As usual, Bishop Peggy Johnson is receiving both impassioned agreement and vehement opposition to her advocacy for justice and mercy for undocumented immigrants. Some or those voicing the latter sentiment typically tell her she should stay away from politics and proclaim only Jesus’s gospel of salvation.
The outspoken bishop wrote to churches and members of her two annual conferences—Eastern PA and Peninsula-Delaware—last week urging broad, active support for the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) in the U.S. Congress. The bill would grant conditional, legal residency to qualifying immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children by their parents and eventually extend permanent residency to those who qualify.
An estimated 800,000 “Dreamers” reside in the U.S., building lives, families and careers for themselves, while contributing to our society. But many are hiding in fear of arrest and deportation. Former President Barack Obama tried to shield some of them through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) temporary executive order, which President Donald Trump recently rescinded, effective next March.
Advocacy for the immediate return of DACA’s protection and timely passage of the DREAM Act is growing across the nation among diverse supporters, while others oppose any measures to legalize or offer conditional amnesty to undocumented immigrants.
Citing scripture and the UMC’s Social Principles (162.H – Right of Immigrants), Bishop Johnson wrote “We, the Rapid Response Team and I, ask that you participate individually and as a church in this advocacy by getting signatures and submitting them to your senators and representatives, making phone calls and keeping all those affected in your prayers.”
She attached a sample letter and petition form to be signed and sent to U.S. Senators in the three states covered by her episcopal area, including Pennsylvania Senators Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), and Pat Toomey (R-PA). The letter and petition are being inserted in district newsletters and church worship bulletins, in the hope that many will sign, share and send it to their senators. “I would like to have 100% participation from all churches,” wrote the bishop.
“Eliminating the DACA program denies the stance we have taken as a nation to care for children and to support programs that benefit families,” reads the letter. “Young people who came to the United States as children are being punished and denied a future that can contribute to their well-being and to benefit our country.
“The Dreamers have had to pay legal and processing fees in order to have the benefits from the DACA program to work and attend school,” the letter continues, providing information shared by Bishop Minerva Carcaño, who heads the UMC Immigration Task Force. “In order to work, they must apply for work permits every two years at a cost of approximately $500. These young people have contributed to our society by working in diverse industries, medical institutions, the military, etc., paying taxes and Social Security without being eligible for any of those benefits.
“We urge you to pass legislations that will grant these young people the ability to live and work legally in the United States,” the urgent appeal to Senators concludes, “contributing to our society without fear of separation from their families, deportation to countries they do not know and languages they do not speak.” The letter is cosigned by Rapid Response Teams that address immigration concerns in the two conferences, plus church members and the Eastern PA Conference UM Women.
The Rev. Jeania Ree V. Moore, Director of Civil and Human Rights at the UMC’s General Board of Church and Society sent out this information re: DACA renewals:
All persons whose DACA expires by March 5, 2018 can apply for a renewal but it must be received by next Thursday, October 5, 2017
Many organizations are making funds and lawyers available to assist with the $495 renewal fee and processing. Here is information on several funding sources:
Also see www.informedimmigrant.com to find a legal clinic in your area for assistance in renewing your DACA, or to contribute to a DACA renewal fund near you.