World Relief urges Congress to act on immigration reform after judge blocks DACA, declaring it illegal

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. | REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

A Christian humanitarian organization has denounced a recent ruling by a Texas federal judge that prohibits new applications from being filed for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that protects some people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children from being deported.

The ruling only applies to future DACA applicants and doesn't affect anyone who has already applied for the program. 

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen issued an order on Friday ordering the Biden administration to halt granting new applications for the DACA program.

World Relief, a Christian humanitarian group that has helped file over 4,300 DACA applications, released a statement on the same day calling the decision “devastating” to Dreamers.

“This new decision is devastating for these resilient young people, and for their families, churches, communities and employers,” stated World Relief President Scott Arbeiter.

“Congress should not wait for further court decisions: they must act immediately to finally pass legislation that the significant majority of Americans. Including the majority of evangelical Christians, say they support,” he added. 

In 2012, then-President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order allowing those who were children at the time they were illegally brought into the country to apply for a temporary two-year status that authorizes them to work. The protection lasts for two years at a time and is renewable.

At the time it was enacted, Obama stressed: "this is not amnesty ... this is not a path to citizenship, it's not a permanent fix ..."

DACA was initially intended to apply to some 700,000 people who were children when they were brought to the U.S. illegally and had to be younger than age 31 by June 15, 2012.

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, released a statement on Saturday expressing his desire that Congress pass a law to rectify the issue.

"America’s endless string of broken promises to our Dreamers lays entirely at the feet of one branch of the United States government: Congress," Rodriguez stressed. 

"It isn’t for our presidents, judges or justices to make our laws. Congress must do that. Inaction in a Democrat-controlled Congress is equally reprehensible as inaction by a Republican-controlled Congress. Both lead to gross injustice."

World Relief Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy Jenny Yang called the decision “heartbreaking,” but hoped it would “create the pressure to finally persuade Congress that they need to act.”

“The House of Representatives has already passed a bipartisan bill that would resolve this situation once and for all, and I pray that the Senate will quickly debate and pass legislation in the coming days that can ultimately be sent to the president’s desk to be signed into law,” stated Yang.

President Joe Biden, who served as vice president when the Obama administration created DACA in 2012, released a statement on Saturday calling the decision “deeply disappointing.”

“While the court’s order does not now affect current DACA recipients, this decision nonetheless relegates hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to an uncertain future,” said the president.

“The Department of Justice intends to appeal this decision in order to preserve and fortify DACA. And, as the court recognized, the Department of Homeland Security plans to issue a proposed rule concerning DACA in the near future.”

Echoing World Relief and Rodriguez, Biden called on Congress to “ensure a permanent solution by granting a path to citizenship for Dreamers that will provide the certainty and stability that these young people need and deserve.”

“I have repeatedly called on Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act, and I now renew that call with the greatest urgency,” he added.

In 2017, the Trump administration announced that it intended to end the DACA program. Then-President Donald Trump said at the time he planned to do away with the program to push Congress to come up with a legislative fix, but Congress did not act. 

Then U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions argued that there were valid legal concerns about the DACA program.

“This policy was implemented unilaterally to great controversy and legal concern after Congress rejected legislative proposals to extend similar benefits on numerous occasions to this same group of illegal aliens,” said Sessions at a press briefing at the time.

“Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.”

Multiple lawsuits were filed against the Trump administration over the attempted removal of DACA, with U.S. District Judge William Alsup blocking the effort in January 2018.

In June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Trump administration cannot end the temporary DACA program, as it had planned. The majority concluding that the administration failed to follow the proper procedural requirements when doing so. 

Trump’s plan to rescind DACA drew the ire of those on the political left and some evangelical Christian leaders. They argued that immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children, most of whom know no other home since they grew up in the U.S., should not be punished for the actions of their parents. 

In 2018, the Trump administration released a proposal to provide a pathway for citizenship to up to 1.8 million young immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, including DACA recipients, in exchange for $25 million toward the border wall and other changes to the immigration system. That plan, however, was opposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

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