By the Rev. Lyda Pierce
In the four months since the Trump Administration announced that it would be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, nearly 15,000 Dreamers (individuals who entered the country as children) have become undocumented immigrants. What’s a church to do?
And if the current policies of Homeland Security and the White House continue unblocked by courts or remedied by Congress, approximately 1,237,000 documented immigrants will become undocumented. That’s right, the US has 1,237,000 immigrants who have been vetted and received documentation allowing them to legally live, work, study, and contribute to our communities will loose documentation.
About 800,000 of these people are young immigrants brought to the US as children by their parents. They have grown up here, and have passed various protocols and tests to show that they are good neighbors; they were given a card providing them temporary safety from deportation, as well as the right to work and study. There are many more of these “Dreamers“ who were too young, too old, or too afraid to be able to apply for DACA but only know the United States as their home and are living as good neighbors in communities across the nation.
Across the country the general population is strongly in favor of granting legal status to these young dreamers (84 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents and 69 percent of Republicans think they should stay). Most of Congress is in favor of letting the dreamers stay here and the president says that he is too. However, they are arguing about the details, about the language of the president, about a wall, and about a government shut-down.
Since the president canceled DACA roughly 15,000 DACA young people have had their cards expire and are now undocumented. Another 122 loose their DACA status everyday that Congress does not act. Although a court recently ordered DACA applications to temporarily continue to be received as it considers strong arguments that DACA’s “rescission was arbitrary and capricious,” it can’t order them to be approved. Meanwhile, the Administration is working on various ways to block the judge.
So, what can the Church do to love the stranger and accept the children as Christ clearly told us to do?
A legislative solution is the best hope for these dreamers, and our political leaders do their best work when people encourage them with appropriate passion and in significant numbers. As people of faith, we can add our voices to others seeking a solution that doesn’t play political football with these young people’s lives.
After all, the Bible is hardly silent on the topic of how we should treat those immigrants who live among us. “When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (1)”
While it may be true that scripture doesn’t speak to every intricacy of the US immigration system, the numerous verses like these (many helpfully collected by the UCC) offer clear encouragement toward generosity, hospitality, and just treatment.
As a Christian, you should ask “how can I offer these things?” And as a US citizen, you can raise your voice to speak politically about how our country can reflect, in part, these values.
I hope you will join me in asking Congress and the President to stop fighting and simply pass the DREAM ACT NOW, before the end of the day on January 19.
Please call, text, email and/or tweet Congress and the President NOW to share your views on passing the DREAM Act now.
Congressional Switchboard | (202) 224-3121
(where they can use your zip code to locate your representatives and senators. You’ll want to call 3 times to reach all of them)
White House Comment Line: | (202) 456-1111
Or, use GovTrack to look up your Congressional Representatives Online | govtrack.us/congress/members
Then, after passing the DREAM Act, that they all basically agree on, they can pass legislation to keep the government open, and next step, in another week, look at what to do about the other 437,000 documented immigrants here on Temporary Protected Status who are at risk of loosing their legal status. More on that next week.
- United Methodist Immigration Task Force: LINK
- United Methodist Women Stand with Dreamers: LINK
- United Methodist Insight discusses DACA: LINK
- United We Dream: LINK
- Interfaith Immigration Coalition: LINK
- United Methodists of the Greater Northwest resources on immigration, welcome and sanctuary: LINK
- Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22, NRSV
The Rev. Lyda Pierce serves as director of Hispanic/Latino Ministries for the Pacific Northwest Conference Office of Connectional Ministries.