Evangelical Leaders Ask Congress to Give ‘Dreamers’ Citizenship

By The Stream Published on October 6, 2017

“Christian compassion and respect for the rule of law” can be reconciled in the treatment of the “Dreamers,” a group of 52 Evangelical leaders declare. In a Statement of Principles on Dreamers, the leaders ask Congress to provide a direct path to citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants brought to this country when they were young.

Dreamers “of good moral character and who are working hard to contribute to our country” should not deported, the statement declares. These people “deserve to be recognized as our fellow Americans” and given “a pathway to permanent legal status and/or citizenship.”

The group was led by Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Two members of Donald Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board signed it: Ronnie Floyd, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Richard Land, Moore’s predecessor at the ERLC.

Foundational American Ideas

In calling for official status for Dreamers, the signers argued that “foundational American ideas like freedom, self-government, and equality are worthy of our allegiance as Christians when they harmonize with biblical truths about the dignity of every human being.” It also requires respect for “the integrity of families.” America, they say, is

a nation founded on ideas, not ethnicity; being American is about pledging allegiance to our nation’s ideals. We should include Dreamers, who already have shown themselves willing to play by the rules, in that opportunity to become Americans.

One of the signers of the Statement of Principles on Dreamers, Samuel Rodriguez, has written Solving the Immigration Problem with Stream publisher James Robison. He leads the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. The NHCLC sponsors a program called Protect the Dreamers.

In their Stream article, Rodriguez and Robison call for a new immigration policy “that combines rule of law, decency, and common sense.” They call this “Just Immigration.”

America should secure its borders, they say, including building a wall. Employers must be responsible for the immigrants who work for them. Public policy should be designed to encourage immigrants to work, not live on welfare. Educational programs should encourage integration.

“We can’t deport twelve million people,” Rodriguez and Robison note. They want a “a non-amnesty path toward legal status and/or citizenship” for illegal immigrants who haven’t committed a crime. Those immigrants would have to go back to their home countries and apply to come back to the United States. However, their children — the “Dreamers” — could stay in the country and become American citizens.

The signers blame the problem on both political parties. One reason is that they failed to enforce immigration policy, which allowed so many undocumented immigrants to bring them into the country or have them here.

“A proper and just solution,” the signers argue, “will bring our neighbors out of the shadows of civic life, cultivate the stability of families, and provide the opportunity to work legally. Such provisions not only serve the interests of Dreamers, but are foundational for the flourishing of our communities.”

Evangelicals On DACA

The statement follows a push by many Evangelical leaders when in September President Trump rescinded the DACA program. In 2012, President Obama had imposed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by executive order, over Congressional objections.

Led by the Evangelical Immigration Table, almost 3500 pastors and others leaders signed a letter urging Trump and Congress to protect Dreamers.

Although he was “disappointed” when Trump ended the protections, Evangelical hispanic leader Samuel Rodriguez said his group would demand that Congress act within sixty days. “We will not be silent until every Dreamer can dream again.” (See the sidebar for his thoughts on immigration.)

Also quoted in the Evangelical Immigration Table’s press release was Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief. He said, “We have a clear and compelling moral obligation to the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who are here among us. We cannot fail these children and young people nor our national interest yet again. Congress must act.”

Other Signers

Others among the 52 signers are Stream contributor Hunter Baker; leading Evangelical scholars Bruce Ashford and D. A. Carson; Erick Erickson of The Resurgent; and theologian Timothy George, a member of both Christianity Today‘s and First Things‘ editorial boards.

The list also includes Stanford law professor Michael McConnell; seminary presidents Daniel Akin, Richard Mouw and David Dockery; and Leith Anderson, head of the National Association of Evangelicals.

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