Washington, DC – Yesterday, directly-impacted immigrants, faith leaders, and advocates hosted a virtual event titled “Faith Voices Call: Citizenship for All!” to discuss the urgent need for Congress to establish pathways to citizenship for DACA recipients and all 11 million undocumented immigrants this year.
The gathering was prompted by two recent and devastating court rulings on DACA. In early October, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that DACA is unlawful and returned the case to a lower court for further consideration. Then on October 17, Judge Andrew Hanen announced that he will block new and first-time DACA applications from being processed.
These decisions deeply impact the lives of thousands of immigrant youth and underscore the urgency for Congress to deliver a permanent legislative solution.
Event speakers provided an update on the current status of DACA and the state of play in Congress, shared how immigrants can care for themselves during this difficult time, and highlighted ways that people of faith can take action. A recording of the event is available here.
Josh Stehlik of National Immigration Law Center (NILC) provided a legal overview, sharing: “DACA renewals can and should still be filed, [however] the latest court decisions signal the potential end of DACA ahead. Because of that uncertainty, NILC and many of our allies are pushing for Congress to deliver a permanent legislative fix so that DACA recipients don’t have to live from one legal decision to the next and have their stability and livelihood hang on unpredictable legal outcomes.”
Boonyarit Daraphant, an undocumented artist and entrepreneur from Thailand, shared: “I came to the States when I was 13 and became undocumented. Without papers, I wasn’t able to drive until California passed a law in 2016, I couldn’t go to school, I couldn’t work legally for the most part… Without community, and without the support of people like y’all, it’s hard to get out of the survival mentality mindset. I think the thing I struggle with the most, being undocumented, is finding stability in my life… separation from family, the inability to never professionalize, having this feeling of being less than and never being welcome, living in fear for such a long time, and not knowing what it means to be stable and work towards a future. I think we just need to take care of each other and keep fighting.”
“It’s easy to say why someone like me and Boonyarit would want to advocate for the importance of DACA and the overall welfare of immigrants,” remarked Andrea Flores, a DACA recipient from North Carolina. “We’re the ones on the front-lines experiencing the many limitations and challenges that come along with being undocumented. Even DACA itself isn’t perfect. Regardless, immigrants have been here for many years and make vital contributions to this country. I would go as far as to say that American citizens DEPEND on immigrants, as they serve in our military, contribute to our economy, and serve our communities as teachers and health care providers…
Together with their families, immigrants make our nation a better place and if Americans pride themselves as being ‘a nation of immigrants’ or stand for the core ideas of freedom, peace, and opportunity that the U.S. flag and the Statue of Liberty represent, then why not also assert and empower anyone who seeks a better life and home here in the U.S.? Empowering others enables people of all backgrounds to recognize that we are all equal members of this community that is Earth; that we all share a common home for which we each have a responsibility. And in order to have true equity for all, we must address the root causes (political, economic, social) that keep certain people at the margins of society.”
“It’s hard to see congressional inaction to protect Dreamers, DACA recipients, and undocumented immigrants as anything but a willful choice. However, we know that political challenges, cruelty, fear, and chaos are not indestructible barriers. And we don’t stop there. We know that we cannot accept anything less than full, equitable protections for our undocumented community members,” said Anika Forrest, the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).
Giovana Oaxaca of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) added: “The optimal future we want, where families stay together, siblings, children, and family members can reunify, and eventually, people who have living in the US for years, can come onto a path to citizenship—that’s within our reach, we just need the moral imagination and political will to make it happen”
- Kendal McBroom, Director of Civil and Human Rights at the General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church
- Josh Stehlik, Deputy Legal Director at the National Immigration Law Center
- Boonyarit Daraphant, undocumented artist and entrepreneur from Thailand
- Andrea Flores, DACA recipient
- Anika Forrest, Legislative Manager for Migration Policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)
- Giovana Oaxaca, Program Director for Migration Policy at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Interfaith Immigration Coalition is made up of over 55 national, faith-based organizations brought together across many theological traditions with a common call to seek just policies that lift up the God-given dignity of every individual. In partnership, we work to protect the rights, dignity, and safety of all refugees and migrants. Follow us on Twitter @interfaithimm