For many of us living in the United States, Thanksgiving is a time when we get together with family and friends. We share food, fellowship, and the things that we are grateful for. When I think about the past year when so many of my neighbors have been under attack and living in fear, I give thanks for the many organizations that are working to make our communities safe and welcoming for all. I give thanks for the four churches in North Carolina who have been willing to open their doors and provide sanctuary to those in need. And I give thanks for my elected officials who have championed causes that they believe in, such as healthcare, even when their voice seemed small.
There is one particular group that represents the American belief that hard work leads to a better life: The Dreamers, the name given to DACA (Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrival) recipients. These are young people who were brought to this country because their parents were seeking a better life. They did not choose to come to this country but have grown up here and have worked hard to be able to achieve a higher education and gain access to employment. They bring value and diversity to our country. However, since President Trump ended the DACA program, according to the National Immigrant Justice Center, “Every day that Congress delays [passing a clean Dream Act], 122 immigrant youth lose their status and protections when their DACA expires.” That means every day 122 people lose their work permits, protection from deportation, and the stability and hope they once had through DACA.
This fact makes us acutely aware that we need just and humane immigration policies for everyone and Congress needs to pass a clean Dream Act now. A clean Dream Act would not include additions to any bill that might harm immigrant communities, for example, increased enforcement measures and deportations or providing money for a border wall. The best way for Congress to ensure this is by adding permanent protection for undocumented youth to the budget bill which must pass by December 8th. There are several things that you can do during this holiday season to encourage Congress to pass a clean Dream Act:
• Use the holidays as a time to have courageous conversations with people that you love. Although politics, and particularly immigration, can be difficult conversations to have, if there was ever a time to bring our values close to home, it is now. Educate yourself and educate others. This guide to “Surviving the Holidays- How to Talk to Your Family About Immigrants & Refugees” from Church World Service is a helpful tool.
• Call your Congressional representatives and ask them to vote to pass a clean DREAM Act before the end of the year. Simply put in your zip code here and recite the sample script.
• Visit your members of Congress. Members of Congress are working in their districts from November 16 – 26; simply call your local office and set up an appointment.
• Host a Thanksgiving “Dreamer Dinner” with DACA recipients to continue the conversation about the importance of a clean Dream Act by December. A how-to toolkit can be downloaded here; toolkit created by America’s Voice.
• Organize a letter-writing campaign at your church. Personalize and download copies of this letter in English or Spanish and either mail them directly to your representatives or mail them to the NC Council of Churches at 27 Horne Street, Raleigh NC 27607 and we will deliver them with other letters.
Many thanks for all of you working to protect and love your neighbors this holiday season. May everyone have a blessed and safe Thanksgiving.