DACA: A Call to Action and PrayerPosted: September 5, 2017
Leviticus 19:33-34 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall 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.”
As we continue to have concern about our brothers and sisters in Christ who would be affected by decisions to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, I share with you a guest post from Morgan Stafford. As a part of his third year of divinity school at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, Stafford is currently a full-time intern serving as a cross-cultural strategist for the Nashville Episcopal Area. Part of his responsibilities include working with lay and clergy leaders who continue to be marginalized based on their immigration status.
Earlier this week, the announcement was made that the current presidential administration intends to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly known as DACA. Created in 2012, DACA has provided temporary protection from deportation and legal work authorization for about 800,000 “DREAMers.”
DREAMers are young immigrants who arrived in the United States before 2007, are currently enrolled in or have graduated from high school, and have committed no criminal offenses. While these young people do not have citizenship, they have spent the majority of their lives in the United States, contributing to the well-being of our communities, schools, and churches. Without DACA, thousands of families will be negatively impacted, and this reality will directly impact us all.
During my ministry experiences across Tennessee, Kentucky and Texas, I have been blessed to be in relationship with many immigrant sisters and brothers. Among these individuals have been several DREAMers who are proud recipients of DACA. I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact of DACA on the lives of these young people and their families:
- A 16-year-old who could apply for a job and now pays taxes and works part-time to support his family.
- A 17-year-old who could obtain a driver’s license and now drives to a better public high school outside of his neighborhood.
- An 18-year-old who could apply for in-state tuition and scholarships and now attends one of the best public universities in his home state.
- A 22-year-old who could use her gifts for ministry and now serves on staff at a local non-profit organization.
- A 26-year-old who could answer her call to ministry and attend seminary and now serves on staff at a local United Methodist church.
We celebrate that over 100 young people in Tennessee have successfully received DACA thanks to Justice for Our Neighbors, a United Methodist-affiliated organization which “provides affordable, high-quality immigration legal services to immigrants, educates the public and faith-based communities about issues related to immigration, and advocates for immigrant rights.” The Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church has supported this ministry from its beginnings.
In my new work with the Nashville Episcopal Area, I am blessed with the opportunity to visit and serve alongside lay and clergy leaders across the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences. Many of our churches have been enriched by the presence of young people from a beautifully diverse range of cultures, languages, and nations. In a divisive political climate in which immigrants continue to be marginalized and objectified, the United Methodist Church has a clear response found in our Social Principles:
“We recognize, embrace, and affirm all persons, regardless of country of origin, as members of the family of God. We affirm the right of all persons to equal opportunities for employment, access to housing, health care, education, and freedom from social discrimination. We urge the Church and society to recognize the gifts, contributions, and struggles of those who are immigrants and to advocate for justice for all.”
Now is the time to practice what we preach!
I pray that our churches will continue to be or become places where young people are welcomed and affirmed regardless of their documentation and legal status.
I pray that our clergy will advocate for policies which protect families and empower young people to use their God-given gifts.
I pray that our laity and clergy will organize and demonstrate their support for DACA recipients in a clear and public way.
May we pray. May we act. May we stand for justice.
Cross-Cultural Strategist & Ministry Intern
Nashville Episcopal Area
The United Methodist Church
1908 Grand Ave.
Nashville, TN 37212