The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), through its highest ecclesial officer, has signed on to an amicus brief calling for the lifting of an injunction that puts four to five million United States immigrants at risk of deportation.
The Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA), joins a number of faith-based organizations in the brief filed Monday, April 6, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The brief supports an appeal by defendants in a case between the U.S. and more than 20 states who won a preliminary injunction to halt an executive order made by President Barack Obama in November.
Among other things, the executive action (referred to in the brief as Immigration Guidance) offered a legal reprieve to the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have lived in the country for at least five years. It also expanded the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allowed immigrants under 30 years old who arrived as children to apply for a deportation deferral. Neither of these programs give undocumented persons legal status, but they do offer three years without the risk of deportation and the ability to work with authorization. Families would get to stay together and enjoy improved economic stability.
“The effect of the Immigration Guidance is to stay deportation proceedings for four to five million individuals residing in the U.S. who pose no threat to national security or public safety and who have longstanding and close family ties to the U.S.,” the brief says.
The executive action “was issued in part to address the enormous humanitarian costs associated with unwarranted deportations and enables millions of individuals in congregations across the country to remain in the U.S. with their family members and to worship freely.”
The signers of the brief hope it will add weight to the appeal, which originated in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas.
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has, for years, issued policy in support of comprehensive immigration reform and relief to undocumented young persons (DREAMers). The 220th General Assembly (2012) recommended that church councils be called to act “To address the plight of students who are undocumented and therefore unable to access many of the benefits of our educational institutions, specifically by advocating for the passage of the DREAM Act” (Minutes, 2012, Part I, pp. 60, 1159).
In the same resolution, the 220th General Assembly (2012) also directed “PC(USA) Office of Public Witness to make immigration reform one of the top policy issues in their work with members of congress and the White House” (Minutes, 2012, Part I, pp. 61, 1159). Not all 11 million undocumented persons, but many who would benefit from comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act, will receive temporary relief through these new programs.
“Halting the president’s immigration action severely harms the public interest, and we cannot stand by without speaking truth to power,” Parsons said. “Stable families, the cornerstone of American public life, are being threatened and torn apart as a result of the district court’s decision, and the nation will suffer in the long run.”
According to the brief, “the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General reported that between 1998 and 2007, the government deported 108,434 alien parents of U.S. citizen children. A similar number of individuals likely would have been eligible for relief under the Immigration Guidance, but for the district court’s preliminary injunction.”
The brief also points out that even before deportation, detained immigrants are transported an average of 370 miles, making regular contact with their children and families virtually impossible for many. And in 2011, more than 5,100 U.S. citizen children were living in foster care after a parent’s detention or deportation.
“The PC(USA), along with its faith partners, will continue to work tirelessly to seek justice for our neighbors who simply want life, and life more abundantly,” said Teresa Waggener, coordinator for Immigration Issues and an Assistant Stated Clerk for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). “This amicus brief is one of many ways we will continue to advocate for changes that keep families together and offer hope.”
Other signers of the amicus brief include Church World Service; The Leadership Conference of Women Religious; Disciples Home Missions; The Sisters of Mercy of Americas; Sojourners; the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society; the Franciscan Action Network; the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity; NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; National Justice for Our Neighbors; the Mennonite Central Committee U.S.; the Conference of Major Superiors of Men; and Hope for Peace & Justice.