Evangelical leaders are urging Congress to find a way to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. before their 16th birthday.
A coalition, organized by Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore, writes in a statement that they recognize immigration policy is "complex" and the search for political consensus, "difficult."
However, they say the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy protected a special category of immigrants who were not "legally culpable" for the actions of their parents and who, in many cases, knew no home other than the U.S.
The DACA program was established in 2012 under President Obama and protected undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. Participants were required to demonstrate a commitment to education, employment, or service to the military; have no criminal backgrounds; and report for a biometric appointment with federal officials.
"Biblically understood, a just system of law always has in view human flourishing. We advocate for change to particular laws when needed because of our respect for the rule of law. Many of us have participated in our nation's debate over immigration policy reform for well over a decade, and these conversations within our churches about the national immigration crisis have produced significant consensus among members of our churches and communities," the coalition writes in its statement.
"We now call on Congress for a timely solution on a narrow issue of national consensus: provide a legal remedy for the subset of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children by their parents, those immigrants commonly called Dreamers," the statement continues.
The coalition suggests six principles for Congress to consider:
- We believe it is unjust to punish children for offenses they did not commit.
- We believe America's borders must be secure.
- We believe we should welcome Dreamers of good moral character and who are working hard to contribute to our country.
- We believe Dreamers deserve to be recognized as our fellow Americans.
- We believe our government should provide a pathway to permanent legal status and/or citizenship for eligible Dreamers.
- We believe a just government works to maintain the integrity of families.
"The time for doing nothing is long expired. Both political parties are guilty of failing to enforce immigration policy and perpetuating the status quo to the detriment of both U.S. citizens and undocumented immigrants. It is now incumbent on members of both parties to set politics aside for the sake of our nation, its families, and its communities and pass a legislative solution for Dreamers," the statement concludes.
The signatures of 51 evangelical leaders are on the statement. Among them are former Southern Baptist Convention presidents Ronnie Floyd, Bryant Wright, Jack Graham and James Merritt.