 
for us because I am a person of faith. I do believe that prayers work. 
I can feel their fervent prayers here. We can all hear them here. It's 
a wonderful thing.
  I do want to read a few more letters and a few more quotes from these 
same evangelical leaders because I think it's important to get a feel 
for how unanimous they are that we have to have comprehensive 
immigration reform that really reflects our best values, our better 
angels. So here's a press release from the evangelical leaders to 
amplify the call for bipartisan immigration reform with radio ads in 
key States.

                              {time}  1720

  Dr. Richard Land, president, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission 
of the Southern Baptist Convention:

       Evangelical Christians who listen to Christian radio tend 
     to be well educated in the Scriptures and politically 
     engaged. Reaching them with this message about God's heart 
     for immigrants and the importance of immigration solutions 
     rooted in Biblical values will be absolutely critical for 
     building the political will we need to pass meaningful 
     reforms in 2013.
       Our political leaders need to hear from our constituents 
     and from their constituents and know that evangelical 
     Christians are strongly behind them if they have the moral 
     courage to act on the values we see in Matthew 25 and other 
     places in the Scripture concerning welcoming the stranger.

  I thank Dr. Richard Land. When he says that he hopes that we hear 
from our constituents, we are hearing from them. In fact, we're also 
hearing from Dr. Richard Land and other leaders in the evangelical 
churches that have come here to say, if you have any distrust in your 
heart for the immigrant, the stranger, or even hate, put it aside. 
Instead, follow your heart and understand that the immigrant, the 
stranger among you, deserves your love, your attention, your values.
  I think it's happening here. Again, I don't think it's by accident, I 
think it's by their prayers. I think it's by them coming together with 
a united voice and saying we have to do what is right. And I thank 
  I'd like to read now from Reverend Dr. Uth, senior pastor of the 
First Baptist Church of Orlando. The reason I want to read the pastor's 
notes is because the pastor not only talks about

[[Page H2345]]

reform, he comes from a particular area, Orlando. This is his quote:

       There's a consistent message throughout Scripture, and it's 
     a command to welcome and to treat fairly all people, but 
     especially the stranger and the foreigner in your land. When 
     we fail to welcome the stranger, in essence we fail to 
     welcome Christ.
       And so Christians in our church, when they learn about 
     God's heart for the immigrant and what the Bible has to say, 
     their hearts are open because we are a people of faith, and 
     it is our desire to live out that faith in our world.
       Coupled with that, when they meet these immigrants, when 
     they have personal encounters, all of a sudden this issue has 
     a face, it has a story. And it's in that meeting that 
     transformation happens and has happened here for us. We know 
     that the time is now for this discussion.

  I thank the pastor. I thank him because he's right. But I also thank 
him because I think his prayers, his supplications are being answered. 
I think the prayers of his congregation are being answered. We are 
coming together, and we are coming together in a bipartisan way.
  There are many other things that we disagree on. I've been here not 
very long, but I can already tell you there are a lot of things that we 
disagree on. But more and more, we're coming together around the issue 
of comprehensive immigration reform, and we're coming together because 
it's the right thing to do.
  In fact, the voices now--and they're few and they're shrill--seem to 
be a real outlier now. They seem to be far out, nowhere in the 
mainstream. Instead, we're down to the nitty-gritty and we're trying to 
figure out the small things. I think that that's very good; I think 
that that's healthy.
  I appreciate, again, the candor that we've had on this discussion. It 
is a pleasure to have the discussion on immigration be so humane and 
values-based. But also, some of the interests around the country are 
coming together too.
  I sit on the Agriculture Committee, and we were having a committee 
hearing on horticulture and specialty crops. Almost immediately, the 
discussion went to comprehensive immigration reform because it's one of 
the most important things for the agricultural community. 
Interestingly, they said that the bill in the Senate is not perfect, 
the bill that we're going to produce here is not perfect, but it's 
getting close. They're saying that there's a lot of agreement between 
those that work in the field and represent them and those that are the 
farmers. When do you see that? It seldom happens. Again, I think it's 
happening because of the prayers of the pastors.
  I do want to read a few more of them because they've sent so many of 
them now to my office, and also because I appreciate what they're 
doing. They're making a difference here. I also want to show that it's 
not only in Orlando, in one part of the country; it's all over the 
country that pastors and religious groups are coming together to pray 
for us, to encourage us to move forward on comprehensive immigration 
reform. So I would like to read from Reverend Dr. Fleming, senior 
pastor, Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, Texas:

       We're beginning now to see immigrants as us. We live 
     together, we work together, we serve together, we're all in 
     this together, and the notion of welcoming the outsider and 
     the stranger and inviting them in has been key to that. We 
     see the immigrant as a person created in the image of God. 
     They're husbands and wives, they're parents, they're 
       Oftentimes our broken immigration system causes great 
     suffering in the homes and in the families and in the 
     people's lives.
       I believe, and my experience has been here in Texas that 
     conservative Christians and evangelicals are rising to 
     support a Biblical approach to this very complex issue.

  I thank him. I thank Dr. Reverend David Fleming, senior pastor, 
Champion Forest Baptist Church of Houston, for his courage, for his 
prayers, for his encouragement, for his heart, and for his insight. I 
think it's very insightful. I want to quote him:

       We're beginning now to see immigrants as us. We live 
     together, we work together, we serve together, we're all in 
     this together, and the notion of welcoming the outsider and 
     the stranger and inviting them in has been key to that.

  In fact, they have been invited in. I've had the great honor now to 
speak to many pastors, and evangelization has happened with many of the 
undocumented people that have come to our Nation.

  Now, in fact, as the marine that I spoke of earlier, as well as the 
soldier, oftentimes they meet their spouses in church and they get 
married. Then we put them in a situation that if they legally want to 
live together their spouse has to leave the country for 10 years. Can 
you imagine that? The marine, who is again going to be deployed 
overseas, for his wife to be here legally she would have to leave the 
country for 10 years, what would she do with the children? Does she 
take them with her? They're American citizens. Does she go to this 
country that she really doesn't know anymore? How can that be right? 
How can that be fair? How can that be just? How can that be Christian? 
How can those be our values? They're not our values. That's why I thank 
Pastor Dr. David Fleming for stepping forward and saying it's time that 
we change.
  Now, I happen to be a Catholic, so I'd like to quote now Archbishop 
Jose Gomez, the archbishop of Los Angeles and chairman of the USCCB 
Committee on Migration. He says this:

       Our collective faith groups are prepared to support just 
     and humane reform of a broken immigration system. With the 
     President's leadership and cooperation between both parties 
     in Congress, we can achieve this goal within the year.
       We agree with the President and the bipartisan Senate 
     leaders who are stressing the importance of a path to 
     citizenship for the undocumented. We should not sanction a 
     permanent underclass in our society.

  Never to correct an archbishop; however, I would add that also the 
good work that's being done bipartisanly here, too, in this House, in 
the Congress, and you will soon see a bill.
  I thank and I pray every day for the members of that group that are 
working hard--often under great stress--to come forward with a bill, a 
change in the law, that represents our better angels. It represents our 
values as Americans, as Christians, as Jews, as people of faith. So I 
thank them.
  I'd also like to quote Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, president of the 
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference:

       Today's meeting invigorated me with hope and optimism. The 
     President's resolve in conjunction with evangelical support 
     facilitate the prescription for a comprehensive resolution 
     addressing America's immigration crisis. I am convinced that 
     with prayer and prophetic activism, we will live out Matthew 
     25 and welcome the stranger in the name of Jesus.

                              {time}  1730

  Of course he quotes famously Matthew 25. Matthew 25, of course, is 
the judgment where Jesus himself says how we will be judged as a 
nation. I hope you go back and read that part of Scripture.
  Jesus says:
  ``When I was hungry, you gave me to eat. When I was thirsty, you gave 
me to drink. When I was naked, you clothed me. When I was ill, you 
cured me. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me. When I was a 
prisoner, you visited me.''
  Then of course the sheep will ask:
  ``When do we do that, Jesus?''
  ``When you did it to the least of my brothers.''
  That's what Reverend Samuel Rodriguez was quoting and most Christian 
groups quote. It's so profoundly who we are: the welcoming of the 
stranger, Christ among us.
  Madam Speaker, I know I don't have much time left. I appreciate 
deeply the time that I was given today to speak to my colleagues and to 
speak to hopefully a larger crowd that I have great faith, I have great 
faith that we are coming together and we're coming together in a way 
that we will produce a bill that we can all be proud of and hopefully 
that we will all support but that will have bipartisan support. And it 
won't be an accident. It will be because of the prayers of these 
pastors. It will be because of the courage of Rabbi Stern. It will be 
because of all the encouragement that we've received from the faith 
communities outside of this House. It is because of their fervent love 
and support for the immigrant, the stranger, that we will have a just 
law, and I thank them.
  Madam Speaker, thank you for the opportunity today. I yield back the 
balance of my time.