United Church of Christ immigration advocates and other faith leaders say the Kids Act introduced by the U.S. House of Representatives is not an acceptable solution to comprehensive immigration reform. The legislation, proposed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth who were brought to the U.S. at a young age, but would not apply to their parents, resulting in the separation of millions of families.
"As a person living along the border, I can testify that we need to keep families together," said the Rev. Randy Mayer, pastor of Good Shepherd UCC in Sahuarita, Ariz. "One of the most painful sights that we see along the border is the broken, torn and shattered remains of families. Loved ones, so desperate to be together, that they will risk even death to make that happen."
The Kids Act was inspired by the 2001 Dream Act, a bipartisan proposal that was never passed that would grant legal status to undocumented youth who have lived in the U.S. for a designated number of years. Members of the House Judiciary subcommittee agree that young people should not be punished for being brought to the U.S. unwittingly, and should have the opportunity to earn citizenship through means such as military service, academic success and length of residency. But faith leaders think it makes little sense to protect the nearly 2 million eligible children of undocumented immigrants only to deport their parents.
"While it is encouraging to see the House of Representatives take an interest in providing status to immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, we know first-hand that the wellbeing of individuals is determined not solely by their own rights and opportunities, but by the rights, opportunities and freedoms of their family members," said the Rev. John McCullough, president and CEO of Church World Service. "Familial bonds are a cornerstone of stability, happiness and strong communities. We call upon all representatives to support proposals that go further than just this narrow issue, and to support immigration reform that creates a path to citizenship, regardless of age, for our undocumented community members."
"We strongly support immigration reform policies that offer a pathway to citizenship for DREAMer youth," said the Rev. Dr. Sharon Stanley-Rea, director of Refugee & Immigration Ministries for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). "But further, as our denomination is committed to be a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world, we likewise urge that parents be offered an opportunity for earned citizenship that allows them opportunities to continue to contribute to America’s strength through their work and long-term commitments."
The Kids Act comes on the heels of July 22 actions by the Dream 8, a group of at least eight young immigrants who have been detained at the border after crossing into Mexico and trying to re-enter the U.S. in an attempt to bring awareness to the Obama administration’s record deportations. All of them were brought to the U.S. as young children, and wore graduation caps and gowns as they went to the border. Social media updates by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance indicate the Dream 8 have been taken to a detention facility in Eloy, Ariz.
Faith leaders held a Pray4Reform Day of Prayer and Action for Immigration Reform July 24 at the Church of the Reformation in Washington, D.C. Speakers included representatives from Sojourners, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. The worship service was immediately followed by a public prayer gathering in front of the U.S. Capitol Building.