Five years ago, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) came into effect under the Obama Administration. Since then, an estimated 800,000 children, all of whom were brought illegally to the U.S. when they were minors, have been protected under this law. Essentially, this program provides visas for people to receive internships, jobs and educational opportunities for a two-year period.
In early September 2017, the Trump administration announced that the DACA program is being rescinded. This means that no new applications will be processed. Congress has been given six months to find a legislative solution regarding what to do with all the current DACA recipients.
It is overwhelming to think that the fate of 800,000 young people is now threatened with life-changing uncertainty. In almost all cases, these individuals did not have a say in their immigration and have spent their entire lives in the U.S. This is their home; this is their life. This issue goes beyond politics. This is about protecting the established lives of innocent people, who are now terrified of being completely uprooted from all they have ever known.
As Anabaptists, we must stand with DACA recipients. Above all else, we are followers of Jesus, people who obey his teachings. We are responsible to act in a way that embodies the love and justice that Jesus first showed us. We read his commandment in Mark to “love our neighbor” and seek to model this in a way that unmistakably showcases God’s heart for all of his people.
But how can we practically apply this to the current situation surrounding DACA? There are many ways in which we can help. Nothing is too small or insignificant, whether it is calling a Senator, volunteering at an immigration office, or just sitting down and praying.
I also challenge each of you, as brothers and sisters in Christ, to intentionally seek out someone who has been affected by the decision to end DACA. I have learned that the best way to understand the circumstances of others is by connecting with them directly. The reality is one of the 800,000 probably resides in your town or goes to your school, stands behind you at the checkout line or even worships next to you in church without you even realizing it.
When we humanize an issue, adding faces and emotions to it, something like the decision to end DACA becomes real. That is how we wake up from our compassion fatigue and stand up for what is right. That is how we embody the love of Jesus to our neighbors.