Evangelical, Latino Leaders Urge Trump, Congress Not to Punish Dreamers With Deportations

(Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)A woman holds a sign during a rally calling for the passage of a clean Dream Act outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., September 26, 2017.

A group of diverse evangelical leaders, as well as conservative and progressive Latino Christians, are all calling on Congress and the U.S. government not to punish close to 800,000 "Dreamer" immigrants with deportations.

While recognizing that the immigration policy is "complex," evangelicals insist that it is possible to respect the rule of law and show Christian compassion at the same time.

Over 50 evangelicals — including Assemblies of God General Superintendent George Wood, evangelist Greg Laurie, and National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson — have so far signed the "Evangelical Leader Statement of Principles on Dreamers," which was organized by Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"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," the statement reads.

"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."

The evangelicals expressed support for "the underlying policy aim" of former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which deferred deportation proceedings for immigrants brought to America as children by their parents.

President Donald Trump said in September that his administration will end the program, however, and gave Congress six months to come up with new policies that will address the uncertain situation surrounding Dreamers.

While the evangelical leaders noted that America's borders must be secure, they maintained that Dreamers also deserve to be recognized as fellow Americans and called for a pathway to permanent legal status 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," the statement reads.

"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."

On the same day the statement was released, Latino leaders across the political spectrum, held a press conference Thursday and urged Congress to come up with a legislative solution.

"The plight of the Dreamers is not a Republican or Democratic issue. It's an American issue," said Alfonso Aguilar, president of Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles. "Polling shows that the majority of Democrats and Republicans, and even of Trump supporters, believe Congress should provide relief to Dreamers. There's no reason or need, therefore, for anyone to play politics with this issue. This is a great opportunity for Congress to deliver big for the American people." 

Mario Rodriguez, chair of Hispanic 100, admitted that the various conservative and progressive Latino organizations that came together for the press conference may not agree on many issues, but they are unified in supporting a "real solution" for Dreamers.

"All our organizations are working to push Congress to deliver a solution. We have activated our membership, our affiliates, our chapters, and our allies, to work with members of Congress here and at home. We are encouraged by bipartisan movement on this issue. The solution is possible, is doable, and is urgent," Rodriguez stated.

The Rev. Tony Suarez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, cited Scripture, saying they are called to love their neighbor and welcome the stranger.

"In this case, these children are our neighbors. Our desire is that congress pass a permanent solution so that these young people, who love our country, will not have their pursuit of the American dream broken again," he said.

Several pastors who were early supporters of Trump's bid for the White House in 2016, and who later became official advisers, revealed in September that they asked Trump to "show heart" for young Dreamers before DACA's end was announced.

Jentezen Franklin, senior pastor of Free Chapel in Gainesville, Georgia, said that he pleaded with Trump for several minutes at an Oval Office meeting.

"I know these kids," Franklin recalled telling Trump, who then asked, "They are good kids?"

Franklin replied: "Yes, sir. They are."

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