Now is the Time to Stand with Dreamers

Evangelicals want Dreamers to be allowed to stay lawfully in the United States. The President should listen to them.
July 9, 2020
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Students and supporters of DACA rally in downtown Los Angeles, California on November 12, 2019 as the US Supreme Court hears arguments to make a decision regarding the future of "Dreamers" as beneficiaries of DACA(Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)are known. - The US Supreme Court hears arguments on November 12, 2019 on the fate of the "Dreamers," an estimated 700,000 people brought to the country illegally as children but allowed to stay and work under a program created by former president Barack Obama. Known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, the program came under attack from President Donald Trump who wants it terminated, and expired last year after the Congress failed to come up with a replacement. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court surprised many with a decision that, for the moment, keeps the hopes of Dreamers — immigrants who came to America as children — alive. While affirming the president’s authority to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the 5-4 opinion found that the process by which the Trump administration had ended the program was legally insufficient.

For many Christians and others who know and love Dreamers, the Court’s decision was a huge relief – but temporary. Why not permanently protect Dreamers and the American values they represent?

The administration has already indicated that it intends to try to end DACA again. But there is an opportunity for a different course of action–a political solution exists that benefits the administration, the Dreamers and our country. If the President were to change course on DACA and demonstrate leadership on the issue so that the Senate can pass permanent relief for Dreamers, such support would add to the strength of America.

Even though the administration has taken a tough stance on immigration and frequently uses charged rhetoric about security, supporting Dreamers is in the President’s own interests given their important contributions to the economy and their roles as first responders and essential workers in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

DACA is not primarily a political issue for evangelical Christians: Dreamers are us. There are estimated hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients that are faithful members of evangelical denominations that comprise the National Association of Evangelicals. Dreamers are students on scores of Christian colleges, university and seminary campuses represented by the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. They contribute richly to churches and academic communities, and are indispensable to the educational communities they study in.

Many evangelicals stand in solidarity with Dreamers. A recent poll finds that 76 percent of white evangelicals want Dreamers to be allowed to stay lawfully in the United States, with just 20 percent opposed; support among non-white evangelicals is likely even higher.

Christians, whose highest authority is the Bible, are mindful of God’s particular concern for the vulnerable. Throughout the Scriptures, God identifies immigrants, alongside orphans and widows, as among those uniquely vulnerable to injustice, whom he loves and whom he commands his people to protect. Jesus paid special attention to children and to those who have care and supervision for their wellbeing. Though many Dreamers are now adults, they have done all that this country and those in authority have asked: completing the application for DACA, including clearing criminal background checks; paying application fees; and contributing in a plethora of well-documented ways.

We urge the president to solve a pressing humanitarian problem by publicly calling upon Congress to quickly pass a clean legislative solution for Dreamers, allowing them to apply for permanent legal status and, eventually citizenship. The American Dream and Promise Act, the bill already passed by the House in a bipartisan vote, would allow Dreamers to earn citizenship in the United States, which most consider their home.

We also call on voters to speak boldly and clearly to their senators and representatives, asking that they take action to protect Dreamers. Congress has been stymied – under both Democratic and Republican control – to act over the decades since the DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001. But we have seen Congress act together for the wellbeing of the nation during this pandemic to send relief, and now is the time for joint action again.

Justice Kavanaugh said that the uncertainty now hanging over the country “is a result of Congress’s inability thus far to agree on legislation, which in turn has forced successive administrations to improvise, thereby triggering many rounds of relentless litigation with the prospect of more litigation to come.”

Our American ideals are about making life better for people and about providing hope for a better future. America would be its best self by acting for Dreamers. There are times when the right, just action is not politically expedient. This is not one of those instances. The administration and Congress can do what is right and wanted by the majority of the people they represent by immediately passing legislation to resolve the long nightmare facing Dreamers once and for all. In this time of extraordinary uncertainty, Congress can and must act.

Walter Kim and Shirley V. Hoogstra

Walter Kim is the president of the National Association of Evangelicals. Shirley V. Hoogstra is the president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities.