We have been hopeful that Congress would pass a law to protect Dreamers, whose lives are in limbo, from deportation. But we’re still waiting, and the clock is ticking.
As we – a Dreamer brought to the United States at age 5 and an evangelical pastor – pray and look to our God for strength, we recommit ourselves to speaking out and making sure that our leaders in Congress act with immediacy.
Time is of the essence. On November 12, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over whether the Trump administration has the right to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has allowed some 800,000 young people the opportunity to work, create jobs, study and participate in local faith communities without fear of deportation.
Thousands of young people whose DACA status was not renewed already have lost the protection and work authorization it offered. And if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Trump administration – allowing the president to wind down the program – an estimated 1,000 people per day could lose their ability to work and stay in the U.S. as their DACA expires.
We urgently need a permanent legislative solution that provides Dreamers certainty and allows them to solidify and deepen their contributions.
I (Maria) am one of these young people with an expiration date. For 17 years I have been living in Arizona, where DACA has allowed me to serve my community and spread love in a world that is hurting, something Jesus calls us to do.
I’ve long dreamed of becoming a doctor. But with my DACA status in jeopardy, I’m not sure I’ll be able to practice one day. Despite earning an associate degree with the highest distinction from Paradise Valley Community College, becoming a certified nursing assistant and completing an internship at Phoenix’s Maricopa Medical Center, I learned that my immigration status prohibits me from attending the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine in Phoenix. Instead, I’m a patient server at Mayo Clinic and saving up for a nursing degree in pediatrics. Without certainty around DACA, it is hard to keep going.
I (Caleb) serve as lead pastor of a church in north Phoenix. Maria previously volunteered as one of our staff leaders, serving our congregation’s children and students. She was an excellent teammate, a diligent employee and a growing leader. She is a vital part of our church family and community.
The Bible calls us to stand for justice, especially for immigrants. Our values require a solution, which would benefit not only Dreamers but also the native-born Americans who attend church with and work alongside them.
The economic contributions of Dreamers in Arizona are strong. The Center for American Progress estimates that deporting all 27,865 Arizona DACA recipients would result in a more than $1.3 billion loss. This would devastate not only those directly affected by deportation, but also many other families who call Arizona home.
Maria and hundreds of thousands of young people like her are living in limbo, unable to plan for a future in the country that is their only home. Even if Congress were to pass a solution today and the president were to sign it, implementing it would take seven months or more.
Congress cannot act soon enough. We have been heartened to see support on both sides of the aisle for a constructive solution, but supporters must turn that momentum into results. For these young people who are American in nearly every way, and for all of us who have come to know and support them, any further delay is unacceptable.
Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our members of Congress, Rep. David Schweikert and Sens. Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema, must take this calling to heart and create a path forward for Dreamers — and President Trump must sign it into law.
It’s for the good of our community, our state and our nation.
Pastor Caleb Campbell serves as lead pastor of Desert Springs Bible Church in Phoenix.
Maria Del Socorro Leon Pena previously served as student ministries coordinator at Desert Springs Bible Church in Phoenix. She is now a patient server at Mayo Clinic.