Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, II has signed an amicus curiae brief in a suit filed in the Northern District of California to enjoin the federal government from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The plaintiffs in the case are the University of California, the States of Maine, Maryland and Minnesota, the City of San Jose, CA, the County of Santa Clara, CA, the Service Employees International Union Local 521 and individual DACA recipients, Dulce Garcia, Miriam Gonzalez Avila, Saul Jiminez Suarez, Viridiana Chabolla Mendoza, Norma Ramirez and Jirayut Latthivongskorn.
The court granted them a temporary injunction which stopped the government from ending DACA, finding that the plaintiffs would suffer irreparable harm if DACA should end, and that there was a public interest in keeping DACA. The court ordered the government to maintain the DACA program on a nationwide basis under the same conditions as were in effect before the Trump Administration rescinded DACA last fall.
The court’s January 2018 decision was appealed by the Department of Homeland Security.
“When Congress failed to pass The DREAM Act, which would have given permanent resident status to undocumented individuals brought into the U.S. as children, the Obama administration in June 2012 offered, through executive action, a new but lesser solution, DACA,” said Teresa Waggener, Immigration Attorney in the Office of Immigration Issues of the PC(USA)’s Office of the General Assembly.
“DACA allowed the same group of young people to apply for a temporary deferral of their deportation, an employment document, and a social security number” Waggener added. “Young people who had been living in the U.S. only partially able to participate, were finally able to work, seek higher education, serve in the military, and live without fear.”
800,000 young people participated in the program. They are also called “DREAMers (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors).”
One hundred and nineteen faith bodies, including the Stated Clerk of PC(U.S.A.), joined the suit last week as friends of the court. Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh organizations were among the signatories. Five Presbyterian Congregations and one Presbytery signed on as well.
Nelson met with the PC(USA)’s Advisory Committee on Litigation (ACL), earlier this month to review the law and church policy. Concurring with their advice, he joined the brief.
“The parents of Dreamers traveled to this country, fueled by dreams of safety and stability for their children. Parents dreamed that the next generation could be raised in a place where the gifts God planted in them could be fully realized. Just as Jochabed wanted for her son, Moses, when she set him in a reed basket on the Nile River. Just as Shiphrah and Puah wanted for the newborns they hid from the King of Egypt, so we all dream for our children to realize the fullness of the gifts God has given them,” said Nelson of his decision to sign the brief, “Now those children are young adults and they are living out what God has planned in their lives and they have blessed this country. We are bound together as those who dream and pray for the next generation to stand with Dreamers now with pastoral care, advocacy and our participation in this litigation.”
In the brief the faith communities jointly say say they consider this a moral issue, “Although they (amici) represent different faiths and denominations, amici are in unequivocal agreement that DACA is a force for good in our society that should be protected.” They argue that their faith communities will suffer if DACA is ended, “Amici will suffer incalculable harm if they are deprived of the contributions and talents of these young congregants and community members.”
The faith communities express concern that DACA recipients will be harmed if deported, “(A)mici know from their work in other parts of the world, Dreamers deported would face tremendous challenges and even physical danger.” And they conclude that many will choose to offer sanctuary as members lose their DACA protections in a time when they have seen immigration enforcement coming uncomfortably close to places of worship, “This puts amici in the untenable and unacceptable position of at once heeding their faith-based calling to provide sanctuary while at the same time attracting the attention of those who would do harm to the people amici seek to protect.”
The PC(USA) General Assembly has extensive policy around DREAMers dating back to 2008. Members of the denomination have been urged, through assembly action, to offer pastoral care to and advocate for a path to citizenship for the members of our congregations and communities who arrived as children and lack documentation in the U.S.
“Our denomination stood with members of churches and community leaders when the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was announced and implemented. We rejoiced knowing that this program would provide relief for many in our church. Now we see the program terminated, and that decision affects the PCUSA personally – it affects our members, loved ones, and our communities,” says Amanda Craft, manager of advocacy in the Office of Immigration Issues.
“We have received calls from congregations in Tennessee, California, New York, South Carolina, Texas, Illinois and New Hampshire who are concerned about their members,” she added. “They are concerned about the impact on individuals and on their congregations. DACA recipients are integral members at all levels of community, who courageously speak out about their situation and our church must speak out, too.”
Learn more about DREAMers and DACA recipients: www.pcusa.org/daca
As members lose immigration status, help them in preparing a family care plan: www.pcusa.org/familycareplan
As members lose immigration status, discern your congregation’s role in the Sanctuary Movement: www.pcusa.org/sanctuary