Thousands gathered in front of the White House on Tuesday calling on the administration to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the executive action signed by President Barack Obama that protected 800,000 young people from deportation. They were able to receive work permits and stay in the U.S. in exchange for providing their information and going through background checks. Now, DACA is in the hands of the Trump administration — and the program is under threat by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and nine other state-level officials who plan to sue if the Trump administration does not cancel DACA by Sept. 5.
During an action hosted by United We Dream, Rev. William Lamar, pastor of Metropolitan AME Church in Washington, D.C., urged for leaders to support DACA and congressional action:
We demand leadership from our elected officials, we stand up for all dreamers, and we insist that DACA be kept in place until Congress enacts a clean version of the Dream Act and broader immigration reform. We will not stand by silently as aggressive and cruel efforts are on under way to deport millions of our brothers and sisters with deep ties to America. … Dreamers pay taxes, dreamers pay into social security, dreamers make our communities what they are, and we will not retreat, we will not shut up, we will not step back. We will fight until justice comes to each and every one of our brothers and sisters … Our dream will not be deferred.
Several young immigrants and faith leaders have organized a vigil that will run for 24 hours and 22 days, from Aug. 15, the 5-year anniversary of the executive program, to Sept. 5.
“Before DACA I was not able to drive or go to college … I was not able to have any valid ID. Now I can do it, but if DACA is repealed I will not be able to do any of these things again,” said DACA recipient Jung Woo from the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium.
Rev. Noel Andersen, grassroots coordinator with Church World Service, said he is hopeful continued presence through prayer and actions over the next 22 days will press the administration to do the right thing, adding that the faith community is “called from our gospel and various other sacred texts to welcome the people who are in need, to love our neighbor, to create a space where all are welcome no matter where they are on life’s journey and to remind everyone that God has loved us and therefore we are to love all people — that is the moral obligation.”
That moral obligation has led leaders from the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, a “partnership of faith-based organizations committed to enacting fair and humane immigration reform” to applaud the re-introduction of the Dream Act, a bipartisan legislation introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D.-Ill.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that would grant permanent legal status to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 18.
Founder and President of Sojourners, Jim Wallis issued the following statement in support for the Dream Act:
As Jesus taught us in Matthew 25, the way we treat the most vulnerable members of our society, including immigrants — the biblical ‘stranger’ — reflects how we treat Christ himself. As faith leaders, we urge members of Congress to prioritize the common good and cosponsor the Dream Act. Every day millions of families live in fear of disruption or dislocation because of one member’s immigration status. It has become abundantly clear that immigration reform is the moral test of our politics. The 11 million undocumented women, men, and children in the United States are our brothers and sisters. They are our neighbors and church members. Our faith in Jesus Christ will not allow us to remain on the sidelines in such a time as this.
We stand in solidarity with Dreamers and urge our leaders to champion DACA and the Dream Act. We urge the faith community to contact their members of Congress to support DACA, the Dream Act, and the 11 million undocumented brothers and sisters who deserve a path way to citizenship.