WASHINGTON (BP) — Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore is among a coalition of evangelicals urging government leaders not to deport individuals brought to the United States illegally when they were children.
“It is long past time for Congress to work together to find a workable solution for our broken immigration system — especially for the hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to our country by their parents,” Moore said according to an Aug. 30 press release from Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), a coalition of eight evangelical organizations, including the ERLC, that attempts to address immigration policy from a biblical worldview.
“Many of these Dreamers have stepped forward in good faith,” Moore said. “Congress should respond with a legislative solution that delivers on the promises made to these men and women and protects them from perpetual uncertainty. Let’s pray for a fair solution that highlights both justice and compassion.”
Moore and six other evangelicals representing EIT asked President Trump and congressional leaders in a series of Aug. 30 letters to continue protections afforded by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an initiative begun by executive order of the Obama administration that has granted permission to stay in the U.S. and work to approximately 800,000 undocumented childhood immigrants since 2012.
DACA has come under fire this summer, with a threat by 10 conservative state attorneys general to sue the Trump administration if it does not end DACA by Sept. 5.
Trump said during the 2016 presidential campaign he would “immediately terminate” DACA, The New York Times reported, but since taking office he has called DACA beneficiaries — sometimes referenced as “Dreamers” — “incredible kids” and said deciding their fate is “one of the most difficult subjects I have.”
Multiple media outlets reported Aug. 31 Trump had decided to discontinue DACA, letting Dreamers stay only until their work permits expire. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, The Times reported, believes DACA is unconstitutional. No official White House announcement had been made regarding DACA at Baptist Press’ publication deadline.
Democratic and some Republican lawmakers — including House Speaker Paul Ryan — urged Trump not to end DACA. Vice President Mike Pence told ABC News Aug. 31, “President Trump has said all along that he’s giving very careful consideration to [DACA] and that when he makes [a decision], he’ll make it with, as he likes to say, big heart.”
The EIT representatives’ letter to Trump asked him to work with “leadership on Capitol Hill on a permanent solution” to the plight of individuals who immigrated to the U.S. illegally in childhood. The letter also asked Trump to “ensure that these young immigrants are protected” while Congress works on a permanent solution.
Letters with similar language were sent to Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“We carry particular concern for the future of these Dreamers because they have much to offer America. They were brought here without their consent, and in most cases the United States is the only home they have known,” the EIT letter stated.
“We know that these young people who stepped forward in good faith are not threats to America. By enrolling in DACA, they already have submitted to screening for criminal activity and potential threats to national security. As a country, we need to focus on real solutions for our broken immigration system that address safety, security and economic fairness. Deporting these young people runs counter to these priorities,” according to the letter.
In addition to Moore, signatories included Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief; Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities; Hyepin Im, president and CEO of Korean Churches for Community Development/Faith and Community Empowerment; Jo Anne Lyon, ambassador and general superintendent emerita of The Wesleyan Church; and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
More than two dozen Southern Baptists who did not sign the EIT’s Aug. 30 letter have affirmed the coalition’s statement of six general principles for immigration reform. Those who affirmed the general principles include former Southern Baptist Convention presidents as well as current and former SBC entity presidents.
An Aug. 31 press release from World Relief noted Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance co-founder Felix Cabrera as a supporter of DACA. Cabrera, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central in Oklahoma City, did not sign the EIT letter.
“To end the DACA program now would be immoral, violating the trust of young immigrants, including those within my congregation and many other Hispanic Southern Baptists throughout the country, who trusted the federal government when it asked them to register and provide their personal information,” Cabrera said. “It would also be economically disastrous, forcing the laying off of hundreds of thousands of trained employees, leaving both their employers and the employees in an incredibly difficult spot.
“It could trigger a domino effect that harms many citizens (as well as the Dreamers and their families), when those who have lost their jobs would struggle to pay rent or a mortgage payment, miss car payments, be forced to withdraw from college or graduate school, and have trouble providing basic food and clothing for their families,” Cabrera said.
“Rather than taking another step that will exacerbate ethnic and political divisions in our nation, I pray that President Trump and Congressional Leaders from both parties will work together to pass legislation to protect Dreamers, and in the process help to unify our nation,” Cabrera said.
In 2011, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution “on immigration and the Gospel.” It called “on our churches to be the presence of Christ, in both proclamation and ministry, to all persons, regardless of country of origin or immigration status” and “deplore[d] any bigotry or harassment against any persons, regardless of their country of origin or legal status.”
The resolution asked “our governing authorities to implement, with the borders secured, a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country.” It stated “that this resolution is not to be construed as support for amnesty for any undocumented immigrant.”
The resolution concluded, “We affirm that while Southern Baptists, like other Americans, might disagree on how to achieve just and humane public policy objectives related to immigration, we agree that, when it comes to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to His church, the message, in every language and to every person, is ‘Whosoever will may come.'”