Five years ago, President Obama created the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program to enable young people brought to this country as children to come out of the shadows and live their lives fully. This entailed granting them the ability to obtain a driver’s license, get a job, or pursue higher education. This newfound sense of security was transformative for the lives of thousands of young people and for their potential contributions to this country. Now, the DACA program has come under threat of repeal by the Trump Administration. If DACA is ended, approximately 800,000 young immigrants – who were brought to the United States as infants or children, have been successful students in our public schools, and who’ve known no other home but this country – will be under immediate threat of deportation. Commonly known as “Dreamers,” these immigrants are hardworking members of our communities. They are our colleagues at work, our children’s friends at school, and our fellow church parishioners.
God calls us to be welcoming to all immigrants. Instead of ending DACA and deporting Dreamers to countries they don’t even know, we should find a way for them to fully participate in our society and earn citizenship. There is bipartisan legislation in the Senate, known as the DREAM Act, that would accomplish both of those goals. It is intended to protect immigrant youth who entered the United States as young children and know America as their only home. The bill offers qualifying immigrant youth “conditional permanent resident status” and a path to full lawful permanent residency and eventual citizenship. This bill would protect numerous youth, including the estimated 780,000 individuals who received temporary relief from deportation and employment eligibility through the Department of Homeland Security’s DACA program.
The young people that the DREAM Act seeks to protect are contributors to our economy, academic successes in our universities, and leaders in our churches and communities. As people of faith, we have long supported Dreamers, as we believe in defending the dignity of every human being, especially that of our children. We have two choices: we can allow a generation of young people to contribute more fully to our society and to our economy as taxpaying members of the workforce, or we can kick them out and lose them forever. The DREAM Act would offer a path to earned citizenship and a brighter future for these young people. If you believe immigrant youth deserve continued protection and a path to citizenship, please urge your Senator to co-sponsor the DREAM Act (S. 1615) and to continue to work toward larger legislative reform of our immigration laws.