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As Some in the GOP Gear Up to Kill DACA, Leaders from Across the Spectrum Are Rising Up to Defend It

Jul 11, 2017

  Commentary: Make no mistake about it. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is threatened as never before. Led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a group of anti-immigrant hardliners  – in and out of government  – are demanding that President Trump kill DACA by September 5th. If not, Paxton plans to bring the matter before Judge Andrew Hanen, the notorious anti-immigrant judge who blocked the implementation of DAPA until it, too, was killed off by the Trump Administration.

Unless Trump heads this off, the elimination of DACA could erupt as one of the defining battles of his presidency. For an early indication of the kind of blowback the Trump and the GOP should expect, we highlight the following opinion pieces from educators, conservative faith leaders, and community leaders.

Dean of the College of Public Policy at the University of Texas at San Antonio Rogelio Saenz calls on the nation and the Administration to rally behind DACA-recipients and young undocumented immigrants in a new op-ed titled  “AG Paxton's attack on DACA program for young immigrants is cruel” for the Dallas Morning News:

“It is extremely disappointing to see Paxton at the forefront of a movement to dehumanize and take away the valuable privileges that have been extended to DACA recipients, rights that allow them to come out of the shadows. Paxton and his co-signers refer to DACA holders as "otherwise unlawfully present aliens," words that are venomous daggers that puncture the humanity of these young people who, for the most part, have only known the United States as their home.

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Without the allowances that the DACA program grants, DACA recipients would be barred to the margins of society, with no access to higher education, facing exploitation and subpar wages in the underground workforce. This is exactly where Paxton seeks to put DACA holders.

Unfortunately, Paxton's vicious, menacing and mean-spirited goal is not unique to him. Nine other attorneys general, as well as the governor of Idaho, C.L. "Butch" Otter, who also signed the letter, share Paxton's feelings.

In addition, Paxton's own far-right Republican colleagues in Texas have increasingly proven that they have no sympathy for DACA recipients and unauthorized immigrants. At the federal level,  President Donald Trump and Attorney General Sessions are not allies of the DACA program. Despite his words that he likes DACA holders and that they are safe, Trump's vacillating brings no sense of comfort or security.

Supporters of DACA recipients need to organize and rally the troops to pressure their representatives to ensure that Paxton's threatening letter does not realize its goal. DACA holders are not "otherwise unlawfully present aliens," they are our children, relatives, friends, students and workers.

It would be detrimental to all if the DACA program is terminated and these young adults are thrust back to the shadows, increasingly deportable. Certainly this would tarnish the nation's sense of human compassion.”

From the perspective of a Christian, Hispanic, and conservative, Dallas-based Reverend Mark Gonzales writes for The Monitor this week calling on the Administration to find compassion and allow Dreamers to pursue the American Dream:

“As Christians, Hispanics and conservatives, we feel we have a unique and important perspective on this issue. We strongly believe our faith and our conservative values call us to support DACA participants and advocate for them to stay in what in many cases is the only country they know.

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In Texas there are more than 200,000 people who have been approved for DACA. Nationwide, roughly 750,000 people participate in DACA; of them 90 percent are employed. Many are students, and a sizable portion of them have started businesses of their own. These are law-abiding and contributing members of our society who have built lives in our country and help generate growth and jobs. They are exactly the kind of immigrants we should want in the United States.

...the federal government made a promise to these young people — they came out of the shadows, registered and paid a fee for the program, all in good faith. Punishing them now would be not only an egregious breach of faith, but also an injustice that makes a mockery of the rule of law.

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As in all things, The Bible has much to teach us. The book of Leviticus says that, “you shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.” In America, which is a nation of immigrants, every one of us, or our ancestors, were once “strangers” in this land. But DACA recipients are, from a legal standpoint at least, strangers in the land they already call “home.” As Christians and conservatives, our values demand compassion and a welcoming spirit in this case. We can and should apply these values to DACA participants, who want nothing more than to pursue their own American Dream.”

Gus Reyes, director of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, and Senior Pastor Steve Branson highlight the economic and societal contributions of DACA-recipients in their call for the Administration to “Protect young undocumented immigrants” in a new piece for the San Antonio Express-News:

“As evangelical pastors and leaders in our Texas communities, we care about our immigrant neighbors. With DACA, the Department of Homeland Security has its priorities straight: We should not devote our immigration enforcement resources to young people...who want to study, work and contribute.

In their hearts, they are Americans. This is the only land they have ever known.

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By the same token, we are deeply grieved by the threat of a Texas-led lawsuit regarding DACA. We grieve as pastors, as leaders and as Texans.

As evangelical pastors and leaders, we believe that every person, being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28), has worth, value and creative potential. We affirm God’s love for all people and his call for us to minister to and care for the widow, orphan, the poor and the sojourner (Zechariah 7:8-12). We seek to lead our congregations to understand Jesus’ call to welcome the stranger, clearly outlined in the gospel of Matthew 25, and practice biblical hospitality.

As Texans, we recognize the benefits of an educated workforce and its importance to the continued economic success of our state. DACA students and their families are also making significant economic contributions to higher education: In 2013, DACA students in Texas paid $51.6 million in tuition and fees, in addition to an estimated $1.5 billion in state and local taxes, which in part fund higher education here.

Texas is better than this. Yes, DACA is only a temporary fix until Congress puts legislation in place and provides stability. Until then, though, its revocation would lead to the deportation of many young people with no alternatives, few resources and no home in the countries to which they would return.

In Micah 6:8, we see what God considers “good and required” by the Lord: to do justice and love mercy. Texas and our nation must follow God’s heart and love mercy.”

And finally, in the Arizona Republic, Steve Seleznow, president and CEO of Arizona Community Foundation, reacts to the Arizona Court of Appeals decision to revoke in-state tuition for Dreamers and calls on Arizona Governor Ducey and the Board of Regents to protect all students:

“This decision impacts 240 DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students at state universities and more than 2,000 DACA students in Maricopa Community Colleges, though the total number of students affected is expected to be greater statewide.

If the state Supreme Court upholds the decision, this will be a setback for the state. Arizona needs an educated population to be competitive with other states in attracting new economic development.

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The decision to make DACA students ineligible for in-state tuition is disastrous. DACA students can expect to see tuition increases of 150 percent per student at state universities and nearly 300 percent on average at community colleges across the state.

We can’t make up the difference in the financial gap created by this decision and the scholarships we award will have a much smaller impact on the affordability for students eligible to receive these scholarships.

Basically, this decision will shut out hundreds of qualified students and eliminate college as an option. Is squandering of talent something we Arizonans want?

When Gov. Doug Ducey took office, he pledged to improve “Arizona’s brand.” He eloquently argued that ill-conceived decisions of the past had hurt the state’s national standing, hampered economic growth and limited opportunities for Arizona citizens. But you earn the brand you have based on the actions taken.

Is squandering talent the brand we want? Is there an upside to this decision that benefits our state? No one has articulated such — as there is no upside for Arizona.”