A group of evangelical leaders are pressuring President Donald Trump to continue protecting immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally when they were children, and are urging Congress to take permanent legislative action to ensure their long standing protection from deportation.
The Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of evangelical organizations and leaders who advocate for immigration reform that is "consistent with biblical values," sent three letters on Wednesday to Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., calling for the protection of recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
The letters come while Trump is mulling what to do with the Obama-era DACA program as he continues to receive pressure from outside groups to halt the program, which critics say is unconstitutional because it was enacted executively, not legislatively.
"We carry particular concern for the future of these dreamers because they have much to offer America. They were brought here without their consent, and in most cases the U.S. is the only home they have known," the letter to Trump reads. "We know that these young people who stepped forward in good faith are not threats to America. By enrolling in DACA, they already have submitted to screening for criminal activity and potential threats to national security."
According to CNN, sources on Capitol Hill believe that the president is leaning toward ending renewals and new applicants to the program. However, CNN reports that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is among those who are advocating for Trump to delay making a decision about the program.
The program has granted over 800,000 immigrants permission to say in the country and work.
"Many of these young immigrants are currently protected by the DACA program, but we share your concerns that an executive order is a problematic tool to accomplish these policy objectives," the Evangelical Immigration Letter to Trump reads. "The complexity of this particular issue begs for a legislative solution and demands leadership on Capitol Hill. While working with leadership on Capitol Hill on a permanent legislative solution, we also ask that you ensure that these young immigrants are protected."
The letter asserts that the because of the DACA program, recipients are studying at American universities and "creating jobs for American workers."
"We hope that you will work to find solutions that allow these young people to stay in our country longterm and continue to be a blessing to our communities. Now is the time for bold leadership and action," the letter asserts. "We are grateful that you have repeatedly stated your strong support for these young immigrants, assuring them that they should 'rest easy' and that you were 'not going to hurt those kids.' We also know that, drawing on your experience as a grandfather and a father, that you have made private assurances that you will 'protect these children.'"
The letter also praised the introduction of bipartisan bills in both legislative houses that aim to provide a permanent solution for dreamers.
"As Christians, we believe that all immigrants are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), deserving to be treated with dignity. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we find God commanding his people to treat foreigners with special hospitality," the letter explains. "In Leviticus 19:33–34, God reminds the Israelites: 'When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.'"
"From Abraham to Paul, many biblical heroes were themselves immigrants, including even Jesus, whose parents brought Him to Egypt to escape persecution early in his life," it continued. "As Americans, we are proud that our country has affirmed this biblical principle of valuing and protecting immigrants while also protecting national security."
The letter was signed by Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; and Scott Arbeiter, president of the evangelical refugee resettlement agency World Relief.
Additional signatories include Shirley V. Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities; Hyepin Im, president of Korean Churches for Community Development/ Faith and Community Empowerment; and Jo Anne Lyon, for general superintendent of the Wesleyan Church.
"It is long past time for Congress to work together to find a workable solution for our broken immigration system — especially for the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought to our country [illegally] by their parents," Moore said in a press release.
Rodriguez asserted in a statement that "dreamers are not bargaining chips."
[T]hey are America's sons and daughters, and right now, they urgently need our support. NHCLC has worked diligently, often behind closed doors, urging the president to move away from his campaign promise to rescind DACA on day one," Rodriguez said. "The human toll that will be unleashed by rescinding DACA is potentially devastating. This is, and always has been, an issue centered upon the sanctity of human life. As a pastor, I cannot sit idly by while the federal government threatens to forcibly separate families by deportation."
Rodriguez, who prayed at Trump's inauguration in January, assured that it's "not the government's place to rip families apart" and vowed to oppose the administration if that is what it plans to do.
"If the president breaks his promise to us to protect these children, they should be prepared for a mass exodus of the administration's Hispanic support," Rodriguez assured. "Even the most conservative among us will not sacrifice our children on the altar of political expediency. Let me be clear, should they decide to do so, we will oppose them."
Earlier this year, the Trump administration put an end to the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program.
"While DREAMers remain protected under DACA, it is of little comfort to children whose parents are now at risk of being deported from this country," Rodriguez said in a condemnation of the rescinding of DAPA."