The following post, written by The Rev. Robert A. Franek, is a part of Politicus Policy Discussion, in which writers draw connections between real lives and public policy.
The rescinding of DACA last Tuesday put some 800,000 youth and young adults on a countdown clock with Congress. Without swift action from lawmakers in the House and the Senate to protect Dreamers, families will be torn apart, employers will lose workers, and students will be unable to complete their degree programs.
This is an untenable place for our country to be in. We cannot simply send Dreamers back to a country they never knew as their home. It is not only impractical and economically detrimental to the country, it is morally reprehensible and indefensible.
Many persuasive and legitimate economic and worthiness arguments have been made in defense of Dreamers. They are employed and pay taxes. They serve in our military. They are students pursuing degrees. However, these arguments alone finally mean that a Dreamers’ worth is tied to their contribution and potential future contributions to society. Crassly this demeans Dreamers’ worth to the taxes they pay and the public service they willingly offer. Certainly, a person’s worth cannot be reduced to their contribution to society whether in economic, educational, or public service measurements.
There is no doubt that Dreamers have and continue to make significant contributions to our society whether in business, teaching our kids, protecting our country, or studying to become leaders in a wide variety of career fields. However, we must not tie their value to this county solely to a status that has been deemed beneficial. What do you tell the Dreamer who doesn’t make the arbitrary cut? Sorry, you don’t sufficiently contribute enough to this country so you have to go. Where is the dignity and decency in that?
This is why it is imperative that we treat Dreamers with care and compassion respecting their inherent dignity as people with hopes and dreams and also fears and anxieties. They are not a faceless demographic, but people with storied lives, families, friends, and ties to communities across the country. For many the United States is the only home they have ever known and to uproot them from these ties and send them to a country they’ve never known is heartless and cruel. Besides being ripped away from family and friends and a job or a school, what are they supposed to do when they arrive in these so-called home countries where they do not know the language and will need the essentials of living?
Congress has the power to end the uncertainty and ease the fears and anxieties of Dreamers and their families caused by the rescinding of DACA by offering a permanent solution through the Dream Act that offers a pathway to legal status and citizenship. This would be a small first step towards comprehensive immigration reform, which will take far more time than these young adults have before their clock runs out in March of next year.
However, before Congress will act the false choice that says Dreamers are taking jobs away from people in this country must be exposed along with every other lie that will be used to impeded their action and prevent them from doing what is morally right and compassionate.
It is remarkably sad that the party which claims such a high view of family values would go to such lengths to justify tearing families and communities apart.
For those who are guided by the scriptures the treatment of foreigners is explicit. The following passage from Leviticus is illustrative of passages that form a consistent theme throughout scripture:
When a foreigner resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the foreigner. The foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the foreigner as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. Leviticus 19.33-34
Paul in a passage that reviews the commandments and exhorts ethical living summarizes both in a single word love. He writes:
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13.10
People of faith and moral conscience must lead the charge in exhorting members of Congress to pass legislation that protects Dreamers by offering them a path to legal status and citizenship. Anything less devalues the gift of their presence in this country. And the diversity of their presence is part of what makes this country culturally rich and wonderful.
Our democracy depends on our ability to meet new challenges and ever-changing circumstances with wisdom and compassion that honors the inherent dignity and worth of all people.
The deepest shared moral values of our country demand that Dreamers and all immigrants regardless of documentation status be treated with dignity and respect. Their presence among us is gift enough to fight for their protection.