Christian groups oppose new DHS policy denying new DACA applicants: 'Unconscionable'

Demonstrators protest in front of the White House after the Trump administration today scrapped the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that protects from deportation almost 800,000 young men and women who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children, in Washington, U.S., September 5, 2017.
Demonstrators protest in front of the White House after the Trump administration today scrapped the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that protects from deportation almost 800,000 young men and women who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children, in Washington, U.S., September 5, 2017. | (Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Some Christian advocacy organizations have condemned the Trump administration’s announcement that it will reject new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a plan to scrap the program last month. 

In a memo Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security stated that it will allow DACA recipients to renew their status after the high court ruled last month that the administration could not proceed with its plans to end the temporary program protecting hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought the U.S. illegally as minors. 

However, the memo, issued by Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, orders all new and pending initial applications to the program enacted in 2012 under the Obama administration be rejected. The program has allowed more than 700,000 immigrants to stay in the U.S. and authorized them to work in the country. 

“Whatever the merits of these asserted reliance interests on the maintenance of the DACA policy, they are significantly lessened, if not entirely lacking, with regard to aliens who have never before received deferred action pursuant to the policy,” Wolf wrote. 

The memo also explains that those reapplying for DACA authorization can only reapply for an authorization period of one year, rather than the two-year authorizations they had been given. 

“In accordance with the Supreme Court’s decision, I am determined to give careful consideration to whether the DACA policy should be maintained, rescinded, or modified,” Wolf stated. “In the meantime, given my serious concerns about the policy, I have determined that some changes should immediately be made to the policy to limit its scope in the interim.

According to an administration official who spoke with Politico, the new policy allows the agency to conduct a “comprehensive review” of the program as well as assess the legality after the Supreme Court ruling. 

Some faith-based immigration advocacy organizations that for years have called for a legislative solution for Dreamers — another term that describes those eligible for DACA protection — are outraged by the announcement. They argue that many have no memory of their home countries since they were brought to the U.S. at an early age. 

“While we’re grateful that the administration has not, at this point, again sought to terminate DACA, today’s actions present new hardships for Dreamers, requiring a renewal application and accompanying fee on a more regular basis and seeking to prevent new applicants,” said Scott Arbeiter, president of the National Association of Evangelical’s humanitarian arm, World Relief. 

“Furthermore, the memo makes clear that rescission is still ultimately quite possible, which means that hundreds of thousands of young people will continue to live with the fear that the government may ultimately mandate the loss of their jobs or even deport them to countries that they cannot even remember.”

According to Arbeiter, “the harm would extend further to these young people’s families, including hundreds of thousands of young children of DACA recipient parents, and to their employers and churches.”

The Rev. John L. McCullough, president and CEO of Church World Service, a cooperative ministry of 37 Christian denominations and communions that serves as a refugee resettlement organization, argued in a statement that the DHS memo is a “wrongful attempt” by the administration to “subvert” the Supreme Court’s ruling last month. 

According to McCullough, the order puts about 300,000 young people who do not have authorization under DACA under threat of deportation.

“Eliminating protection from deportation for DACA recipients is particularly cruel, especially during a global health crisis,” McCullough said. “The administration’s actions are unconscionable and immoral.”

Both Church World Service and World Relief are calling on members of Congress to pass a permanent, legislative solution for those who do not have legal residency status.

“We’re thankful that the House of Representatives has already taken action, passing the American Dream and Promise Act, on a bipartisan basis last year,” World Relief CEO Tim Breene said in a statement. “We urge the U.S. Senate to take up the bill, or similar legislation, as quickly as possible.”

In the 5-4 ruling last month, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal justices and wrote that the ruling does not “decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies.” Instead, the decision was rooted in whether the DHS “complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.”

The administration maintains that the DACA program goes above and beyond executive authority because it was enacted unilaterally by the Obama administration without an act of Congress. 

In dissent, Justice Samuel Alito argued that the ruling did not “resolve” the merit of the administration’s plan to end DACA. 

“Instead, it tells the Department of Homeland Security to go back and try again,” Alito wrote. “What this means is that the Federal Judiciary, without holding that DACA cannot be rescinded, has prevented that from occurring during an entire Presidential term. Our constitutional system is not supposed to work that way.”

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