DACA and the Loss of Innocence

Donald Trump has rescinded DACA fulfilling a campaign pledge.  He has given six months before the protections for Dreamers are revoked.  He has  placed  the responsibility on Congress to come up with a bill that will protect those he has intentionally put in harms way.

Obviously this is a politically calculated move.  By placing the ball in Congress’ court he seeks to wash his hands of a decision to revoke protections for 800,000 young people.  Their only offense is that they were brought here as children by parents fleeing poverty and violence.

DACA (Defered Action for Childhood Arrivals) was put in place by executive order by President Obama only after Republicans sabotaged efforts for bipartisan immigration reform.  That President Trump has put the future of 800,000 young people in the hands of a Republican controlled Congress, while saying that he ‘has a heart for the Dreamers’ is hypocrisy on steroids.

Hosea, a biblical prophet spoke into a time when his nations leaders had turned from God’s heart for the poor and vulnerable: ‘One like a vulture is over the house of the Lord, because they have broken my covenant, and transgressed my law. How long will they be incapable of innocence?’ ~ Hosea 8: 1, 5

800,000 young people who work and go to school within six months will be a risk of deportation.   I can imagine what the prophet Hosea would say to us today.

As a college trustee I have the privilege of getting to know Dreamers.  They are remarkable young women and men who have overcome great obstacles.  Many have excelled academically and as leaders on campus and in the wider community.  They dream of being teachers, nurses, physicians, engineers, accountants.  They dream of raising families and doing good.

A psychologist will tell you that good mental health is dependent on there being hope.  Mr. Trump and his supporters have coldly chosen to say that the hopes and dreams of 800,000 are not important.  By this act Trump and his minions have sought to rob young people of their innocence.

Will we as a nation stand for this?  Polls show that 80% of citizens want DACA to continue.  Will we allow the nativist, anti-immigrant rhetoric of Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions and Breitbart News to determine who we are and what we will become as a nation?

Several years ago senators Dick Durbin a Democrat and Orrin Hatch a Republican came together to sponsor the Dream Act which would provide many of the safeguards of DACA.  That bill failed by five votes.

It is time for a new Dream Act to be voted on by Congress.  No game playing.  No packing a bill with $ to fund Donald Trumps wall in Mexico.

Today Dick Durbin and Republican Lindsay Graham are  promoting a new Dream Act http://www.msn.com/en-us/video/news/under-daca-deadline-durbin-graham-begin-push-for-dream-act/vp-AArlXng  Such initiatives are worthy of our support.

It is up to us as citizens to hold our elected officials accountable in the name of simple decency.  It is time for people of conscience to stand up for the sake of those among us who are most vulnerable.  All our young people ask for is the opportunity to pursue their dreams.   What is more American than that?

Aliens Among Us

Our nation is gearing up for a debate on immigration reform. The question is:  What do we  do about the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in our country?  Do we forcibly deport?  What about Miriam, the  22-year-old woman I met who came to this nation illegally as a 9 month old baby held in her mother’s arms?  Her 17-year-old brother and 9-year-old sister were born in the USA.  Should she be deported and separated from her siblings?

This past Sunday to honor Dr. King’s legacy the church I serve hosted a panel discussion and sermon on immigration.   Sally Godard our guest preacher chose a text from Leviticus 19:  33,34:  ‘When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’

This morning I had a phone call from a neighbor who had heard about the church’s immigration event.  He was concerned that we were  ‘diluting that which makes this nation great’.  He said:  “We are Americans, when we talk about Latino Americans and Anglo Americans, we are focusing on what divides us, not on what unites us.” 

I understand his argument but I don’t agree.  We’ve always been a nation of immigrants.  We’ve been able to honor our diversity while also being able to focus on that which unites us.   I think our ability to make room for diversity,  while claiming our unity, provides the creative energy that makes this nation such a special place.

The writer of Leviticus reflects God’s heart for the alien, the outsider, the other, ‘for once you too were an alien’.  Listen to my story:  In 1867 my Great, Great, Grandmother, Sarah gave birth to my Great Grandfather, John.  Sarah was a single mother and gave birth to her son in a ‘work house’ in Manchester, England.  A work house was where the poorest of the poor lived, the indigent.   For reasons lost to history, Sarah’s family would not take her in.  She gave birth in the most humble of settings.  Alone.

Two years later, Sarah made up a story, she changed her last name, said she was a widow, and brought her child to America, where Sarah found work as a textile worker in the mills of New England.   Sarah was an alien, an outsider, trying like so many other immigrants to make a better future for herself and her family.

When I look at the immigrant debate today, I don’t think of ‘them’ and ‘us’.  I simply think of ‘us’.  With the Biblical writer, I too seek to welcome the immigrant.  As a citizen, I will do my part to advocate for immigration reform.  For not so long ago, my people were aliens in a distant land.