1.8 million Dreamers (those brought here or who came here as immigrant children illegally) are facing potential future deportation now that a program that has protected them is under fire from 10 state Attorneys General who are threatening a lawsuit against the Obama era program. Currently, around 800,000 young people have taken advantage of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA. President Trump promised to abolish DACA when he was running for president, but since he took office, he has investigated further, learned more about the situation, and had decided to let the program stand for now. These state AGs are threatening to sue the government if DACA is not overturned by September 5, 2017. The Trump Administration, while speaking favorably of Dreamers, has indicated that it will not defend DACA in the courts. So, we now face an urgent crisis regarding the future of over one million young people.
If DACA goes away, all of these young people who have previously been protected from deportation, will be thrown back into full undocumented status. This means that they will no longer be afforded the protections they had under DACA and will not be able to work legally or go to school legally, in many cases. It also means that they will now be subject to deportation. The Trump Administration has directed the Department of Homeland Security to identify and deport all undocumented immigrants, not just those who have criminal records. That would mean that these young people who have grown up in America and call our country home would now be priorities for deportation along with the rest of the 11 million undocumented immigrants. We would essentially have a modern day trail of tears as well over 1 million people who have grown up here and call America home are sent away, unless we can develop some kind of legislative solution in Congress.
Protecting Dreamers is something that Americans want. The numbers shown in multiple polls, including this Morning Consult poll are astounding:
- 78% of registered votes say Dreamers should be allowed to stay in some form of legalized status with only 14% say they should be deported.
- Evangelicals 78% in favor of legalized status with only 16% in favor of deportation
- From the South 75% - 15%
- Trump voters - 73% - 23%
To protect Dreamers from deportation, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin introduced the Dream Act 2017 last week. The purpose of the Dream Act is to help those brought here at a young age develop their lives here in America and contribute to American society legally.
According to the National Immigration Forum, a summary of the Dream Act involves:
- The Dream Act would create a conditional permanent resident status valid for up to eight years for young undocumented immigrants that would protect them from deportation, allow them to work legally in the U.S. and permit them to travel outside the country.
- To qualify for conditional permanent resident status, young undocumented immigrants would need to meet the following requirements:
- Through documentation described in the bill, establish that they were brought to the U.S. at age 17 or younger and have lived continuously in the U.S. for at least four years prior to the bill’s enactment;
- Pass a government background check, demonstrate “good moral character” with no felony or multiple misdemeanor convictions, submit biometric and biographic data and undergo a biometric and medical exam;
- Demonstrate they have been admitted to a college or university, have earned a high school diploma, or are in the process of earning a high school diploma or an equivalent; and
- Pay a fee.
- The bill would automatically grant conditional permanent resident status to DACA recipients who still meet the requirements needed to obtain DACA.
- Conditional permanent resident status can be changed to lawful permanent resident status — green card holder — by:
- Maintaining continuous residence in the U.S.;
- Meeting one of the following three requirements:
1) Completion of at least two years of military service,
2) Graduation from a college or university or completion of at least two years of a bachelor’s or higher degree program in the U.S., or
3) Employment for a period totaling at least three years;
- Demonstrating an ability to read, write and speak English and a;n understanding of American history, principles and form of government;
- Passing a government background check, continuing to demonstrate “good moral character” without felony or multiple misdemeanor convictions, submitting biometric and biographic data and undergoing a biometric and medical exam; and
- Paying a fee.
- Recipients can lose conditional permanent resident status if they commit a serious crime or fail to meet the other requirements set in the bill.
The Dream Act 2017 has been introduced in the U.S. Senate and is the best chance for Dreamers to be protected from impending deportation. You can contact your Senators to encourage to support the Dream Act 2017 here.
The Recognizing America's Children Act has been introduced in the House by Rep. Carlos Curbello - FL-26. This bill is similar to the Dream Act in many ways. It also exists as an attempt to protect Dreamers from being deported. A summary of this bill involves (from the National Immigration Forum):
- The bill would create a five-year “conditional permanent resident” status for young undocumented immigrants that would protect them from deportation, allow them to work legally in the United States and permit them to travel outside the country.
- To qualify for “conditional permanent resident” status, young undocumented immigrants would need to meet the following requirements:
- Establish that they came to the U.S. before the age of 16 and have continuously lived in the U.S. since at least January 1, 2012;
- Pass a government background check and demonstrate “good moral character” with no felony or multiple misdemeanor convictions;
- Earn a high school diploma or an equivalent (if they are 18 years or older); and
- Meet one of the following requirements (if they are 18 years or older):
- Demonstrate an intent to join the U.S. military (military path);
- Be admitted to an institution of higher education (higher education path);
- Have a valid work authorization document (worker path).
- “Conditional permanent resident” status can be extended once for a second period of five years by meeting one of the following requirements:
- Have been enlisted in the military or an active-duty reserve component of the military for at least three years during the preceding five-year period (military path);
- Have graduated from an institution of higher education (higher education path); or
- Have been employed for a total period of at least 48 months during the preceding five-year period (worker path).
- As soon as the “conditional permanent resident” status is extended, recipients could apply to become a lawful permanent resident (green-card holder) if they continue to meet the requirements set in the bill. Recipients enlisted in the military could apply for naturalization immediately after obtaining lawful permanent resident status.
- Under the bill, a recipient’s “conditional permanent resident status” would be revoked if he or she failed to continue to meet all of the bill’s requirements.
Both the bipartisan Dream Act 2017 in the Senate and the Republican-sponsored Recognizing America's Children Act (RAC Act) in the House are bills that would help us protect vulnerable young people who were brought to the United States illegally so they can contribute and flourish in, what is for many of them, the only country they have ever known. Many of them have families and children of their own now. Our immigration situation is a 30 year old problem. We need to solve it. But, we don't need to solve it at the expense of vulnerable people. Will we speak on their behalf?
Evangelicals in America could protect these children. We could change this legislatively. What kind of witness would it be for Christians to speak on behalf of the vulnerable and ask for mercy for them? Could we do that? They are in every community, go to school with our children, and are a part of our churches. When it comes to these immigrant young people and their families, Proverbs 31:8-9 comes to mind: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Also, Exodus 22:21-24 - “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless."
Exodus 23:9 “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt."
This debate between Alex Nowrasteh and Tucker Carlson on Fox News was helpful in working through some of the economic misconceptions regarding immigration. Nowrasteh is an economist who works with the Cato Institute.
One point of interest here is that Tucker Carlson says that an increase in immigration equals an increase in labor supply, thus driving wages down. That only makes sense in the short-term if labor is fixed and cannot innovate, start new businesses, adapt, create wealth, or increase opportunity. If labor can innovate and create opportunity and wealth, as we have seen, it creates an ever changing dynamic.
Faith in Public Life: “Build Bridges Not Walls”
Chris Marquardt is an Attorney in Atlanta and is Board Chairman for the Latin American Association (LAA).
Remarks from a speech at the LAA Prayer Vigil in Atlanta – 2/18/17
It’s an honor to step up to this podium, and to add my small voice to the strong voices of many faith leaders you’ll be hearing from today.
I’ve been asked to start by highlighting some of the developments that have affected our communities in recent weeks, and to say a few words about what a human response – a faith response – to these developments could look like.
In late January, as we all know, the President issued a series of executive orders. Among other things, these orders seek to:
• Create a border wall along the 1,300-mile US/Mexico border;
• Turn local police into federal immigration law enforcers;
• Expand the definition of “criminal,” for immigration law purposes, which could result in the deportation of immigrants with no criminal charges who have been here for decades;
• Compromise access to legal representation for immigrants, by reducing the time in which they can find lawyers to pursue valid asylum claims or other legitimate means of obtaining deportation relief; and
• Suspend the US refugee program for 120 days, bar citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, and ban Syrian refugees indefinitely.
In addition to these executive orders, or perhaps because of them, over the last two weeks approximately 200 people have been arrested as part of ICE activities in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
These activities raise two important – and related – questions: What is the humane response to this increased immigration enforcement? What is the faith-based response to it? I’ll try to address those questions in my remarks today.
Before I go farther, let me make clear that, unlike the other speakers, I am not a faith leader. I’m not a reverend, or a pastor, or a priest. Who I am is far more ordinary. I’m a husband; a father; an imperfect Catholic; and a proud American.
I love this country. We all do.
Like all of us, I want what’s best for my family and for this nation. I want us to thrive, and to succeed. I want America to be true to its ideals & its greatness.
And I believe, wholeheartedly, that we are true to our American ideals and our American greatness when we welcome and embrace the hardworking immigrants living among us.
As a Catholic, I believe this: We cannot be pro-Christian and anti-immigrant. We just can’t be pro-Christian and anti-immigrant at the same time.
There’s a lot of fear in our country today. Fear of the other. Fear of the stranger. Fear of the immigrant & the refugee. None of this is new, of course. We’ve seen this many times before in the history of the United States. There’s always fear of change.
Right now, there’s fear that we are losing connection with what many believe to be the Judeo-Christian foundations and traditions that have made this country great.
But I know that, for centuries, immigrants have made this country great. They continue doing so today.
In my view, a great irony of these times is this: When we attack immigrants – when we wall off strangers; and when we round folks up & throw them out – we, as a nation, are attacking the core of true Judeo-Christian beliefs.
Though I don’t have degree in theology, I can read. The scriptures in my Bible are unambiguous when they discuss our moral obligation to welcome the immigrants living among us. The Hebrew Bible, what many of us call the Old Testament, says this many times. The idea is best expressed in the Book of Leviticus, Chapter 19:33-34:
“When an alien resides with you in your land, do not molest him. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the Lord, am your God.”
That Biblical command to respect immigrants carries over to the New Testament. Jesus made this crystal clear in the Gospels. He said we have a moral duty to welcome the strangers living in our midst. In Matthew Chapter 25, for example, Jesus tells us that the nations that do not welcome strangers and care for those in need will be cast off into darkness. People smarter, and far holier, than me have described this as a litmus test for Christianity. The message is clear.
The Christian tradition teaches us that Jesus emphasized two great commandments: First, to love God. Second, to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-39; Luke 10:25-28). Fortunately, we know from the Gospels who Jesus meant when he talked about love for our “neighbors.” In our faith tradition, “neighbors” are not just those who live directly next door, or those who come from the same nation of origin. No. As taught to us by the parable of the Good Samaritan, the neighbors we are called to love are often foreigners – people from other countries. People who are here, and who stop to help. People who, as Dr. King said, display “dangerous unselfishness” for others in their times of need. Right now, the immigrants among us are facing great challenges. We will show love for our neighbors in their time of need?
As I said a moment ago, there is fear in our country right now. We know this. The fear is reflected in our political discourse. Here at the LAA, we know there is also growing fear in our immigrant community. But we also know, firsthand, that there is tremendous goodness in that community. We know that our immigrant community is made up of good and decent people; people who, in many cases, have lived with us for years; people who have become woven into the fabric of who we are as Georgians, and as an American people.
When we take time to sit down with immigrant families here in Atlanta, we get an opportunity to realize that these are good people; hardworking people; deeply faithful people. And we realize that we are better as a country because they are here.
On issues of immigration, the early signals from our new Administration have been discouraging, to say the least. In trying to protect us from perceived threats, in trying to attack what it calls radical Islam, this Administration is actually attacking beliefs that are fundamental to our Judeo-Christian ideals.
We can do better.
We can do better than executive orders and actions that are targeting good and hard-working families with deep roots in our American communities.
When we move beyond stereotypes and rhetoric, we see more clearly that attacks on immigrants in this country are attacks on the civic values that Americans hold dear.
Many of the people now prioritized for deportation by immigration enforcement are spouses, parents or siblings of American citizens. Many pray with us in our churches and cheer with us in our high school stadiums. In their lives we see things that have always made America great: hard work, sacrifice, perseverance, generosity, and devotion to family.
Instead of focusing taxpayer dollars on jailing these neighbors and kicking them out of our country, we should work to achieve comprehensive immigration reform – immigration reform with full background checks, payment of taxes, and an attainable path to lawful status. That will allow us to stay true to who we are as a nation. It will allow us all to benefit more fully from the talents and contributions that immigrants continue to bring to America. And it will keep us safe.
I’ll close with a focus on some ways that we, as people of faith, can help get this country moving in the direction of true comprehensive immigration reform. These suggestions come from David Schaefer and our talented team at the Latin American Association:
• We can and should communicate with our elected officials about the human aspects of immigration. Real people are really getting hurt, and many of them are children.
• We can and should consider networking across congregations and across religious lines, in new ways, to think critically about shared core values such as kindness, love, and hospitality. For those of us who are Christians, perhaps the focus can start with that important question that a lawyer posed to Jesus 2000 years ago: “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29)
• We should think critically about why immigrants are coming to this country. Is it to feed their families? Is it to flee violence and persecution? Would any of us do any less for our families?
• We should consider the global dimensions of the immigration problem. The forces that drive immigrants to the United States are multiple and powerful, and cannot be summed up or dealt with through blunt metaphors, jingoism, or empty policies like wall building.
• We should avoid the zero-sum trap – the misguided belief that if an immigrant gains something, I lose something. If we believe in the justice, power, and goodness of the God we serve, we also believe that we are blessed in order to bless others.
These are just a few thoughts on what the human response – the faith-based response – to the issue of immigration could be.
There is much work to be done. We at the Latin American Association are committed to doing it. We hope you’ll join with us. The community needs us all – now more than ever.
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