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."