Over the years, our church has befriended many young people through our ministry to immigrant families. They are not abstract political problems but our friends and neighbors. And if given the chance, they would be model citizens who would bolster the economy for all U.S. workers.
They and others are waiting for a solution from Congress so they can continue, with confidence, to contribute to our communities, churches and workplaces. One student has faithfully attended our church’s activities for years. Intelligent and hardworking, he would be grateful to attain citizenship someday.
The Trump administration has indicated that it might not defend legal challenges to the federal policy granting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which has protected these young people from deportation.
But ending that program without a legislative solution in place would be short-sighted. It would divide many families, including those we minister to. These children came to the country through no choice of their own. Their dreams could be dashed without bipartisan solutions from our nation’s leaders.
That’s why it was so encouraging to see our own Sen. Lindsey Graham unveil a bill last week that would protect undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. The DREAM Act that he and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin are proposing would let more than 1 million youth earn legalized status and a pathway to citizenship if they meet certain requirements.
About 800,000 youth have registered with the government, passed background checks and are working and studying under deferred action. If they are deported, it would cost the country $60 billion initially, plus $280 billion in losses over 10 years, according to the CATO Institute.
As a Southern Baptist pastor, I am called to both respect the laws of the land and show compassion for vulnerable people, including immigrant youth. Jesus commands believers to love their neighbors. These young people are some of our most vulnerable neighbors. I can no more forget them than I can forget the commands of the Bible.
Sen. Graham implored Republicans to be on the right side of history in our country’s immigration debate. “When they write the history of those times,” Graham said, “I’m going to be with these kids.”
I’m going to be with these kids too.
Rev. Brandon Sandifer
Pastor, Pineview Baptist Church