Earlier this month, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals dealt a blow to “Dreamers,” the immigrants brought to the U.S. as children who would be here unlawfully were it not for DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program implemented by the Obama administration in 2012. The appeals court affirmed a lower court’s conclusion that the Obama administration created DACA illegally. While the case will return first to the lower court, it’s very likely that it will eventually be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A demonstrator takes part in a rally supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program outside the Supreme Court in Washington in 2019. Al Drago/Bloomberg, File

I’m not an immigration legal expert. I don’t know how the Supreme Court should rule, nor how it will rule — though the court’s 2016 ruling stymying a separate but legally similar “deferred action” policy suggests Dreamers’ concerns are merited.

What I do know is that, as an evangelical Christian, my faith compels me to speak out for those who are vulnerable. It troubles me that our country might withdraw legal protections and work authorization from the estimated 600,000 Dreamers who, if DACA is terminated, would lose their ability to work lawfully and could even be at risk of deportation.

At this point, all DACA recipients have lived in the U.S. for more than fifteen years; they are fully integrated members of our communities, our economy and, often, our churches. They arrived as children, but most are now in their 20s or 30s; a third have U.S.-born children of their own who depend upon them. As a pro-life, pro-family Christian, I cannot be ambivalent toward the possibility of hundreds of thousands of kids having their parents deported or, at least, barred from working lawfully, plunging families into poverty.

It’s a biblical principle that we ought not hold children responsible for their parents’ decisions. DACA recipients did all our society asked of them: they came forward, paid fees, underwent criminal background checks and then used their work authorization to serve our communities. While those who consciously violated an immigration law as adults should face consequences — such as being required to pay a fine as part of any legalization process — we should not hold someone responsible for a decision they were too young to make.

Fortunately, this looming nightmare for Dreamers could be made irrelevant if Congress were to act. Both of Maine’s U.S. senators have a history crossing partisan lines to find solutions for Dreamers. In 2018, Sen. Angus King joined Sen. James Lankford and various evangelical leaders at a news conference urging a legislative solution for Dreamers, and Sen. Susan Collins helped negotiate a deal that paired significant increases to border security funding with a path to citizenship for Dreamers. (Frustratingly, it narrowly fell short of the 60 votes needed to pass.)


Some might argue that, given the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border — with a record high number of apprehensions of unlawful border crossers — now is not the time to consider a version of the Dream Act.

Actually, it’s the perfect time. Sen. Collins’ past instinct to pair improvements to border security with a path to citizenship for Dreamers is likely the only way either of these urgent policy solutions actually could earn the 60 votes necessary to pass the Senate. Add in one more timely reform — changes to visa policies to address the agricultural labor shortage that is driving up grocery bills — and you have the recipe for a bipartisan deal that could actually become law.

According to one poll, 79% of Americans support bipartisan solutions that improve border security, let Dreamers apply for citizenship and ensure a reliable legal agricultural workforce. Among evangelical Christians, support is even higher. While evangelical Mainers have occasionally respectfully disagreed with our senators on other issues, on this policy we’d be happy to cheer on their leadership.

Congress should not wait for the courts to create a nightmare for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers. Instead, they should act immediately to solve multiple crises — and I’m praying that Maine’s U.S. senators will once again lead the way.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.