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Time is running out for Congress to pass law to protect ‘Dreamers’


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.

Caleb Campbell

Caleb Campbell

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-del-socorro-leon-penaMaria 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.


  1. The compassionate approach to viewing the Immigration situation in America is what has lead us to the amplified pleas of those directly affected because they were in violation the day they arrived in America and remain in violation of law today. The simple truth is they were brought here in violation of law and remain here in violation of law with the expectation of being legalized in one form of amnesty or another. When the Immigration Laws were not and are not enforced that policy leads to more lawlessness and what DACA and Dreamer situations have created in a sense is an unfunded mandate with most of the burden falling on state and local governments to the detriment of American citizens. Lawlessness begets more lawlessness. We are either a nation of laws or we are not. What is actually being promoted here is not compassion it is amnesty and that is the larger problem. NO MORE AMNESTY.

  2. The Bible may call us to stand for justice, but the U.S. Constitution calls us to enforce its provisions against the federal government. Article I, Section 8 spells out the authority granted to Congress. That authority includes control over “naturalization” (the process of becoming a citizen) but not “immigration.” Federal immigration laws are not authorized by the Constitution, therefore the 10th amendment applies—“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    The states have the sole, legitimate authority to control immigration within their borders. We need to stop turning to Washington to fix a problem that Washington created.

    Article II of the Constitution requires the President to faithfully execute the laws passed by Congress. Presidents do not have the authority to change public policy by deciding not to execute the laws created by Congress.

    So, Congress passed unconstitutional immigration laws, the President illegally circumvented those laws with his DACA program, a bunch of people jumped on the opportunity and are now caught in a legal pinch. The correct solution is for all federal immigration laws to be stricken from books and for each state to create their own policy for dealing with immigrants. States like California are likely to welcome anyone without limitation, while states like Texas may create a more arduous path for those seeking to enter.

    Although it would likely result in a hodge-podge of conflicting state laws, it would, at least, pass Constitutional muster.

  3. The Immigration and Nationality Act is an Act of Congress and standing Federal Law. Enforcing existing law will come closer to solving our immigration problems than putting our trust in Congress to do what is right for America. The thrust of the Supreme Courts Decision on Arizona SB-1070 in essence strongly suggested that Arizona law that is in aid of Federal Law and not inconsistent with Federal Law is constitutional so we are back to enforcing existing law in Arizona both State and Federal as the remedy at hand. Since we are a nation of laws it makes perfect sense to enforce existing law and DACA/Dreamers were created in violation of law and those claimants must go home whether voluntarily or otherwise.

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