Cooperative Baptist Fellowship leaders applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 18 decision that blocks deportation of about 700,000 residents who came to the United States as children and who have been protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, or DACA.
In Department of Homeland Security (DHS) v. Regents of the University of California, the high court voted 5-4 to block the Trump Administration’s plan to do away with DACA.
The Supreme Court’s decision reflects a core Christian value—loving neighbors and welcoming strangers, CBF leaders stressed.
“As Christians, we should be guided by the teachings of Jesus, who once said, ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me,’” CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley said.
“Jesus spent several of his early years in an immigrant family fleeing Herod’s tyrannical regime. He knew well the experience of children living as immigrants,” Baxley added. “Jesus also said: ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’
“Christ calls us to welcome strangers, to make space for children. If we allow ourselves to see the face of Christ in the face of immigrants, how differently might we respond?”
DACA recipients have been raised in the United States. Some serve in the armed forces, and many work on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The high court ruled the administration possesses the authority to repeal DACA, but it attempted to do without sufficient legal rationale. So, the decision is a temporary fix. DACA recipients do not have a clear legal path to U.S. citizenship, and only action by Congress can create such a path.
“While we rejoice that so many are saved from the immediate threat of deportation, the ruling only confirms that Congress must act,” said Stephen Reeves, CBF associate coordinator of partnerships and advocacy. “A clear majority of Americans support a path to citizenship for Dreamers. We need bold, swift action from our political leaders. Christians should be a loud and consistent voice calling for justice and mercy for our neighbors.”
The court’s ruling “allows DACA recipients to sleep well at night in the meantime,” added Elket Rodriguez, CBF’s immigrant and refugee advocacy and missions specialist.
“Even though I’m consumed by joy, the reality is that the Supreme Court’s decision reveals the need for Congress to urgently legislate a permanent protection from deportation and a path to citizenship for DACA recipients,” Rodriguez said.
“This decision only guarantees that DACA recipients will not be deported immediately, but DHS still has the authority to rescind DACA any time,” he noted. “Congress and the president have to act now. “But it is our time now, as well. We must act as Christians and advocate for DACA recipients. Now is the time for us to step up and be our brothers’ keepers.”
A concentration of DACA recipients live in the U.S.-Mexico border states—Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas—a region encompassed by Fellowship Southwest, a CBF network.
News of the high court’s DACA decision brought tears to the eyes of Fellowship Southwest Coordinator Marv Knox, whose border ministry encompasses thousands of Dreamers and their families.
“In this hard, harsh season, the Supreme Court’s decision provided a reason to cry tears of joy rather than sorrow,” Knox said. “We rejoice in the court’s vote, which delivered happy news to 700,000 DACA recipients and all of those who love them and cherish their lives—each created in God’s image.
But the only way to achieve justice for DACA beneficiaries is through strong advocacy, he added. “May the salt in our tears remind us this decision came down in a context of pain and sadness. And may it cause us to increase our resolve to seek a permanent solution to this human crisis.”
Anyra Cano, executive director of Texas Baptist Women in Ministry and student pastor at Iglesia Bautista Victoria en Cristo in Fort Worth, is a witness to DACA’s positive impact on her community. Cano and her husband, Pastor Carlos Valencia, serve many DACA recipients and immigrants through Ruth Project Immigration Services, a ministry of their church.
“We rejoice with the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of DACA. We thank God for the relief thousands of DACA recipients feel at this time,” said Cano.
“Nevertheless, the faith community should take this decision as an opportunity and a call to action to seek a permanent solution for all Dreamers that provides them and their families the peace and confidence to live an abundant life in the country they know as home.”
CBF Field Personnel Greg and Sue Smith, whose nonprofit LUCHA Ministries provides legal aid to immigrants in Fredericksburg, Va., also celebrated the court’s decree.
“We applaud the Supreme Court’s ruling against the administration’s attempt to dismantle the DACA program,” Greg Smith said. “The result of their decision is that, at least for now and hopefully for a long time to come, the Dreamers who hold DACA and who are our friends, neighbors, co-workers and fellow congregants in our churches are relieved of the worry of deportation and loss of jobs.”
“Having worked with immigrant families in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, I have seen the power and hope that DACA has given to a generation of young people and their families,” Sue Smith added. “These Dreamers chose to embrace the opportunities provided them through DACA, to set and reach goals for their lives, and they are part of what makes our nation stronger and better today.”
Ruben Ortiz, CBF’s FAMILIA-Latino Network field coordinator, noted the majority of DACA recipients come from Latin American countries, and their parents brought them to the United States seeking justice.
“The Court’s decision is an affirmative response to the cry for justice going on in the United States,” Ortiz said. “Phrases that identify us as a nation—like ‘the land of dreams,’ ‘the place for opportunity’ and ‘the land of hope’—were being diluted by the news of rescinding DACA.”
DACA recipients “represent the best example of resilience,” because they came as children to the United States and continued to study and work, “sowing a model of prosperity,” he added.
CBF leaders agreed the struggle to achieve a legal path to citizenship and security for DACA beneficiaries is not over. Since 2017, CBF’s Advocacy and Action Team on Immigrants and Refugees has been advocating for the right of the Dreamers in the United States.
The stories of Jemima and Itzayana illustrate the struggles DACA recipients still face. CBF advocates continue to urge Congress to protect these young men and women who have endured years of uncertainty for the regularization of their status and have been waiting for a path to become citizens of the country they call their own.
CBF is a Christian network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.