By: Bruce Ashford, Alan Cross
Erick’s parents brought him from Mexico to the United States when he was only two years old. He grew up in America and did not know that he was an undocumented immigrant until he was a teenager. He has no memory of Mexico, speaks perfect English, and graduated from a California college with a degree in biochemistry. He is now in his mid 20’s and has benefitted from the DACA plan which allowed him to finish college. I (Alan) met Erick last year and was amazed by his determination and desire to contribute to America, the only country he knows. He intends to pursue a Ph.D. and work as a researcher in the pharmaceutical industry. But, all of that is in jeopardy now.
Erick is not alone. Many other young people were brought to the United States years ago as children, before they had the ability to consent. Here are four reasons conservatives should protect Erick and other Dreamers, even as we secure our borders and begin to enforce our immigration laws:
- Dreamers are innocent, even if their parents and certain American authorities are not.
Erick and other young people like him did not choose to come here, but were brought here by their parents. They are not lawbreakers.
While these Dreamers are innocent, their parents and certain American authorities are not. Over the past several decades United States lawmakers and authorities have neglected to secure our nation’s borders. They’ve spoken out of both sides of the mouth. On the one hand, they’ve kept immigration laws on the books. On the other hand, out of a combination of negligence, lack of enforcement, and corruption, we’ve essentially winked as millions of undocumented immigrants have entered unlawfully and taken residence within our borders. In other words, we’ve sent the message, “Even though we do have immigration laws, we don’t take them seriously and, no matter what the laws say, it’s as if you’re committing only a mild trespass when you enter unlawfully.”
Many people can be blamed for the immigration problems in our nation. Undocumented adults who entered illegally can be blamed. Apathetic, negligent, or corrupt American authorities can be blamed. But the Dreamers cannot be blamed. They were brought here without their consent and without the ability to navigate the process legally.
- Children should not be punished for the actions of their parents.
The United States must uphold justice in relation to immigration. We must secure our borders and forge a multi-faceted approach to immigration reform. But what we must not do is punish children for the sins of their fathers and mothers, and for the sins of apathetic, negligent, or corrupt American authorities.
Although American authorities would be within their legal rights to deport Dreamers, they would also be within their legal rights to adjust the application of our laws so that they can show mercy to Dreamers. Our nation has done this many times before in its history and, in doing so, has held together two deeply Christian concepts—justice and mercy.
- The Bridge Act provides an irreplaceable opportunity for conservatives to take the lead.
Recognizing that Dreamers are innocent and should not be punished for the sins of their parents or the sins of American authorities, how can we find a way to help these young people have a hope and a future in a way that benefits us all? The best way to help Dreamers is to build a multi-faceted program of immigration reform that deports immigrants with criminal records, but provides multiple paths to legal status for other undocumented immigrants.
Until we are able to build such a program, however, the best opportunity available is to support the Bridge Act. The Bridge Act is a bipartisan bill unveiled recently by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that would protect Dreamers from deportation while American lawmakers work to enact just immigration reform.
- The majority of Americans and Trump supporters want a way for Dreamers to stay legally.
According to multiple recent polls, 75-80% of Americans believe that we should find a way for Dreamers to stay in the United States legally. According to exit polls, this number includes 60% of Americans who voted for Trump. With such a large majority of the American people wanting to see us solve this on behalf of these young people, what stops us? Fear? Anger? Dirty Politics? If we want America to be great, we must also be good, and that means that we consider both justice and mercy and find ways to extend both.
We can do that. In many ways, we are a great nation, but we must never forget that our greatness is tied to goodness. Throwing innocent young people into legal limbo is neither good nor great. Causing them to spend their lives in the shadows as non-people is neither good nor great. In supporting the Bridge Act, conservatives will be taking large stride toward making American good and great again.
Bruce Ashford is Provost and Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the co-author of “One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics.” Follow him on Twitter @BruceAshford and find him on Facebook.
Alan Cross is the Executive Director of Community Development Initiatives. He is the author of When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus. Follow him on Twitter @AlanLCross.