Baptist leaders reacted swiftly to an announcement the Trump Administration is rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Sept. 5 the program—which affects about 800,000 young people whose parents brought them to the United States as children—will be phased out, and no new applicants will be accepted.
Sessions called the policy—enacted by an executive order by President Obama—“an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.”
Congress has six months to find a solution before students are deported.
‘Do the right thing’
“Congress should do the right thing and provide a solution for those who were brought here by parents as children,” Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission tweeted soon after the announcement.
“And churches will be here to speak hope to children now thrown into fear and insecurity about their families and their futures.”
Kathryn Freeman, director of public policy for the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, expressed sadness the young people—often termed Dreamers—“can no longer live among us unless Congress takes action.”
“This announcement throws the lives of these young people into chaos, as they are now fearful about their future in this country,” Freeman said. “These young people have grown up in our neighborhoods, attended our schools and churches and are leaders in our communities. This program allowed them to have legal status, which allowed them to positively contribute to the communities and the country they love.”
‘Current immigration law is broken’
The announced plan to rescind DACA is part of a much larger problem, Freeman added.
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“Current immigration law is broken and needs broad reform in order to better serve our nation’s economic and humanitarian interests,” she said. “The truth is that we are called to care for our neighbors—those with and without documentation.”
She cited the admonition of the Old Testament prophet Micah to “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.”
“If we are to take this command seriously, we need to pray for and minister to Dreamers and their families in this time of fear and uncertainty,” she said. “Finally, we should join together and call on our elected officials to work in a bipartisan manner to fix our broken immigration system and provide legal status to these young people.”
Suzii Paynter, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, called the plan to phase out DACA “a mistake,” noting the program has succeeded beyond expectations.
“This has been a trial program testing criteria that is given for a successful immigration program—speaking English, maintaining employment and contributing to the greater good of the United States. It has exceeded every criterion that we’ve ever looked at for successful immigration,” she said.
“The fact that President Trump won’t maintain it is a mistake. Now, Congress has the opportunity to take a proven program that has a positive outcome and make it a sustained program.”
‘Reprehensible’ and ‘unconscionable’
Other faith groups were even more pointed in their criticism of the Trump Administration action.
“The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible,” a statement issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stated. “It causes unnecessary fear for DACA youth and their families. … The decision is unacceptable and does not reflect who we are as Americans.”
Susan Henry-Crowe with the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, said DACA offered “a critical first step to fixing our broken immigration system.”
“The recent halt to this policy, and any efforts to rescind these protections, are not only unconscionable but contrary to moral work and witness,” she said.
John L. McCullough, president and chief executive officer of Church World Service, said: “It is deeply disappointing and hurtful to see that our president has decided to turn his back on hardworking and deserving immigrant youth and members of our congregations. Communities of faith believe in our call to welcome our immigrant brothers and sisters. By rescinding DACA, President Trump has done the exact opposite.”