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Evangelicals to Trump: Please Protect the Dreamers

Evangelical Immigration Table

Following a Supreme Court decision about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a group of influential evangelical leaders is urging President Trump to keep the program in place until Congress can pass a permanent solution. The Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT) wrote in a July 8 letter that so-called Dreamers deserve a pathway to citizenship—something that can occur only through legislation.

In a 5-4 ruling last month, the Supreme Court said the Trump administration failed to follow correct procedural steps when it rescinded DACA in September 2017. The program, established by President Obama in 2012 via executive order, temporarily safeguards undocumented immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the United States before age 16.

Congress, however, hasn’t been able to pass a legislative solution for Dreamers, named for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, first proposed in 2001 but never approved. An estimated 700,000 people have participated in DACA.

EIT Letter References Evangelical Support for Dreamers

On June 19, the day after the Court’s decision, Trump tweeted that “nothing was lost or won” and that he’d be “submitting enhanced papers shortly” to meet procedural requirements for revoking DACA. Now the EIT, a coalition of organizations and leaders aiming for “immigration reform with biblical values,” is asking Trump to pause his administration’s effort to file new paperwork. As they did in August 2017, EIT members want the president “to leave DACA in place until such time as Congress has passed legislation to permanently protect Dreamers.”

The coalition still believes a “permanent, legislative solution” is needed and that a pathway to citizenship should be available for Dreamers who meet “appropriate qualifications.” The letter notes that Trump has “an important role to play—not only in signing legislation that reaches your desk, but in signaling your support and urging Congress to act.”

“Permanence for Dreamers has robust support among all Americans,” states the letter, which also references a poll showing that 76 percent of white evangelical Christians are in favor of Dreamers remaining in the United States legally.

The letter points out that young immigrants “are contributing to our communities in so many ways, including in the response to and recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.” It concludes with this message to the president: “Consistent with your past comments affirming your concern and ‘great love for this population, we plead with you to work toward good faith compromise that would both be compassionate to immigrants and respect the rule of law. As always, we are committed to praying for you and your administration, as well as for the immigrant individuals and families whose lives and livelihoods are directly affected by your deliberations.” 

Russell Moore: ‘Lives are at stake’ 

EIT member Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, says “entire lives are at stake” in this debate. “Dreamers are not an abstraction,” he says, but “people created in the image of God.”

“There is no sending these people ‘back’ [because] in many cases they have no memory at all of the land of their parents’ origin,” Moore adds. “Those who have lived as good neighbors, contributed so greatly to our country, should be protected from the constant threat of having their lives upended.”

Letter signee Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief, says it’s “both immoral and incomprehensible” for the Trump administration to try to end DACA again. “The harm extends further to these young people’s families, including hundreds of thousands of young children of DACA-recipient parents, and to their employers and churches,” he says.

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Stephanie Martin, a freelance journalist, has worked in Christian publishing for 27 years. She’s active at her church in Lakewood, Colorado, where she lives with her husband and two teenage daughters.