Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Stated Clerk Writes the President and Congress to continue DACA and pass the Dream Act

The PC(USA) has constantly and consistently focused on family unification, family reunification, and the need for comprehensive immigration reform that would offer a more permanent solution to the millions of undocumented who call the U.S. home. However, as comprehensive reform seems a distant dream, we continue to be in solidarity supporting movements that have led to DACA and the reintroduction of bills like the Dream Act of 2017. These two letters from the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly—one to the President of the United States (PDF) urging that DACA continue and one to the members of Congress (PDF) to pass the Dream Act—are visible signs of solidarity.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) stands with the approximately 800,000 young people who have received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) relief since 2012, and the more than estimated 1 million who would benefit from the Dream Act. The DACA program was established by a coordinated effort by young, undocumented immigrants, the Obama Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security to provide relief from deportation to those young people who entered the United States as children. The Dream Act would give this same population the opportunity for a legal path to resolve their precarious circumstance.
Image result for dreamers immigrationThe Dreamers are a group of young people who were born in another country, but grew up in the United States. They call the United States home. They know this place more than their country of origin. They have friends here. They have studied here. They have built their lives here. They have also organized to lift their voices to bring national attention to their situation. Many, as they finished high school, were left lingering without the legal stability and proper documentation to fulfill the next steps of their development. They have dreams, and they want to achieve their dreams.
The 220th General Assembly (2012) clearly stated that all governing bodies of the church should “actively [advocate] for legislation such as the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) that offers hope for young immigrants by providing a pathway to citizenship” (Minutes, 2012, Part I, p. 1140, electronic version). Several times the Dream Act has been introduced in the House and/or the Senate, but never in the same year. Without that legislation in place, the Dreamers organized seeking another avenue. DACA was introduced to assist, giving these individuals relief from deportation and providing access to state IDs, drivers’ licenses, work authorization, and higher education. In fact, we have seen approximately 800,000 Dreamers provided the opportunity to continue their education, enter the military, obtain better paying jobs with better working conditions, and raise families. They have fought tirelessly for their rights and, as engaged members of our communities, they exemplify our country at its best. They have also had significant impact on local communities with 48 percent finding jobs with better working conditions, 63 percent finding better paying jobs, 90 percent having received drivers’ licenses or state IDs, and 12 percent purchasing their first home. These individual improvements compute to local improvements, too. This is a decision that not only supports one population, but causes the positive rippling effects throughout our nation.
The PC(USA) understands the urgency. We understand that we are talking about our very own members, leaders, pastors, and friends. Let us help carry this beacon of light.
The two letter are below.


OFFICE OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
J. HERBERT NELSON, II
STATED CLERK

Friday, August 04, 2017

Dear Mr. President,

As the top elected ecclesial officer of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a denomination of 1.3 million members, I write to urge you to ensure and defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for the remainder of your presidency. We are a denomination in which our national governing body has voted time and again to stand in solidarity and fight for a just resolution of the legal limbo we have seen so many young people confront as they strive to become full participants in U.S. society. I speak particularly about the group of young people who arrived as children, brought to the United States by their parents. DACA has provided these same individuals the opportunity to live without fear and to seek a fuller life.

Because of DACA, approximately 800,000 young people, called Dreamers, have been able to continue their education, enter the military, obtain better paying jobs with better working conditions, and raise families. They have fought tirelessly for their rights and as engaged members of our communities, they exemplify our country at its best. They have also had significant impact on local communities with 48 percent finding jobs with better working conditions, 63 percent finding better paying jobs, 90 percent having received driver’s licenses or state IDs, and 12 percent purchasing their first home. These individual improvements compute to local improvements, too.

Many are members of our churches. In my service to the church as pastor to congregations and now in a pastoral role for the entire PC(USA), I have preached to, counseled with, and prayed with people from many walks of life, never thinking of them as anything other than children of God. These young people are not strangers in our congregations, but active members made in the image of God. The Bible teaches us that if one member suffers, we all suffer along with them.

DACA recipients entered this country as children. They often know this country more than the one they have left behind. They have made friends; they have studied in schools; they have dreamed about their future. Though not all “succeed” in the conventional sense—frequently due to discriminatory laws and complicity with various forms of discrimination—as people of faith we are called to walk with all the vulnerable in our society and support them in their struggles.

Rescinding DACA would be an appalling rejection of our faith and our nation’s values of compassion and welcome. DACA recipients are mothers, fathers, teachers, nurses, lawyers, scientists, our neighbors, and leaders of a new generation. Made in the image of our Creator, Dreamers and their families are inextricably woven into the fabric of our nation and play an invaluable role in our society. When the immigration system focuses only on enforcement, we close doors to other possibilities. We eliminate the future potential of our communities. We eliminate the possibility of a positive narrative in the public sphere. It speaks against our values as a country and it smacks against our understanding of our faith. We are called to love our neighbor, and so we fervently support DACA recipients and the continuation of the program.

We have heard the clamor of voices in the Dreamers movement. They have not stood by and idled, waiting for change to happen for them. These individuals understand what it means to be an active citizen practicing their own agency, and have long fought for their rights. They are examples of democracy at its core and what the U.S.A. holds dear. I urge you to respond by deciding for positive changes in their lives and in our communities. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will continue to stand by them in solidarity.

In the faith we share,
Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)


OFFICE OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
J. HERBERT NELSON, II
STATED CLERK

Friday, August 04, 2017

Dear Distinguished Members of Congress,

As the top elected ecclesial officer of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a denomination of 1.3 million members, I write to urge you to support specific legislation that supports a path to permanency, protection, and safety for the Dreamers population. We also ask that you work to keep DACA in place until legislation can be implemented so that this population is not consumed by the unwarranted burden of the uncertainty and fear of deportation. The PC(USA) is a denomination in which our national governing body has voted time and again to stand in solidarity and fight for a just resolution of the legal limbo we have seen so many young people confront as they strive to become full participants in U.S. society. We see you as integral partners in seeking out that path to justice.

Because of DACA, we have seen approximately 800,000 Dreamers provided the opportunity to continue their education, enter the military, obtain better paying jobs with better working conditions, and raise families. They have fought tirelessly for their rights, and as engaged members of our communities, they exemplify our country at its best. They have also had significant impact on local communities with 48 percent finding jobs with better working conditions, 63 percent finding better paying jobs, 90 percent having received driver’s licenses or state IDs, and 12 percent purchasing their first home. These individual improvements compute to local improvements, too. This is a decision that not only supports one population, but causes the positive rippling effects throughout our nation.

Many are members of our churches. In my service to the church as pastor to congregations and now in a pastoral role for the entire PC(USA), I have preached to, counseled with, and prayed with people from many walks of life, never thinking of them as anything other than children of God. These young people are not strangers in our congregations, but active members made in the image of God. The Bible teaches us that if one member suffers, we all suffer along with them.

Dreamers recipients entered this country as children. They often know this country more than the one they have left behind. They have made friends, they have studied in schools, they have dreamed about their future. Though not all “succeed” in the conventional sense—frequently due to discriminatory laws and complicity with various forms of discrimination—as people of faith we are called to walk with all the vulnerable in our society and support them in their struggles. I ask you, as a congressional member, to right this wrong.

Responding out of our nation’s values of compassion and welcome, this population deserves our support. They are mothers, fathers, teachers, nurses, lawyers, scientists, our neighbors, and leaders of a new generation. Made in the image of our Creator, Dreamers and their families are inextricably woven into the fabric of our nation and play an invaluable role in our society. When the immigration system focuses only on enforcement, we close doors to other possibilities. We eliminate the future potential of our communities. It speaks against our values as a country and it smacks against our understanding of our faith. We are called to love our neighbor, and so we fervently support Dreamers and their journey to seek a permanent solution to their precarious circumstance.

We have heard the clamor of voices in the Dreamers movement. They have not stood by and waited idly for change to happen for them. These individuals understand what it means to be active citizens, practicing their own agency, and have long fought for their rights. They are examples of democracy at its core and what the U.S.A. holds dear. Let us respond by deciding for positive changes in their lives and in our communities. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will continue to stand by them in solidarity.

In the faith we share,

Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

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