Kevin’s Conversations: Defending the “Dreamers”
So I will pick up Michael’s mantle and speak to an immigration issue. A topic we know he is passionate about but limits how much he speaks to it in some venues because of the discouraging and hurtful reactions he has often received. So while he may be hosting this writing of mine on his blog, I take full responsibility for what I write and any negative reactions can be directed towards me as I write this at my own initiative.
The choice by President Trump to rescind DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which had been put in place by President Obama before him, set off the latest firestorm of furor in our country between polarized sides. In case you are not familiar with the base details, DACA was an executive order signed by President Obama which allowed some immigrants who had entered the country as minors, primarily brought by their parents but not in a legal fashion, to receive renewable two year periods of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for work permits. Reportedly, close to 800,000 immigrants came forward to receive the protections and benefits offered by DACA. Those in the DACA program are commonly called Dreamers, based on an act in Congress known as the DREAM act which addresses similar circumstances but has not been passed into law.
When President Trump rescinded the order, he put in place a six month waiting period before the retraction actively takes place. It would appear, this was done to put pressure on Congress to take action and put some kind of legislative law in place to address the issue. Seemingly, in most cases if not all, it is preferable to have legislative law in place as opposed to executive order as the Legislation branch was set up in our country to make law, not the Executive branch, and legislative law is substantially more robust and stable and difficult to overturn than any executive order.
We all know that the immigration situation in our country, most especially along the Mexican border, has some significant difficulties. No matter what side of the political aisle one resides or particularly where they may fall on immigration and border issues, it is hard to find many people who think everything is just fine and should just keep going the way it has been going. For many, many years now, there has been a significant flow of people coming over the border into our country without proper authorization to do so. A good many of these people stay for the long term.
My aim here is not to get into a shouting match of sorts between opposite sides with one side yelling about the need for border security and enforcing laws and the other side screaming about discrimination and racism and a lack of compassion. I believe both sides have some legitimate concerns and points to make and, once again, I find myself falling somewhere in between the far ends.
However, I did want to specifically address the DACA matter. And I want to do this looking through a Christian filter, not a political one, as I believe as Christians that is what we should always do first. God calls us to do what is true and right. He calls us to be compassionate and act kindly, most especially for those in lesser circumstances and greater need. He also calls us to act justly and to respect ruling authority, of course, with the understanding that if ruling authority directs us to do something that violates what God commands, we do not accede to ruling authority in those cases.
It can argued whether or not it was the wisest or best or right thing to do for President Obama to sign the executive order putting DACA into effect in the first place. However, when President Trump decided to rescind DACA without first having legislation in place to protect those who had been offered protection under DACA, I believe this was unequivocally wrong. Especially, again, when looking through a Christian filter, and not a political one.
Our government had extended to this group of people known as the Dreamers, who primarily had been brought here as children by their parents or guardians, an offer to be free from the threat of deportation and aids in gaining work legally. The offer was not given as an everlasting promise, but it was given to be renewable and to be honored for each two year period. In order for the Dreamers to take advantage of the program, they had to come forward and apply for it, thus giving their information to the government, and almost 800,000 had done so. Likely, many of these 800,000 had been living in the shadows to some degree and our government didn’t have full information on them, if much at all in some cases. They made themselves vulnerable to a government who told them they would be helped if they came forward. Additionally, in order to qualify for and maintain status within DACA, there could be no criminal record.
However, when President Trump decided to rescind DACA without first having legislation in place to protect this same group of people, it was akin to pulling the rug out from underneath the Dreamers. These Dreamers, who have never violated the law in any capacity, were now being told by our government, “Never mind, and cross your fingers that legislation gets passed to protect you before time runs out. And, oh yeah, now that we got your information, it will be much easier to find you.” It was unfair and unjust and unChristian.
These are people’s lives we are dealing with, not some inanimate political collateral. Playing games with their lives in efforts to achieve a political end is ruthless. Many of these Dreamers have grown up in this country and now they face the possibility of getting ripped apart from their families and sent back to a land and people they do not know. They are being placed in a very unsettling and frightening situation and their very lives could be at risk if they were to be deported. All the more, they have done absolutely nothing wrong themselves to bring about such consequences.
I understand the need to have security and rule of law; a country can not sustain itself under anarchy. I understand a country is responsible for protecting its own citizens. Further, I understand the desire to not want to incentivize people to keep coming over the border illegally by regularly granting asylum or citizenship to the children they bring with them. These things do have real importance and I share these concerns. Nonetheless, if we look at what has been done in this specific situation to these Dreamers through a Christian filter, I can not see how we can come to any conclusion other than what has been done is plain wrong and that something more now needs to be done to protect them from that wrong coming to fruition.
I do not have the depth of knowledge on all the interlaced immigration and border matters to act like I have all the answers. I believe the issues are far too complex to solve with a couple singular simple solutions. There needs to be consideration for both national security and compassion for those who are attempting to rescue themselves and their families from bad, if not sometimes horrendous, conditions. I believe we fare far better when the primarily lens through which we view these situations is a Christian one where we see people who are precious in the sight of the Lord, rather than a political one where we see a battle to be won.