Sometime very soon the Supreme Court will decide whether the Trump Administration has the right to terminate the DACA program that began during the Obama administration. DACA (Deferred Action Childhood Arrival – a form of legal status for immigrants brought to this country as young children) was meant to be a temporary solution until Congress came up with a permanent one. The House already passed a bill, and the Senate has the 2019 Dream Act floating around somewhere, but until a bill is passed and the president signs, DACA is what allows this group of immigrants to live normal lives.

In a strange way, the court siding with the Trump administration could be the best scenario. It would force congress to pass a permanent solution for dreamers, but only if congress has the will to act. A more important question, for me, is whether the church will have the will to act. Not the institution, but the people—will evangelical, liberal, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians insist Congress come up with a permanent solution?

Here are two stories, two interviews, with Dreamers from my community. Listen to what they have to say, and raise your voice on their behalf whatever the Supreme Court decides.

Jason Lief

Dr. Jason Lief teaches courses in Christian education and youth ministry. A Northwestern College graduate, he served as the chaplain for Pella (Iowa) Christian High School while earning a master’s degree in theology from Wheaton College Graduate School. He also completed a doctorate in practical theology from Luther Seminary. He previously taught theology and youth ministry at Dordt College for 10 years. Dr. Lief is the author of “Poetic Youth Ministry: Loving Young People by Learning to Let Them Go” and "Christianity and Heavy Metal as Impure Sacred Within the Secular West: Transgressing the Sacred.”

6 Comments

  • Lou Roossien says:

    Jason, Thank you for giving voice to so many brothers and sisters living in limbo, and for reminding us to raise our own voices on their behalf; which brings to mind God’s description of salvation through the voice of Isaiah, 56:1, “This is what the Lord says, Maintain justice and do what is right.”

  • Doug VandeGriend says:

    DACA, an executive action by President Obama, was never a lawful order and the president knew that when he executed it. When government officials knowingly take unlawful actions, they ask for trouble to come, which often (though not always) comes, even if delayed. It is quite correct that “In a strange way, the court siding with the Trump administration could be the best scenario,” although the current intense political divisions could be an impediment to congress accomplishing anything on this. Had the DACA executive order never been signed, it probably would have been more likely that Congress would have acted. Certainly, had President Obama kept his campaign promise to “put a comprehensive immigration reform bill on the steps of Congress” within 90 days of his (first election), when both houses of congress and the executive branch were controlled by the Democratic Party, we wouldn’t know the acronym of DACA.

    What DACA kids should acknowledge (but usually don’t) is that the people who directly made the decision to have them grow up in a country they had no right to be in (or stay in) was their parents, not the US government. Their request to the US government should be for mercy, literally, and not justice. This is not a legal justice issue, and DACA recipients probably hurt their cause when they make justice based demands.

    Were I able to control the legislative and executive branches (dream on 🙂 ), I would allow DACA-ites to have permanent residency but not citizenship, and that subject to reasonable conditions (some level of payment requirements, permanent residency terminable upon committing certain levels of crime, etc). Doing otherwise would harmfully encourage persistent and continuing waves of new “DACA generations” (which has been and is continuing to happening). I would also revamp the “immigration laws” (implement “comprehensive immigration reform”) that would stand a better chance of actually being enforced than the current laws. We got into this problem by enforcing “laws” other than the actual laws (a mark of being a third world country), thereby avoiding the need to reform the laws when needed. DACA (and it’s companion DAPA) exacerbated that problem by doing more of it. DAPA was challenged and struck down down some years ago. It’s time, way past time, for DACA to be struck down as well.

    • Jason Lief says:

      I understand the argument about executive overreach, which is why I indicate the Supreme Court siding with the Trump administration might be the best way forward. It was only supposed to be temporary until Congress passed legislation. Unfortunately, we’ve reached a point in our politics when the opposite party sees its jobs as blocking much of the agenda of the sitting president, regardless of whether they agree with it or not. The dream act was first introduced in 2001, so congress has had plenty of time to get something done, even before the Obama administration. Finding a way for people to get right with the law is the way forward. Right now, there is no way for that to happen. One Christian organization is advocating for a restitution based form of immigration reform that creates a mechanism for people to make it right. You can check it out here: http://evangelicalimmigrationtable.com/evangelical-call-for-restitution-based-immigration-reform/
      Many undocumented immigrants would gladly take legal status—as some have said to me, “I just want to get on with my life and no longer have to be afraid.”

      • Doug Vande Griend says:

        The problem with the Evangelical Immigration Table proposal as to Dreamers isn’t the proposal itself but that it narrows the “immigration problem” to one issue: what to do about the Dreamers? And even then, the proposal doesn’t deal with the new generations of Dreamers, and the ongoing generations of Dreamers. (It brings to mind, at least for those who have the memory, the non-resolution that literal unlawful immigrant amnesty resulted in during the Reagan administration).

        In other words, the EIT proposal proposes fixing just a piece, which is somewhat ironic because EIT had its beginning in a broad statement, pitching “comprehensive” immigration reform with a very balanced view that was successful in gaining the support signatures of a broad coalition within the Christian community. But those original days seem to be gone. EIT has now become a more “issue specific” lobbyist. But in its defense, I’ll quickly add that its positions on specific issues (e.g., this one) are pretty reasonable.

        I lay most of the blame for all of this non-resolution at Obama’s feet because: (1) he issued the DACA (and, remember, DAPA) orders; (2) he is the only president who had both houses of Congress and the executive branch in his party control at the time when needed and so in fact had the power to do comprehensive immigration reform; (3) he promised in his first campaign, repeatedly and emphatically, to do the immigration reform, beginning within 90 days of becoming president no less, but then refused to do anything (again, despite having the unprecedented political power to do it); (4) he apparently (there is no other explanation) chose to not resolve the immigration issue in order to keep it as a political “wedge issue” for subsequent elections (and he did, and successfully given that voters having the short memory about important things, like his refusal to resolve it when he had the power).

        I’m not intending to gratuitously trash Obama (and I voted for him first time around), but the Democratic Party is still, in a very real way, HIS party, and that Party is, as you say, seeing its job as blocking the agenda of the current sitting president, all the while forgetting history and declaring the failure to achieve comprehensive immigration (let alone DACA) as another just another way “Trump is a bad president” (as opposed to reality, which is “Obama was a bad president,” at least on the immigration issue). I really don’t foresee a near future where a single party holds power in both houses and the executive branch again, but if the Republicans did end up there after the November elections, I would just as much lay any failure to achieve comprehensive immigration reform (including DACA) at their feet.

        So what’s the moral to this story? That those who really care about resolution for the Dreamers now would find their best chances for achieving it in lobbying the Democratic Party (not the President or against the Republican Party) to stop using the issue as an election wedge issue (which it still being done by the DP) and to get real about seriously compromising with the current administration (and the other party) to achieve a “modest” resolution for the Dreamers (i.e., permanent residency, not citizenship, etc). My guess is that the Democratic Party would (continue to) resist that pressure on both fronts because: (1) it wants citizenship for the votes and (2) a porous border for the votes. Still, it wouldn’t be able to resist (as a political calculation) if a sufficient groundswell of political progressives demanded they change their stand(s). Do I think that will happen? Not really. The political progressives in the CRC (or who are part of the Reformed Journal community) simply don’t criticize Obama, nor do they pressure the Democratic Party. They only criticize Trump (who is “illegitimate”) and the Republicans (who support an “illegitimate president”).

        I fear this is not going to end well for the Dreamers (nor for the nation). I hope I’m wrong.

  • Thanks for giving flesh and blood to this issue. The God of the “orphan, widow, and alien” surely calls us to support the cause of the most powerless members of our society, no matter what the political outcome may be.

  • Pam Adams says:

    Jason, Alex and Martha,
    Thank you for allowing me to hear what the DACA people are experiencing. It is my prayer that this situation will be covered in our Savior’s love and that your lives will be able to be unaffected by the faulty attitudes of this world towards you. Keep up the good work all three of you are doing.

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