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DACA: an open letter to American Christians

For this week’s contact, I’ve written an open letter to most American Christians, who won’t hear about DACA at Church.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I am aware (and painfully so) that most of you won’t hear about the Trump administration’s recent scuttling of DACA in Church. Let’s be honest: most American churches don’t talk about potentially divisive issues and most American Christians like it that way. Our silence keeps conflict at arm’s length, but it also means that we have nothing to say about issues of serious public morality.

And make no mistake: the repeal of DACA is an example of serious public immorality, and, as such, the Church is irresponsible if it remains silent.

First, some background. DACA is shorthand for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act, under which undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children are given permission to work and live in the United States. Prior to the Obama administration’s initiation of the DACA program, undocumented migrants who came to the United States as children were treated exactly the same as adults. They were subject to the same rules for deportation, and to the same rules for legal reentry after being deported (which is to say legal reentry was nearly impossible).

At first glance, such an equality among migrants may seem logical—undocumented is undocumented, after all—but with closer examination, it becomes clear that any decent-minded society would differentiate between adult migrants and those who crossed borders as children. One’s moral keel doesn’t have to run all that straight to see that children cannot be held responsible for the actions of their parents. In many cases, the children of undocumented migrants speak only English and have never returned to their country of origin. Frequently, they have no family and no other community to welcome them when they are deported.

I have met such children while visiting the US/Mexico border, and it is heartbreaking. One fifteen year old boy with whom I spoke had been deported twice, and he wanted to go home to Texas and to return legally. But because he had broken the law by migrating as a six year old, he had to wait ten years before applying for even a tourist visa to visit his parents, and so he was wandering around Agua Prieta, Sonora, sleeping in church-run shelters and eating such food as he could find.  One wonders what kind of awful country would do such a thing to someone not yet even able to drive.

The Obama administration’s record on issues surrounding immigration is spotty at best, but this is something they got right: something had to be done to rectify the immoral way in which the United States was treating those who crossed the border as children. DACA was a good program; its repeal is a travesty.

So, my fellow American Christians, if your pastors won’t speak out on DACA, you may have to do it for them. Or, if you want your pastor to speak out, look her or him in the eye and tell her or him that you will be supportive, that you will celebrate your pastor’s newfound courage to speak out. Unlike most of the issues of morality that concern churches, DACA actually is important. It affects human lives in real ways. So speak out. Make your voices heard until the folks in Washington pay attention or lose their jobs. This evil cannot and shall not stand.

Thanks for listening.

Your Brother in Christ,                                                                                                                             The Rev. Ben Daniel                                                                                                                               Montclair Presbyterian Church