The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) welcomes the announcement today that the United States will no longer deport the undocumented spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens who have resided in the United States for at least 10 years, nor require them to leave the country for 10 years to be eligible for status adjustment. This policy helps protect the sanctity of marriage and preserves the unity of hundreds of thousands of American families.

“Spousal deportation has been a tragic example of the brokenness of the U.S. immigration system,” said Walter Kim, NAE president. “While marriage to a U.S. citizen opens a path to citizenship, a nearly three-decades old law has required that an immigrant who has been unlawfully present in the United States for one year or more to leave the country and not return for 10 years. This has been heartbreaking for many couples who seek to be right with the law.”

The NAE has long emphasized the importance of family in God’s plans for human flourishing.

Throughout the Bible the family is central to God’s vision for human beings and human society. At creation, God established marriage and the family as one of his first acts (Genesis 1:27–28, 2:23–25) …. The family is central to life together as diverse people in society.[1]

In 2009 the National Association of Evangelicals called for immigration legislation that safeguards the nation’s borders, upholds the rule of law, treats immigrants with respect and mercy, unites families, admits enough workers, and provides a viable opportunity for those already in the United States to earn legal status and citizenship and noted “that immigration enforcement [should] be conducted in ways that recognize the importance of due process of law, the sanctity of the human person, and the incomparable value of family.”[2]

Americans have long had the right to marry a citizen of another country and have their spouse become a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident following the verification of the marriage and appropriate security vetting. The intentional and lengthy separation of husbands and wives from each other, and often from their American children, is unacceptable. Although spousal deportation has been relatively rare, the potential for such an action leaves a cloud of uncertainty over the affected families. Under the new policy, applicants will still need to pass a criminal background check, pay applicable fees and verify that they are legally married.

As the NAE previously stated:

Good family life is so important to healthy human functioning that we oppose government efforts to trespass on the integrity of the family; for example, by encroaching on parental responsibilities and rights to educate their children, separating nuclear families through deportation or creating economic disincentives to marriage.[3]

The NAE also applauds the announcement of steps to streamline the administration of legal work visas for graduates of accredited American colleges, including Dreamers, who qualify for work visas and have a job offer in their field but face a lengthy and risky application process. This overdue reform will benefit both employers and employees by providing greater clarity to the 212(d)(3) waiver process, and by reducing the length of family separation required to obtain a work visa.

“While the actions announced today are a constructive interim step toward strengthening American families, a lasting solution protecting American citizens and their immigrant spouses will require congressional action,” Kim said. “Moving forward, Congress should pass comprehensive immigration reform to address the many insufficiencies of our current system.”

[1]  “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility,” National Association of Evangelicals, 2018, (accessed June 18, 2024), 29.

[2] “Immigration,” National Association of Evangelicals, 2009, (accessed June 18, 2024).

[3] “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility,” National Association of Evangelicals, 2018, (accessed June 18, 2024), 30.