DACA – Not a policy, not an amalgamation of letters, but PEOPLE in peril

DACA – Not a policy, not an amalgamation of letters, but PEOPLE in peril

Update: It has been announced today, 9/5/17, that DACA has been rescinded. The program will wind down over the next six months, with no new applications being accepted as of today according to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Reports are that the administration is offering this 6-month window so that Congress can act through legislative channels. Our calls, letters, and emails to our Congressmen and Senators, therefore, are more important than ever. Please speak out and make your voice heard. Find contact info for your Representative and Senators here.  

Let us pray as Jesus did: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
In 2009, my family moved to Massachusetts. This was a challenging decision for all of us. Our children, who were 14 and 12, were none too happy about such a move. To them, the move meant leaving their home, leaving their friends, leaving organizations that they participated in. To quote their sentiment, we were making them leave their lives behind them. While we tried to involve them as much as possible in the decision making process, the choice to move was not theirs. We, the adults, their parents, made the decision.  We had to move for economic reasons. My husband had taken a job in Massachusetts. He commuted for over a year before our whole family finally crossed the border.

Fortunately for my family, the border was a state border and not a national one.

For many families, the choice to move pushes them across international boundaries. Families are displaced from their homes for many reasons: jobs, civil unrest, famine, gang activity, political instability, or natural disasters, to name some. No matter what the reason, though, like my family, the children have little if any, say in the move. Many are too young to understand the choices being made around them and for them. This decision, made by the parents of these children, has a long-lasting impact on these minors. On the one hand, it may literally save their lives. On the other hand, in the United States, it sets them up for an unknown future. This affects their ability (depending on the state) to go to school, to access medical care, to get loans for college, to get a job, to join the armed services, to get a driver’s license or ID, or to get other aid.
God made People;
People made Borders
Some states have taken steps to help these families and children access some of these services. In 2012, the Federal government also took steps to intercede on behalf of these children. The Secretary of Homeland Security, who oversees the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), announced the implementation of DACA. DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals  This program allows “certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines (to) request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal.” This designation allows these people who came to the U.S. as children, many of who are now adults, to receive work authorization. While it is not considered “lawful status”, it provides a small level of protection. However, as this policy was established by executive order, it remains only at the pleasure of the current President.

Unfortunately, people who were brought into this country as minors are caught between a rock and a hard place. The country of their origin has no home for them. Based on DACA standards, applicants have had to have been in the U.S. prior to June 15, 2007. This means, those under DACA have not lived in their country of origin for more than 10 years. Thus, they are most likely not familiar with the area, the culture, or possibly even the language. For these people, the U.S. is their home. Even if the people affected by the possible withdrawal of DACA decided to put their lives here on hold and return to their country of origin to begin the legal immigration process, it would take them years, cost a great deal of money, and may never be granted at all.

It is important to note that DACA recipients are important and valuable members of the U.S. communities that they live in. They have complied with arduous bureaucratic processes to receive the DACA designation. They have been reviewed for criminal activity and are required to complete their education. Some DACA recipients are even current or past members of our military services. (See the link below to see the specific requirements for DACA recipients). This is not a program that we should end; it is a program we should expand.

“In Christ there is no East or West, in Him no South or North; But one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.”
- John Oxenham (1908)

 There are many lessons from scripture that emphasize how to treat our neighbor and those who are marginalized. Let me offer you two particular lessons to reflect on. The first is the story of creation. God created many things. God created light, and seas, and land, and birds, and even humankind, but God did not create the borders that we see on a map. Borders are artificial creations imposed by humankind to protect resources which one group believes to be theirs rather than another’s (whoever that other may be). Secondly, there is the story of Moses, a child, sent down the Nile River when the Egyptian Pharaoh was killing Hebrew children. Even that small, vulnerable, helpless child was received and raised by the very regime that was ordering the murders.

As fellow people of faith, what is our responsibility? We must ask ourselves this question, not as citizens of the U.S., but as citizens of the realm of God.  Please make your voice heard.  Speak for those without voice. Call your Congressmen and Senators, tell them to continue to support DACA. Tell them this is a responsible humanitarian act. Tell them that these people are not “immigrants” or “illegals”; they are human beings. Tell them they are your brothers and sisters in Christ. Tell them that they are people who deserve to stay in their homes and with their families and in the lives they have built. Tell them that they deserve a path to citizenship.

Rev. Dawn M. Adams
MACUCC Immigration and Refugee Task Team
Minister at the First Congregational Church of Brimfield

Helpful links:

Church World Service action statement.

Informational page from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Information on the DACA program from the USCIS website,
Spreadsheet of numbers of DACA recipents.

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