‘Pass the Dream Act Now!’ immigration advocates urge

Many of the approximately 700,000 young immigrants known as Dreamers were brought to the U.S. as children without proper documents; but they are trying to remain here legally to live productive, law-abiding, aspirational lives.

They may have just won a temporary reprieve from fair-minded U.S. judges. But their fight is not over.

Indeed, the Eastern PA Conference Rapid Response Team (RRT), which advocates for immigration justice and mercy, implores conference members and churches to make it our fight, too. They urge us to contact our U.S. senators and Congressional representatives right now and continuously, by letter and telephone, and urge them to “Pass the Dream Act Now!”

The young people have until now benefited from DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order initiated by former President Barack Obama. But current President Donald Trump last September rescinded that order effective March 5. That action could lead to mass deportation of these lifelong U.S. residents back to native countries they do not know and where they have never really lived.

Our Rapid Response Team, along with the UM Board of Church & Society and other teams and agencies around the U.S., are calling for a “Clean” DACA bill, unencumbered by compromising or inhibiting, anti-immigrant legislation. Meanwhile, district judges in California and New York are preventing the Trump Administration from ending DACA on March 5, while plaintiffs challenge the policy change in court as an “arbitrary and capricious” violation of federal procedure.

Attorney Christina Galvan (left), of the Solow, Isbell & Palladino firm, specializing in Immigration and Nationality Law, consults with a family, part of a service provided to immigrants by Casa del Pueblo, a ministry of Lehman UMC in Hatboro.

The Administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and lift the temporary injunction prematurely; but it refused, allowing plaintiffs to have their day in court. DACA recipients—who enjoy broad public support for their cause—may continue to work jobs and attend school for now, and also apply for renewal of their expiring certificates for up to two years. But those who have not had valid DACA certificates can no longer apply and are subject to removal.

“The U.S. Congress is now deciding on whether, and how, to protect these immigrant young people, and they need to hear from us,” urges the Rev. Jeania Ree Moore of Church & Society, which provides on its website a sample advocacy letter anyone may use. “Urge Congress to vote Yes on legislation that is focused on a pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth, and to reject any proposals that would fundamentally change our immigration system, especially family sponsorship and access to asylum.”

The Rev. Lilian “Luky” Cotto and Ruth Daugherty, co-chairs of our conference RRT, are seeking Church & Society funds to sponsor workshops this spring to help churches learn about providing Sanctuary for at-risk Dreamers. They also want to prepare trainees to go into communities and teach people about their rights and how to avoid arrest by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Meanwhile, there is “immense urgency for Congress to do the right thing on the Dream Act,” said Cotto and Daugherty, who provide resource documents on our Immigration Ministry Concerns webpage. “While the injunction ensures that these young immigrants can rightfully reapply for DACA, it is still only a temporary solution.”

While Congress bickers, and the President rejects multiple bipartisan deals, time is running out for Dreamers worried about losing their American future. A permanent legislative solution is critically needed; and so are the voices of people of faith to advocate for mercy and justice.

The Rev. Lilian “Luky” Cotto (center) is pastor/director of Casa del Pueblo, a Latino faith community sponsored by Lehman UMC in Hatboro. Casa offers worship, discipleship training, community organizing and outreach, cultural events and Anawim, a school of music and dance for children and youth. Increasing federal arrests and deportation of undocumented persons has incited fear and anxiety among local immigrants and their families. But Cotto was able to recruit immigration attorney Christina Galvan (left) and psychotherapist Sharyvette Mattos to offer low-cost legal consultation and psychological counseling, respectively, to individuals and families who need help. John Coleman photo