A group of evangelicals organized by Russell Moore is calling on Congress to allow DACA recipients to become eligible for status as legal residents or citizens.
Meanwhile, another coalition of evangelicals, which includes Eric Metaxas, is urging Congress to put Americans first, along with those who have applied to enter the U.S. legally.
Moore is president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). In a statement released Thursday, 51 signers expressed support for the goals of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program begun with an executive order by former President Obama. President Trump has rescinded the order but has given Congress a chance to act.
DACA allows young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children and who meet certain criteria to temporarily live and work in the U.S. Around 800,000 have received DACA status and nearly 690,000 are currently enrolled. DACA recipients are known as “Dreamers.”
“We support the underlying policy aim of DACA because we believe this is a special category of immigrants who are not legally culpable, who in most cases have no home other than the United States, and who are a blessing to their communities and to their churches,” reads the statement from Moore’s group. “At the same time, many of us shared a skepticism about the prudence of accomplishing the aim solely through temporary action of the Executive Branch. Indeed, the reversal of this policy and the uncertainty created for existing DACA recipients prove that a proper solution requires legislative action.”
Signers include former Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) presidents Ronnie Floyd, Bryant Wright, Jack Graham and James Merritt, as well as Union University President Samuel “Dub” Oliver and former Union University President David Dockery, now president of Trinity International University. Other signers include Union University political science professor Hunter Baker; Erick Erickson, editor of The Resurgent; Liberty University English professor Karen Swallow Prior; and Nashville pastor Ray Ortlund of Immanuel Church.
The statement outlines several principles held by the signers:
We believe it is unjust to punish children for offenses they did not commit.
We believe America’s borders must be secure.
We believe we should welcome Dreamers of good moral character and who are working hard to contribute to our country.
We believe Dreamers deserve to be recognized as our fellow Americans.
We believe our government should provide a pathway to permanent legal status and/or citizenship for eligible Dreamers.
We believe a just government works to maintain the integrity of families.
In September, a group called Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration (EBI) adopted a strikingly different tone in its letter to Trump and leaders of Congress while acknowledging that “immigration reform and DACA are difficult subjects.” The letter said:
While some faith groups use selective Bible words for open borders and amnesty, we consider the whole counsel of Scripture. We find that the Bible does not teach open borders, but wise welcome. We are to welcome the lawful foreigner, who, like a convert, comes as a blessing (eg.s Ruth and Rahab). We also find Nehemiah building walls to protect citizens from harm. In Isaiah 1, we see God condemning the destruction of borders and indigenous culture…
In policy decisions ahead, while treating undocumented people kindly, we ask that you would first and foremost honor often forgotten American citizens whose families have served our nation for many generations, and the patient people who have applied lawfully to come here and to become citizens of the United States. These lives also matter. These people also dream.
Signers of the EBI statement include Metaxas, an author and radio host; William “Jerry” Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council; and Kelly Kullberg of the American Association of Evangelicals (AAE).
Metaxas will speak this weekend at World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro.
DACA recipients are supposed to have no criminal record. More than 1,500 have have had their status revoked because of criminal and gang activity, and DACA critics say other crimes are going unaddressed. There are also reports of applicants providing false information to receive DACA status.