Immigration is Complicated; Advocating for Dreamers is Not
Contrary to what we constantly hear from political pundits, solving immigration is complicated and requires more than just addressing the border. Certainly, the United States’ southern border is under strain, but just as important as restoring order to the border is treating all immigrants as human beings created in the image of God.
As a Christian pastor, I find that last point to be of paramount importance. The disparaging language I hear all too often from my fellow Christians regarding immigrants concerns me deeply.
James 3:8-10 teaches us that the tongue is “a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.” We dare not forget this warning about the potential of our words to do harm.
Christians, like everyone else, can reasonably disagree over how to achieve comprehensive immigration reform, but as followers of Jesus, we are called to be reflections of Jesus in the world. Our faith also compels us to see all people as those created in the image of God, whom we claim to love. Therefore, our deliberations over immigration must be formed and sustained by those two convictions.
Though the matter of immigration is complicated overall, I believe supporting a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers” is an obvious Christian position. Dreamers are those who were brought to this country when they were children; while they have no legal immigration status, America is their home. Many of them don’t remember life in the country they were born in. They speak English and consider themselves Americans.
There are about 600,000 Dreamers under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and another 1.3 million are eligible for it. However, the program has been in constant jeopardy and is under threat in court.
As a Christian, I can think of no good reason to deny Dreamers legal status as Americans. The Old Testament has much to say about showing hospitality to the foreigner and treating them fairly and justly. Just one example: “When immigrants live in your land with you, you must not cheat them. Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens.”
How is it fair to hold Dreamers accountable for their lack of legal status, when they had no control over their entry into the United States? How fair would it be just to send them back to the country of their birth, which is in actuality foreign to them (and where many of them have no familial connections)?
It has been said by some of my sisters and brothers of faith that none of that matters because the law has been broken. The law trumps everything. To those fellow believers, I lovingly respond that this is the same view of the law that Jesus criticized the Pharisees for embracing. Jesus knew well that just because something was perfectly legal did not mean it was necessarily moral.
Jesus himself became a refugee in Egypt, when his parents took him to a place of safety. Dreamers are here because their loved ones brought them to the freedom and safety of the United States. These parents hoped their children would have a better life than they did. On what Christian grounds can we deny what is fair and just for Dreamers?
I was encouraged by the recent introduction of the Dream Act of 2023 in Congress. This bipartisan effort could offer Dreamers protection from deportation and an opportunity to obtain legal status if they meet certain requirements.
Congress must listen to 74% of Americans who want them to compromise. By offering long-term, legislative solutions especially for Dreamers, the U.S. can make strides in moving the country forward on immigration reforms.
Yes, immigration is complicated, but acting on behalf of the Dreamers is not. In fact, I believe it’s the only Christian thing to do.
Allan R. Bevere is a Professional Fellow in Theology at Ashland Theological Seminary and a retired United Methodist pastor.
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