People of faith must support 'Dreamers'
In the hours after Election Day 2016, students at colleges and universities across the country voiced their concerns over what a Donald Trump presidency might mean for climate change, civil rights and immigration.
We now have six months from which to make judgments on Trump as president. Over and over again, on issues such as immigration and policing, Trump has sided with the white nationalists who make up much of his political base.
As we saw during the recent violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, Mr. Trump cannot bring himself to condemn white supremacy. Which brings us to the unresolved issue of how the United States will treat this nation's "Dreamers."
Dreamers refers to the group of people who were brought into this country without legal documentation and were offered limited protection though an executive action: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
In a nutshell, the University of California at Berkeley describes DACA as "a kind of administrative relief from deportation. The purpose of DACA is to protect eligible immigrant youth who came to the United States when they were children from deportation. DACA gives young undocumented immigrants: 1) protection from deportation, and 2) a work permit. The program expires after two years, subject to renewal."
Trump promised during the campaign to immediately halt the DACA program. Since then he has made confusing statements on the issue. Eliminating DACA is a major issue for white nationalists, but religious groups and many university presidents have told the president not to mess with the program. We have a moral obligation to do whatever possible to protect students from deportation. In religious terms, this is about welcoming the stranger.
As many as 742,000 students — including an estimated 21,000 in Oregon — could be impacted by a discontinuation of DACA, a program implemented by President Obama in the face of hardcore opposition by Republican members of Congress to approve comprehensive immigration reform put forth by Obama and President George W. Bush before him.
Faith leaders have rallied across the nation, in places like Chicago and Portland, to urge that DACA is kept in place. Students potentially impacted by a DACA discontinuation should be treated as being of sacred worth and not as disposable people.
Legislation introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., would stop Trump in his tracks if passed by Congress. HuffPost reports that "the bipartisan bill, called the Bridge Act, would effectively maintain the protections of President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA."
To be clear from a theological standpoint, God is the God of all, and borders are not of primary concern. Pope Francis said this of Trump in 2016: "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel."
This principle articulated by Pope Francis should be applied to any politician who professes the Christian faith but advocates deporting DACA students.
People of faith have a lot to protect as Trump continues to rip apart the fabric of our nation: pitting immigrants against African-Americans, Christians against Muslims and rural Americans against those in our larger cities.
Trump, who claims to be a Christian, should remember the words of Scripture, found in Exodus 22:21-27: "You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt."
The Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie is the director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality and university chaplain at Pacific University. An earlier version of this op-ed appeared in The Huffington Post.