The Common Good

Another Advent of 'Waiting' for Undocumented Students

This Advent season, "waiting" has new meaning for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrant students. Due to Congress' lame-duck status, their lives and dreams have become a lifeless, political wedge issue.

Perhaps the most pro-life, common-ground issue on the House of Representatives agenda right now is the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to legal status for undocumented immigrant students who either go to college or join the military.

More than 2.1 million people could be eligible to apply for legal status under the DREAM Act, while about 825,000 would likely receive citizenship, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.

Back in September, I wrote about how Adrian Suryajaya isn't waiting on a college acceptance letter and financial aid package, unlike many of his fellow high school seniors.

"As a senior, it would mean that God has opened up a big opportunity for me," Suryajaya told me in September. "It would be perfect timing for me. With this act, I could be more calm and peaceful and not worry about my status anymore. I could focus on my education."

Suryajaya lives in South Philadelphia and attends Philadelphia Praise Center (PPC), a Mennonite congregation that's 90 percent immigrant, 60 percent Indonesian.

"There's a lot of members in my congregation that need health service," Suryajaya said. "By me becoming a physician, and being an immigrant, I can help them have the health care that they need. It's my way to give back to the church and the community."

All across the country, congregations like PPC are developing a new generation of leaders. These young people are essential links among immigrant communities, and if these young people can't access proper education and citizenship, their churches will soon experience a severe crisis of leadership.

Like hundreds of thousands of others, Suryajaya lives daily with decisions made by his parents, caught in a system he didn't necessarily choose for himself.

But our political leaders aren't leading. Rather, they're avoiding a vote that would allow young people like Suryajaya to contribute to American society and realize their dreams.

Sheldon C. Good is a former Sojourners intern. He is assistant editor for Mennonite Weekly Review and blogs at The World Together.

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