Yesterday, President Obama took a courageous and controversial step toward reforming our country’s immigration system. He announced his plan to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to apply to stay in this country without the fear of deportation. One significant change allows for an expansion of the Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to include the parents of children who are US citizens or legal residents and have been in the country for more than five years without a criminal record. This will provide much-needed, temporary relief for approximately five million people who are suffering under our present immigration system.
Obama made it clear that he intends to re-prioritize enforcement to focus on people who pose a threat to our community, or in his words, “felons, not families.” As a person of faith, I support this way of thinking. Throughout the Bible, family is important in both a physical and theological sense. Specifically, 1 Timothy 5:8 states, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Obama’s actions Thursday will allow millions of mothers and fathers who have worked hard to provide for their families to come out of the shadows and participate fully in their communities. Families belong together, regardless of immigration status, and I applaud President Obama for making family unity a priority.
Unfortunately, all executive actions are limited in scope and are only a temporary fix. We still need Congress to enact federal legislation that will overhaul our immigration system permanently and provide relief for all 12 million undocumented brothers and sisters in Christ who live in fear every day. Although the President’s announcement tonight is a huge step forward, there is still more work to be done. While we rejoice with our brothers and sisters in Christ who will benefit from temporary relief, we lament that a pathway to citizenship is not available to everyone. There is yet more that must be accomplished, and I pray that both sides can work together to pass legislation that benefits all mothers, fathers, children, and workers.
President Obama ended his speech with a reference to the Bible: “Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too.” While we will most certainly see political commotion in the days, weeks and months to come, we can only hope people on both sides of the issue will have compassion in their debating. As we are one body and one family in Christ, let us make families and Christian unity our focus even in the midst of anger and fear.