As an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for 31 years and now the highest elected ecclesial officer of the denomination, I urge the President of the United States of America to ensure the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which is marking its 5th anniversary today, stays intact for the remainder of his presidency.
Because of the DACA program, more than 800,000 young people – called Dreamers — have had the opportunity to continue their education, enter the military, obtain better paying jobs with better working conditions, and start and raise their families. They are engaged members of our communities, and these hard-working, dedicated individuals exemplify our country at its best.
DACA has also had significant impact on local communities. Of the 800,000 recipients, 48% have found jobs with better working conditions, 63% have obtained better paying jobs, 90% have received a driver’s license or state ID, and 12% have been able to purchase a home for their families. The improvements to their own lives have benefitted their local communities.
And many are members of our churches. In my service to the church as pastor to congregations and now in a pastoral role for the entire PC(USA), I have preached to, counseled, and prayed with people from many walks of life, never thinking of them as anything other than children of God. These young people are not strangers in our congregations, but active members. The Bible teaches us that if one member suffers, we all suffer along with them.
DACA recipients entered this country as children. They often know this country more than the one they have left behind. They have made friends, they have studied in schools, they have dreamed about their future. Those dreams do not change as they turn 18. Though not all “succeed” in the conventional sense – frequently due to discriminatory laws and complicity with various forms of discrimination — as people of faith we are called to walk with all the vulnerable in our society and support them in all their struggles.
Rescinding DACA would be an appalling rejection of our faith and our nation’s values of compassion and welcome. They are mothers, fathers, teachers, nurses, lawyers, scientists, and leaders of a new generation. Made in the image of our Creator, Dreamers and their families are inextricably woven into the fabric of our nation and play an invaluable role in our society. Terminating DACA is inexcusable and wrong.
The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director of our church’s Office of Public Witness, has said that “Dreamers have fought tirelessly for their rights and lives to be respected and their voices to be heard. They have been caught in this limbo for far too long. This is not a question of politics, but rather the morality of the American people. We ask our nation’s leaders to act on the values that are foundational to our faith – to welcome the stranger and love our neighbors.”
We have heard the clamor of voices in the Dreamers movement. Let us respond with positive support for these individuals who seek protection and security as they make positive changes in their lives and in our communities. Presbyterians will continue to stand by them in solidarity.
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II is the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)