Reflections | December 20, 2017

'I cannot be silent'

DACA demonstration in Washington DC
Photo by Greg Davidson Laszakovits

What would it take for you to leave your daily commitments, travel across the country, live in a dormitory, sit in long meetings to make yourself a pseudo expert in public policy, and then work up the gumption to “lobby” legislators and their legislative correspondents at Senate and Congressional offices? Then, following all of that, stand in the cold for hours to take part in civil disobedience knowing you will be arrested and booked? That is exactly what hundreds of people—many of them faith leaders—did last week to bring attention to the plight of nearly 800,000 so-called “Dreamers.”

Dreamers are now-young adults who were brought the United States as minors and who lived “undocumented” until the creation of a 2012 federal government program (DACA: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) that granted them temporary legal status. President Trump recently discontinued DACA, in effect leaving these young people with an uncertain and frightening future. That future now rests in the hands of bitterly divided US Congress. If no legislation is passed these young people will face deportation to countries many of them do not ever remember leaving.

As is typical these days, there is no shortage of opinions about whether Dreamers should be permitted to stay. Some argue that deportation of Dreamers is an obvious consequence because they were brought to the US illegally or have overstayed their legal entry. Others, including the current US Attorney General, go so far as to imply that to allow Dreamers to stay will amount to a rise in crime, violence, and even terrorism (Sept. 5, 2017).

Pastor Greg Laszakovits with sign supporting
Photo courtesy of Greg Davidson Laszakovits

Advocates for Dreamers point to studies showing immigration has no effect on crime (UC Irvine June 27, 2017). Business leaders, including the US Chamber of Commerce, counter that to remove DACA and not replace it legislatively would be economically counter-productive as 97% of Dreamers are employed or in school. Most legislators, Republicans and Democrats, are on the record that mass deportation would be cruel, and that a compassionate solution for them to stay in the US must be found.

Yet I am left to wonder, What is our Christian opinion? Looking first to scripture we read in Leviticus 19:24 that “the alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you,” and goes on to encourage God’s people to remember when they were strangers in a strange land. Perhaps Jesus’ best-known teaching story, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, is about a foreigner who acts in kindness and shows the true meaning of God’s limitless love. Time and again, our scriptures are clear that compassion and love rule the day when it comes to how we treat one another; human boundaries borders are impediments to the love of Christ that knows no boundaries or borders.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr once said: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." This matters, and I cannot be silent. I will no longer abide the thinly veiled racism that is present in much of the anti-Dreamer/immigrant sentiment I hear. As a Christian citizen, grounded in scripture, compelled by faith, it is clear to me that Dreamers have a place in this country and that place should be made legal. Join me.

Greg Davidson Laszakovits is a pastor at the Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren. Follow him on twitter @PastorGregDL.