Once again, I heard disturbing news today. Immigrant Dreamers (those brought here illegally as children who have previously had certain protections under the DACA program) are going to lose their protections in the near future and become susceptible to deportation. But, even more than that, I’ve heard directly from the offices of Republican Senators and Congressmen who are asking Evangelical pastors and churches to speak up on behalf of Dreamers and help give them the moral backing to pass legislation to protect these young people. They want to do what is right, but they need support from the church. Unfortunately, they are telling me that, in their experience, most pastors and churches are remaining silent on this, even though polls say that up to 75% of Trump voters want legal status for Dreamers and less than 20% want them deported.
One pastor who will not keep silent is South Carolina pastor Brandon Sandifer. He recently wrote an OpEd for the Columbia, SC paper where he skillfully spoke out on behalf of Dreamers saying,
As a Southern Baptist pastor, I am called to both respect the laws of the land and show compassion for vulnerable people, including immigrant youth. Jesus commands believers to love their neighbors. These young people are some of our most vulnerable neighbors. I can no more forget them than I can forget the commands of the Bible.
I’m thankful for pastors like Brandon Sandifer. But, more voices are needed. So, here is the deal – and I’m saying this as clearly as I can. There are 1.8 million Immigrant Dreamers, who are victims of a broken system over the past 30 years. They are victims who were brought here as children, grew up here, were raised here, and most of the time have nowhere to go. They have lived their lives here and many have U.S. citizen children of their own. As Evangelicals, we pray for influence in our culture. Here is the opportunity. We have the authority and influence to speak on behalf of these young people from a Biblical perspective and help pass legislation that would protect them. If we speak up and intervene on their behalf as advocates, they will likely be able to stay. The Church can make the difference. If we say nothing, they will lose their temporary protection and most likely be deported.
The reality is that all undocumented immigrants are currently being deported piecemeal, not just the criminal aliens, as I reported here. That is the policy of our government now.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Thomas Homan said recently,
“There is no population off the table. We are not going to selectively say, ‘OK, we are going to take this population and we are not going to enforce the law against you.’ Once you start carving out populations and saying we are not going to pay attention when we find you, then the whole system erodes.”
So, when Dreamers lose DACA, then they will reenter the larger population being deported. Detentions of Dreamers are already happening. The story of a 22 year old mother of two children, Riccy Enriquez Perdomo, hit the news this week. She was brought here at age 9, has DACA, and is working. But, she was picked up and detained for deportation. After an outcry, ICE has released her, but only because they found out that she did, in fact, have DACA. This is a preview of what is to come when DACA is revoked in the Fall. As a matter of fact, we’re now hearing reports that President Trump will revoke DACA as early as next week. This means that Congress must solve this problem, but they won’t solve it if Evangelicals, and particularly Southern Baptists because of where we’re largely located in the Republican South, don’t speak on behalf of Dreamers.
Many in Congress want to act and are putting forward legislation like the Dream Act 2017 and the Recognizing America’s Children Act. Rep. Jeff Denham, a Republican from California, joined with other Congressmen in sending a letter to President Trump asking him not to revoke the protections these young people have. He said,
“These young adults were brought to America as children through no fault of their own and know no other country to call home, and we must continue pressing for immigration reform that will provide them with a pathway to citizenship. We have violent criminals preying on our communities, and our resources should be going toward their deportation instead of being directed toward the young men and women protected through DACA, who are working toward a better future.”
The church can and should speak on behalf of the vulnerable with moral clarity, compassion, and courage. In this case, Biblical Justice demands it. Theologian Paul Louis Metzger says about Biblical Justice:
Biblical justice involves making individuals, communities, and the cosmos whole, by upholding both goodness and impartiality. It stands at the center of true religion, according to James, who says that the kind of “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27). Earlier Scripture says, “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern” (Prov. 29:7).
Dreamers were brought here illegally at young ages and are victims of a broken system that had two contradictory signs at the border: a welcome sign and a keep out sign. By not enforcing our immigration laws for 30 years, we saw millions either come here or be brought here illegally. This system enriched many American employers and consumers who benefitted from them over the past 3 decades. How is it now just to deport the Dreamers when they did not choose to come here, but were brought here, grew up here, and now have no country to return to? Deporting them all now is not justice. It does not affirm the rule of law. It would be a travesty. It would only add human misery to a broken system and perpetuate further injustice upon innocent victims. It would be a modern day “Trail of Tears” in many respects.
The Church can and should speak to stop this and ask for a better way to be agreed upon. A large number of these young people are Christians and are members of our own churches and attended our Vacation Bible Schools as kids. Will we turn our backs on them now? We can call upon Congress to develop policies that take into account the realities and consequences of the failed, broken system of the past, secure the border for the future, and deal with the victims of the broken system with wisdom, justice, and compassion. Evangelicals were instrumental in electing a Republican President as well as Republican House and Senate majorities that have the power to fix this. After giving them power, will we now be silent while decisions are made that could devastate the lives of up to 1.8 million people?
Southern Baptists can speak on behalf of the vulnerable right now by giving support to Senators and Congressmen who are waiting to hear from the the church on behalf of these young people. Pastors and churches can speak. Our Republican politicians that WE elected are waiting for us to counsel them with the moral clarity and courage to do what many of them know to be right. How can we stay silent?
Deuteronomy 10:17-19 “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”