During the next few weeks, GOP legislators have a golden opportunity to rise above bipartisan gridlock by passing a bill that secures American borders and creates an earned pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million “Dreamers” who were brought here illegally as children.
President Donald Trump has signaled recently that he wants to accomplish both objectives, and the vast majority of Americans concur.
GOP legislators should take the President’s cue by passing a bill that secures both objectives.
And conservative citizens should make our voice heard in support of such a bill.
We should push our legislators to secure the borders. Unless we secure the borders, we undermine the rule of law and send mixed signals to persons who are considering entering our nation illegally. At the same time, we should push our legislators to pass just immigration law that distinguishes between undocumented immigrants who have broken the law and others such as Dreamers who have not.
We should act now because it is the right thing to do, it is good for American workers, and the next few weeks are crucial to the accomplishment of those long-term goals.
Who are the “Dreamers”? They are undocumented young people who were brought to the United States years ago as children, before they had the ability to consent. The Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy allowed them to work and attend college legally. But DACA was a short-term solution. Congress alone can provide a long-term solution, and upcoming weeks will reveal whether GOP legislators have the wisdom and fortitude to do the right thing morally, help American workers economically, and respond to the wishes of the overwhelming majority of American voters.
By protecting the Dreamers, Congress will be doing the right thing. Dreamers are one class of immigrants who should not be penalized; they should not be punished for the sins of their parents. The Constitution supports this view. So does the Bible, which repeatedly instructs us to care for the “sojourner.”
In the Old Testament, God commanded Israel to “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” (Leviticus 19:34). This passage forms the basis for Jesus’ New Testament command, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
Dozens of influential Evangelical pastors voiced this sentiment recently when they wrote:
We believe it is unjust to punish children for offenses they did not commit. We recognize that Dreamers are a special category of immigrants because they broke no law and committed no offense. How we treat this category of immigrants is therefore not just a policy or political issue—it is a moral issue. Subjecting Dreamers to deportation or lives of perpetual insecurity in the shadows of our communities is an offense to the rule of law and to the purpose of government, which is for the good of people.
The way we treat the most vulnerable people in our midst reveals something about who our nation really is and what type of nation we will be. Want to make America good and great? Don’t punish innocent young people for their parents’ illegal immigration. This is a matter of basic Christian justice.
By protecting the Dreamers, Congress will also be helping American workers by bolstering the American economy. As The Wall Street Journal calculated, past deportation plans, which initially included Dreamers, would increase federal spending by approximately $400 billion, reduce the U.S. labor force by more than 6 percent, and shrink the economy by nearly the same percentage. Protecting the innocent Dreamers would reduce significantly these enormous economic setbacks.
Finally, by protecting the Dreamers, Congress will be acting at the right time. The President has stated that he intends to deal fairly with Dreamers, and recent developments suggest that the White House is supportive of a legislative “deal” that would involve protecting Dreamers. A number of GOP legislators and donors have voiced their desire to protect Dreamers. Most significantly, a Fox News poll reveals that 83 percent of Americans support a pathway to citizenship.
With such a large majority of the American people wanting an immigration solution that protects these young people, what stops us from doing what is right? Fear? Anger? Dirty Politics? If we want America to be great, we must also be good, and that means that we consider both justice and mercy and find ways to extend both.
We can do that. In many ways, we are a great nation, but we must never forget that true greatness is tied to moral goodness. Deporting innocent young people or throwing them into legal limbo is neither good nor great. Causing them to spend their lives in the shadows as non-humans is neither good nor great. In replacing the short-term DACA with a long-term solution, conservatives can take a good step toward making America great again.
Bruce Ashford is provost and professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the co-author of “One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics.” Follow him on Twitter @BruceAshford.
Alan Cross is a Southern Baptist minister and the Executive Director of Community Development Initiatives in Montgomery, Alabama. He is the author of “When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus.” Follow him on Twitter @AlanLCross.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.