In the hours after Election Day students at colleges and universities across the country worried about climate change, civil rights and immigration voiced their concerns over a Trump presidency. Now, as the president-elect makes Cabinet nominations and staff appointments, we are learning the realities of what will come when Trump takes the oath of office. For DACA students (otherwise known as God’s beloved creation), the future is troubling, but there may be hope in new bi-partisan legislation meant to stop President Trump from deporting DACA students, as he promised during the campaign to do on Day 1 of his term.
In a nutshell,
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a kind of administrative relief from deportation. The purpose of DACA is to protect eligible immigrant youth who came to the United States when they were children from deportation. DACA gives young undocumented immigrants: 1) protection from deportation, and 2) a work permit. The program expires after two years, subject to renewal.
Trump promised during the campaign to immediately halt the DACA program. Religious groups and many university presidents have told the incoming president to reverse course. We have a moral obligation to do whatever possible to protect students from deportation. In religious terms, this is about welcoming the stranger.
As many as 742,000 students could be impacted by a discontinuation of DACA, a program implemented by President Obama in the face of hardcore opposition by Republican members of Congress to approve comprehensive immigration reform put forth by Obama and President George W. Bush before him. Faith leaders have rallied across the nation, in places like Chicago and Portland, to urge that DACA is kept in place. Students potentially impacted by a DACA discontinuation should be treated as being of sacred worth and not as disposable people. There is solid reason for concern as the Trump campaign and transition team have based much of their proposals related to immigration from white supremacist organizations pushing racism and xenophobia.
Legislation introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) would stop Trump in his tracks if passed by Congress.
The bipartisan bill, called the Bridge Act, would effectively maintain the protections of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. More than 740,000 young people were granted deportation reprieve and work permits under the program, but could now lose those protections, should Trump follow through on a promise to end DACA immediately upon taking office.
To be clear from a theological standpoint, God is the God of all and borders are not of primary concern. Pope Francis said this of Trump early this year: "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel." This principle articulated by Pope Francis should be applied to any politician who professes the Christian faith but advocates deporting DACA students.
People of faith have a lot to protect as Trump takes on the presidency on January 20th. We must stand up against those that question climate change before our world is damaged beyond any recovery. We need to stand up and oppose economic policies that will force more people into poverty and unemployment. We will fail as the people of God if we do not stand up in opposition to racism, misogyny, and xenophobia.
A good place to start will be endorsing the Bridge Act and working to push the new Congress and the new president to take seriously the mandate handed down to humanity: “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” Exodus 22:21-27 NRSV