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Bipartisan Solution Needed to Keep the ‘Dreamers’ Alive

Immigrants play a central role in the biblical narratives.

Abraham – the father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – began his journey of faith as an immigrant dreaming for a better day (Genesis 12-23).

After the death of his father, Terah, Abraham had an important decision to make for the future of his family.

He could return to his childhood home, Ur, or continue the journey his father began – a hopeful expedition of immigrants to a land filled with potential and dreams.

Abraham’s faith, hard work, generosity, patience and profound wisdom gained him favor with the indigenous people of Canaan.

After decades of existing as “an alien in a foreign land,” Abraham acquired land to bury his wife, Sarah. From that moment forward, the dream of moving from immigrant to resident began to come to fruition.

Like Abraham, immigrants from all over the world cross the borders of the U.S. dreaming of a better day for their families.

Many of these families travel a great distance, paying significant sums of money and even overcoming life-threatening circumstances just for the prospect of living in America.

The hope that fuels their steps is the opportunity to care and provide for their families faithfully. Again, like Abraham, some could return to their homelands, but many have decided to continue the journey.

For those born in the U.S., it is easy to criticize and criminalize their decision, but we must consider what we would do if faced with the same circumstances.

Historically, both Republican and Democratic presidents and their administrations have worked carefully and cautiously protecting the American dream for immigrants while keeping America’s borders safe.

The Trump administration seems to be changing this approach by using harsh and hurtful rhetoric toward immigrants and seeking to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, before new immigration legislation is in place.

DACA is an immigration policy adopted by the Obama administration to ensure the protection of individuals, who were brought to the U.S. as children years ago, from deportation.

Known as “Dreamers,” these immigrants have grown up in this country, knowing no other life except the one they have experienced in this country. The Trump administration has targeted this policy for possible repeal.

If the DACA program ends, 800,000 immigrants are subject to possible deportation, even though a majority of U.S. citizens (70 percent, according to a recent CBS News poll) think they should remain.

Last week, the administration was attempting to use DACA as leverage to fund a wall on the Mexican border, a campaign promise made by the president.

If DACA is not renewed and allowed to expire, then all 800,000 “Dreamers” will be susceptible to deportation.

Currently, the Trump administration is concluding that DACA is dead since it appears there will be no deal for a wall on the Mexican border.

Protecting “Dreamers” from deportation – through DACA or similar legislation – should be a bipartisan policy.

For Christians, our Scriptures emphasize we should be a people who welcome the stranger and empower the marginalized.

DACA should not be used as a bargaining tool to cut a deal. The lives of 800,000 beautiful and productive immigrants are at stake.

These immigrants did not ask to come to the U.S. when they were children but were brought to this country by parents and grandparents just looking to provide for their families.

We need to have an honest and challenging debate about overhauling our immigration policies, but DACA should not be part of that discussion.

A “clean” DACA bill, one separate from any other legislative negotiations, would allow the larger conversation on immigration reform to continue without putting 800,000 people at risk of deportation.

I heard stories from several “Dreamers” at the North American Baptist Fellowship meeting last week – a young man and young woman who reminded me of my children.

Once hopeful about college and a future career, they shared how they now live in a state of uncertainty and in fear of deportation from the only nation they remember.

While America has always been a place for dreams to thrive, we must ensure the “Dreamers” stay alive.

As Christians, we must also listen and follow the words of Jesus, as he called upon his followers to remember, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:38).

We will be judged for our attitudes and actions when it comes to our hospitality of strangers and immigrants.

Christians are called to set the example, to shine the light and throw open our arms when it comes to people on a journey for a better tomorrow.

We are spiritual descendants of Abraham the immigrant and disciples of a man who had no place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20).

Let’s keep the dream alive and do the right thing.

Mitch Randall is executive director of BCE and executive editor of EthicsDaily.com. You can follow him on Twitter @rmitchrandall.

Editor’s note: EthicsDaily.com articles related to immigration are available here, and a free PDF resource sheet is available here. Cooperative Baptist Fellowship resources on immigration and refugee advocacy are available here.