The acronym DACA is short for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It’s administrative relief from deportation. It protects eligible immigrant youth who came to the United States when they were youth, offering them protection from deportation and a work permit.
Hundreds of thousands of the most productive Millenials in our nation are here because of the wisdom of DACA. Ideally, our nation would sort out and improve its immigration process, offering a path to citizenship for all those currently protected by DACA.
However, some of the highest officials in our nation, including Secretary Kelly and Jeff Sessions, together with a host of xenophobic attorney generals (inclusive of Arkansas’s attorney general Leslie Rutledge) have of late filed lawsuits seeking to phase out DACA, and have also begun processes to deport DREAMers (DREAM: Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors). In other words, rather than seeking solutions offering a path to citizenship to this vital portion of our population, they are taking regressive steps that create fear and anxiety, and threaten hundreds of thousands of young Latinos.
In the letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the 10 state attorneys general (including Arkansas’s Leslie Rutledge) said that if the administration refuses to phase out the program, which they describe as “unlawful” in that it “unilaterally confers eligibility for work authorization and lawful presence without any statutory authorization from Congress,” they will amend their lawsuit against DAPA to challenge the DACA program as well.
Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, condemned the attorneys general who sent the letter, saying in a statement that “their evident xenophobia is not remotely consistent with the trajectory of our nation’s history and future progress.”
The following is a statement from Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez, a Member of the Judiciary Committee and Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
I think we have to prepare for the worst and get ready to fight mass deportation. We showed up at airports to fight the Muslim and Refugee Ban and now DREAMers and people who have lived here legally for decades with TPS are in imminent danger.
Secretary Kelly determines the future of TPS and basically told us he is not sure if he will extend it for hundreds of thousands of people. He also said that the future of DACA is up to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, America’s leading advocate against immigration, so Kelly was basically telling us DACA is facing a death sentence. They actually want to take millions of people who are documented – with our own government – make them undocumented, and then go after them and their families.
So, I fear for anybody currently with DACA or TPS.
This was a wake-up call that Trump, Sessions and Kelly are serious about mass deportation and are anxious to get started. It is a call to action for people who oppose mass deportation and turning the documented into undocumented so that they can be deported.
Upon questioning, Sec. Kelly made it clear he does not understand how his agency works or how the Congress works. He stood by his past remarks that Congress should change the law if we don’t like it, as if Democrats have not been fighting Republican obstruction for years, and asking for a vote on immigration reform, the DREAM Act and other legislation. Sec. Kelly says it is up to Congress, but his party is the obstacle standing in the way of a modern immigration system.
Sec. Kelly said he could not help people and their American citizen children who have no criminal record and are being deported, as if he doesn’t understand that he has the power under current law to spare people through his prosecutorial discretion. I told him straight up that he could prevent the August deportation of Francisca Lino – the wife of a U.S. citizen and mother of U.S. citizen children in Chicago – just by picking up the phone and he seemed not to know he has that power.
He either does not understand his authority under current law or was stonewalling or doing a very convincing job of playing dumb – or maybe some combination of the three. He is playing along with Trump’s agenda to deport millions and pretending to not understand his powers to do something about it. ‘Just following orders’ is not a valid defense, especially when you have the power to prevent a tragedy for millions of American citizens and their families.
Trump, Sessions and Kelly want to take 800,000 DREAMers with DACA and hundreds of thousands with TPS who are registered with the government and in compliance with the law and make them into criminals, felons, and deportees in the next few months. Anyone with a conscience who thinks legal immigration is an integral part of who we are as a country just got called to action.
How should and can faith communities respond to these regressive and immoral moves on the part of our own elected officials?
First, contact them. Most of them tweet, so reach out to them on Twitter. Call their offices. Write letters. Visit them in their offices.
Second, approach the issue as a matter of Christian faith. Most if not all of the attorney generals taking these hateful actions are posturing under the guise of “law and order,” and most if not all of them are Christians. Surely they know that the vast majority of DREAMers arrived in our country because they came here with their parents. Their parents came for opportunity, to flee oppression, to make a better life. They themselves can and should also be offered a path to citizenship.
But the children of such immigrants definitely deserve our best and most hospitable treatment. We welcome the sojourner in our midst, as Scripture teaches, because we remember that we were once sojourners in a foreign land.
There’s really only one reason why the attorney generals, and Jeff Sessions, and all these others, are taking these steps. They’re doing it because they seek to “make America white again.” It’s racism posturing as law and order, Christianity falsely supporting nativism. It’s our worst impulses clothed in religiosity.
Finally, connect with communities who are preparing to ameliorate the devastating effects of the criminalization of those who are undocumented. Join a sanctuary movement. Find out what local efforts are already in place to begin an underground railroad or other resources for the undocumented. Connect with those actively protesting the actions of our attorney generals. Read faithful resources on immigration, like the ELCA social statement. Donate to Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
This is real folks. It’s not a drill. Our neighbors, vast numbers of Latino DREAMers, are waiting to see how the faith community responds now. They are afraid. Our action will be our testimony in Christ. Will we have the courage?