Since President Trump announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) in September, news feeds have filled with talk about "Dreamers," including the approximately 800,000 young immigrants — including more than 200,000 in California alone — who were brought to the United States as children, consider this their home and were granted DACA.
Many Dreamers in our community and local church would lose their work authorization and face the threat of deportation as their DACA expires. Across the country, several hundred people per week now are losing their DACA status. After the final sunset of the program March 5, the number could rise to about 1,000 young people every day.
We come to this issue as evangelical pastors and a Dreamer, respectively. To us, the fate of Dreamers is much more than a political talking point. They are stitched into the fabric of our community. They are our beloved friends, hardworking co-workers and faithful church members. If they are torn from the country, it will tear apart our community, too. That's why we are urging Congress to lead and create permanent legislation that allows Dreamers to stay in the U.S. and earn permanent legal status and eventual citizenship.
For the two of us who are pastors — at Emmaus Church, a multiethnic, multigenerational church in Santa Ana — we have become intimately aware of the issues facing Dreamers like Adriana. When we think of the impact of DACA ending without a legislative solution, we have specific faces, names, stories and families in our minds.
We need Congress to step in now and pass a law that offers Dreamers a way to stay in the country and continue contributing to our workforce and communities.
Once a solution is signed into law, it will take months to implement — likely at least seven months. Congress' deadline is immediate, and lawmakers must make it their top priority.
We stand in solidarity with other pastors to see justice come. Our thoughts, prayers and advocacy are compelled by our biblical faith, which holds the poor, the marginalized and the immigrant as a central concern. The Bible teaches that families are a gift from God and should not be separated and that every person bears the image of God and is to be treated with dignity.
As a Dreamer, I (Adriana) am encouraged by people of faith who speak the truth in love and courageously live as true followers of Jesus Christ. I still have a dream that in the near future I will be able to exercise my God-given gifts to my fullest potential to help and serve others. I still have a dream that I will be able to practice within my profession to counsel individuals, couples and families to change one life at a time. I still have a dream that our legislators will choose to align themselves on the side of righteousness.
The case for allowing Dreamers to stay also simply makes economic sense. Over the next decade, young undocumented DACA recipients are projected to add an estimated $460.3 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product. In our 46th Congressional District alone, the end of DACA will mean that 9,700 individuals will lose the ability to work, resulting in a $529 million loss from our annual GDP. Why would our country stop ambitious these young people from working and paying taxes?
Congress must do the right thing and create an opportunity for Dreamers to earn permanent legal status and eventual citizenship in the only country many of them know. Deporting Dreamers or forcing them into the shadows will cause our community, and the whole nation, to suffer.
But when Dreamers are allowed to stay and contribute to our communities, we all will flourish and reclaim the best and most enduring values that make us truly great.
Lamont Hartman is the founding pastor of Emmaus Church Santa Ana, a multiethnic and multigenerational church in Santa Ana, California.
Gerardo Magana is a pastor at Emmaus Church Santa Ana.
Adriana Mondragon is a Dreamer and a church member of Emmaus Church Santa Ana.