A group of several prominent evangelical leaders released a statement Thursday in support of the “policy aim of DACA.”
The Trump Administration in early September announced a six-month wind-down of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program implemented by the Obama Administration in 2012 through executive action. The program allowed illegal immigrants who arrived as minors to receive a two-year renewable period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. As of June 2016, the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services received 844,931 initial requests and approved 741,546 of them.
The statement, hosted on the website of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention, first expressed support for Dreamers (those who arrived in the United States illegally as children), “We support the underlying policy aim of DACA because we believe this is a special category of immigrants who are not legally culpable, who in most cases have no home other than the United States, and who are a blessing to their communities and to their churches.”
The list of signatories include people such as Russell Moore, the President of the ERLC, Daniel Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Randy Alcorn, author and founder of Eternal Perspective MInistries, Leith Anderson, the President of the National Association of Evangelicals, Scott Arbeiter, President of World Vision, author and speaker Rosaria Butterfield, Matt Chandler, President of the Acts 29 Network, David Dockery, President of Trinity International University, Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School, Richard Land, President of Southern Evangelical Seminary, and evangelist Greg Laurie among others.
They also expressed concern about DACA implemented through the executive branch. They said, “At the same time, many of us shared a skepticism about the prudence of accomplishing the aim solely through temporary action of the Executive Branch.”
They call for legislative action and offer the following principles to be considered:
We believe it is unjust to punish children for offenses they did not commit. We recognize that Dreamers are a special category of immigrants because they broke no law and committed no offense. How we treat this category of immigrants is therefore not just a policy or political issue—it is a moral issue. Subjecting Dreamers to deportation or lives of perpetual insecurity in the shadows of our communities is an offense to the rule of law and to the purpose of government, which is for the good of people.
We believe America’s borders must be secure. The federal government bears a God-given responsibility to ensure the security of our nation. We hold a variety of opinions on how best to achieve satisfactory border security, but we all agree that border security is a necessary ingredient to reforming our immigration system.
We believe we should welcome Dreamers of good moral character and who are working hard to contribute to our country. Young immigrants who participated in the DACA program have demonstrated they are good neighbors who contribute positively to our country. They have proven this by pursuing education, working and paying taxes, sacrificially serving in our military, and rejecting lives of crime. We also believe that governments have a fundamental responsibility to protect their citizens. A solution for Dreamers rightly excludes those convicted of felonies or multiple misdemeanors.
We believe Dreamers deserve to be recognized as our fellow Americans. Foundational American ideas like freedom, self-government, and equality are worthy of our allegiance as Christians when they harmonize with biblical truths about the dignity of every human being. We are a nation founded on ideas, not ethnicity; being American is about pledging allegiance to our nation’s ideals. We should include Dreamers, who already have shown themselves willing to play by the rules, in that opportunity to become Americans.
We believe our government should provide a pathway to permanent legal status and/or citizenship for eligible Dreamers. The fact that so many immigrants are in a state of limbo is evidence both political parties have failed for decades to develop and implement sound immigration policy. A proper and just solution will bring our neighbors out of the shadows of civic life, cultivate the stability of families, and provide the opportunity to work legally. Such provisions not only serve the interests of Dreamers, but are foundational for the flourishing of our communities.
We believe a just government works to maintain the integrity of families. God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society and that children are a blessing from the Lord. Broken families, wherever they are found, put women and children at risk and increase likelihood of poverty and crime—as well as the likelihood of dependence on government programs. Policymakers must therefore prioritize and uphold the role of the family when addressing immigration policy.
Read the whole statement and list of signatories here.