By: Bruce Riley Ashford and Alan Cross
During the next few weeks, conservatives have an opportunity to do the right thing by replacing Obama’s DACA in favor of a long-term solution that will secure the borders and deport the “bad hombres,” while protecting innocent Dreamers.
We should act now because it is the right thing to do, it is good for American workers, and the next few weeks are crucial to the accomplishment of those long term goals.
Ten state Attorneys General have warned that if President Trump does not reject the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by September 5, they will file a lawsuit against the program. The Trump Administration has indicated that it will not defend DACA in the courts if the lawsuit does come.
Given this scenario, conservatives should continue to push for our borders to be secured. Failure to secure the borders not only undermines the rule of law but also sends mixed signals to persons who are considering entering our nation illegally. But we should also push forward by passing a just immigration law that distinguishes between undocumented immigrants who have broken the law and those such as the Dreamers who have not.
“Dreamers” are undocumented young people who were brought to the United States years ago as children, before they had the ability to consent. The Obama-era DACA allows them to work and attend college legally. But DACA was an executive action never meant to be anything more than a short-term solution. Congress alone can provide a long-term solution, and the upcoming weeks and months will reveal whether our Republican Congress and Presidential administration have the wisdom and fortitude to do the right thing morally, help American workers economically, and respond to the wishes of the overwhelming majority of American voters.
By protecting the Dreamers, Congress will be doing the right thing. Dreamers are one class of immigrants who should not be penalized; they should not be punished for the sins of their parents. The Constitution supports this view. So does the Bible, which repeatedly instructs us to care for the “sojourner.”
In the Old Testament, God commanded Israel to “treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:34). This passage forms the basis for Jesus’ New Testament command, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
The way we treat the most vulnerable people in our midst reveals something about who our nation really is and what type of nation we will be. Want to make America good and great? Don’t punish innocent young people for their parents’ illegal immigration. This is a matter of basic biblical justice.
By protecting the Dreamers, Congress will also be helping American workers by bolstering the American economy. As the Wall Street Journal calculated, Trump’s deportation plan, which initially included Dreamers, would increase federal spending by approximately $400 billion, reduce the U.S. labor force by more than 6 percent, and shrink the economy by nearly the same percentage. Protecting the innocent Dreamers would reduce significantly these enormous economic setbacks.
Finally, by protecting the Dreamers, Congress will be acting at the right time. The President has stated that he intends to deal fairly with Dreamers, and a recent report suggests that the White House is open to a legislative “deal” that would involve protecting Dreamers. Additionally, half a dozen Congressional Republicans recently signed a letter supporting Dreamers pending a legislative solution. Most significantly, 75-80% of Americans believe we should find a way for Dreamers to stay in the United States legally, including 73% of Trump voters.
With such a large majority of the American people wanting an immigration solution that protects 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 true greatness is tied to moral goodness. Deporting innocent young people or throwing them into legal limbo is neither good nor great. Causing them to spend their lives in the shadows as non-humans is neither good nor great. In replacing the short-term DACA in with a long-term solution, conservatives can take a good step toward making America 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.
Alan Cross is a Southern Baptist minister and the Executive Director of Community Development Initiatives in Montgomery, Alabama. He is the author of When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus. Follow him on Twitter @AlanLCross.