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Religious leaders overwhelmingly condemn Trump ending DACA

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) supporters march to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office to protest shortly after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement that DACA will be suspended with a six-month delay on Sept. 5, 2017, in Phoenix, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(RNS) — Religious leaders overwhelmingly condemned President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

That program, which the president ordered rescinded on Tuesday (Sept. 5), protected young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or whose families overstayed their visas from deportation.

There were few exceptions to the condemnation, among them Pastor Mark Burns of Harvest Praise and Worship Center in South Carolina, who has close ties to the president. Burns tweeted that rescinding DACA was “good because #Americans are #Dreamers too…#AmericaFirst.”

Here is a roundup of religious reactions to the president’s action on DACA.

USCCB

The president, vice president and chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a statement, saying “cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible.” It reads in part:

“The Catholic Church has long watched with pride and admiration as DACA youth live out their daily lives with hope and a determination to flourish and contribute to society: continuing to work and provide for their families, continuing to serve in the military, and continuing to receive an education. Now, after months of anxiety and fear about their futures, these brave young people face deportation. This decision is unacceptable and does not reflect who we are as Americans.

Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich

Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich. Courtesy of the Archdiocese of Chicago

“In the past the president stated that the Dreamer story ‘is about the heart,’ yet today’s decision is nothing short of heartless. The Dreamers are now left in a six-month limbo, during which Congress is supposed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, a feat they have been unable to achieve for a decade. In fact, this inability to agree on a just immigration system led President Obama to sign the executive order protecting minor children brought to this country by their parents. As the considerations of the “heart” seemed to be insufficient to keep protection in place, Congress must now act decisively and swiftly.”

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

“Within the Jewish community, many of our own families are alive today because of the relatively open immigration policies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And too many Jews died after being trapped in Europe when the borders closed in 1924. We understand the cruelty of forcing Dreamers back to the countries where they were born, but in many cases have never lived, and where — in some cases — their lives will be in danger.”

Tim Head, executive director of Faith & Freedom Coalition

“As the federal courts were about to rule President Obama’s DACA program unconstitutional, President Donald J. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions took proper, pro-active action to phase out the program delivering on their (commitment) to the rule of law and giving Congress time to pass immigration reforms that secures our borders, protects American workers, and deals with those already here. Trump’s executive action is both compassionate toward all who those who have come to our country and prevents mass deportations that could have resulted from the impending federal court ruling that could break apart immigrant families. President Trump and his administration continue to focus Homeland Security resources on deporting criminals and visa overstays, and not on children who were brought to this country through no choice of their own.”

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David Silverman, president of American Atheists

“I have no doubt that countless DACA recipients were brought to our nation because of our commitment to religious freedom, religious equality, and government neutrality. I fight to protect those commitments and I will fight to protect those who come to the United States in search of them. Just as atheists are your friends, neighbors, and classmates, DACA recipients are as well. This is an issue that impacts us all.”

Tim Breene, CEO of World Relief

“These Dreamers have willingly worked with the government in good faith in order to pursue their dreams living in the United States, the only home many of them have ever known. The decision to end DACA puts them in a more precarious situation, but we hope Congress will prioritize a legislative solution that will allow these Dreamers to flourish in our country.”

Lynne Hybels, activist

Lynne Hybels, who started Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago with her husband, Rev. Bill Hybels, wrote an op-ed Monday for her local newspaper, the Daily Herald, titled, “Show young immigrants America’s promise is real.”

Hybels also shared her thoughts in a statement released before Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration’s decision Tuesday:

“Our church is deeply invested in serving the immigrant community in the Chicagoland area. We’ve hosted workshops helping dozens of brave young people to apply for the DACA program. We’ve witnessed firsthand the hope that the DACA program has brought to individuals who have wanted nothing more than the chance to pursue an education and lead a productive life, just as our own children have done. To end the program now, without action from Congress first, would be devastating—for them and for the communities that benefit from their work, ingenuity, and courage.”

Rev. Félix Cabrera, lead pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central in Oklahoma City and co-founder of Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance

“To end the DACA program now would be immoral, violating the trust of young immigrants, including those within my congregation and many other Hispanic Southern Baptists throughout the country, who trusted the federal government when it asked them to register and provide their personal information. … Rather than taking another step that will exacerbate ethnic and political divisions in our nation, I pray that President Trump and Congressional Leaders from both parties will work together to pass legislation to protect Dreamers, and in the process help to unify our nation.”

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Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc Jewish Action

“President Trump has threatened to end DACA – to target hundreds of thousands of long-term residents of the United States for deportation, even though they were brought here as children and have built their lives here. This would be heartbreaking, but not surprising. His rhetoric about immigrants has been consistently cruel from the beginning. Now, emboldened by the ascendancy of white supremacy in the public sphere, he is escalating into ever more explicit racism.”

National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

The NHCLC announced a national campaign Tuesday to put “unrelenting pressure” on Congress to find a permanent solution for “DREAMers.”

Its president, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, released a statement that said in part:

“I am disappointed that these protections are ending, and I’ve expressed that disappointment to the White House, directly. I also understand why they chose this course of action. If the fate of DAPA is any indication, then it was only a matter of time before DACA would face a similar fate in the courts and, in fact, the entire program could be ceased immediately by a court order rather than being phased out. … We do not intend on letting a single member of Congress have a good night’s rest until they guarantee our young people can rest easy. We will not be silent until every DREAMer can dream again.”

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations

Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations. Photo courtesy the Council on American Islamic Relations

“The American Muslim community and CAIR stand with the 800,000 undocumented young people who were brought to our nation as children, who call the United States home and whose only dream is to come out of the shadows and to stay where they belong. By terminating DACA, even with a six-month delay or ‘wind down,’ President Trump is pandering to the demands of anti-immigrant extremists and harming our nation by targeting some of the most dynamic and success-oriented members of society. In practical terms, the ‘delay’ in implementing the termination is meaningless for the vast majority of Dreamers and will inevitably result in chaos in their lives.”

Erwin McManus, founder of MOSAIC in Los Angeles

“The roughly 800,000 people who have benefitted from the DACA program—more of whom live in in my city of Los Angeles than anywhere else in the country—are American in every way except on paper. They are not to be feared but embraced as immigrants who define the American spirit. We are a nation of immigrants. We are a nation defined by openness and inclusion. We are big enough to rise above this challenge and choose the path that elevates the best in all of us.”

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK

“As people of faith, we are called to love thy neighbor. Make no mistake: Dreamers, who have been here for at least a decade and call the U.S. their home, are our neighbors … Our nation’s Dreamers and their families deserve our full support and protection.”

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Leith Anderson, president of National Association of Evangelicals

“Americans may have a variety of views on the broader questions of immigration policy, but most agree that those who were brought to this country as children — and who have grown up here — should not be punished for the actions of their parents. Many of these young people are already deeply integrated into our churches and communities, and most know no other country than the United States.”

Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO of Faith in Public Life

“Preserving immigrant families and sustaining the dreams of our immigrant brothers and sisters is both a moral and theological duty. An attack on immigrants is an attack on the church. That which President Trump does to these people, he does to Jesus.”

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner. Photo courtesy of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

“As Jews, our people have known the experience of being ‘strangers in strange lands.’ Our past reminds us of the struggles faced by so many immigrants today. Because of this history, Judaism demands that we welcome the stranger and compels us to work for a just immigration system. It is imperative that Congress step up in support of these young people who grew up in the United States and who want to give back to the only country they know as home.”

Nanci Palacios, DACA recipient and lead organizer for Faith in Florida

“As an undocumented woman with deferred action, it doesn’t surprise me that Donald Trump is ending DACA. To the president, this is about politics not about real human lives. It’s infuriating and devastating that the president is using us as political scapegoats but not surprising. Ending DACA means I will have to put my education on hold and worry about driving without a license as in the past. However, I along with other DREAMErs will not stay silent and we will continue to fight to preserve DACA and fight for relief for all families. I will not be afraid and we will not let him push us back into the shadows.”

This story is available for republication.

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

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