Let the Little Children Come: Scripture and the DREAM Act
Throughout the Old Testament, we find God's repeated command to care and look out for immigrants. As an immigrant people themselves, the people of Israel were mandated to remember their history and thus love the immigrant as themselves (Leviticus 19:33-34, Exodus 23:9). In the New Testament, Jesus talked about another vulnerable group who he vehemently insisted should be welcomed and protected: kids. "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me," Jesus says (Mark 9:37), adding a harsh warning for anyone who would mess with kids: "If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin," he warned, "it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck" (Mark 9:42). Followers of Christ know that we need to watch out for children, guide them the best that we can, and learn from them how to follow our Lord.
In our society today, though, we place a huge stumbling block in front of thousands of immigrant children. Without the options of college, work, or even military service, 65,000 undocumented children graduate from high school each year and have little more to do than watch television or loiter on the streets. Paul warns the church at Thessalonica against idleness (2 Thessalonians 3:6-13), but our federal immigration laws leave these kids-who almost always came to the United States with their parents, through no fault of their own-with few alternatives.
In my work as an immigration counselor, I've met many of these kids. One, who at the age of six was brought from Mexico by a mother who was fleeing an abusive relationship, realized for the first time what it meant to be undocumented when her high school guidance counselor informed her that, despite her impressive grades, it would be almost impossible for her to attend college. She could only cry out to God, wondering why she had been brought to this country and allowed to excel, only to face this brick wall.
I think God has answered, though, pointing us back to the Word and asking us, as the church, to do all we can to remove the stumbling blocks in these kids' way. As citizens, we are called to advocate for justice, to speak up for these who have no voice in our democracy (Proverbs 31:8). We have that opportunity now. A bill called the DREAM Act, which would provide legal status to many individuals who entered the U.S. as children and have graduated from high school here, was reintroduced in both the House of Representatives (H.R.1751) and the Senate (S.729) recently. It seems uncontroversial to allow children who had no choice in their legal status dilemma the ability to work and study, but the same bill has been introduced in previous years and defeated. This bill will, sadly, likely fail again unless our legislators hear from us, loudly, that they need to support the DREAM Act.
Matthew Soerens is a Board of Immigration Appeals-Accredited Immigration Counselor at World Relief DuPage in Wheaton, Illinois, and is the co-author of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2009).