Edith Franco was only 8 years old when her family crossed from Mexico into the United States to find work and a better future 17 years ago. She has lived in the U.S. most of her life, and in 2012 she received an immigration benefit known as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). DACA provided a work permit that enabled them to get a job, obtain a driver's license and a Social Security card. It was not a pathway to citizenship, but it was temporary legal status.
DACA is the benefit granted to dreamers, or children who, through no fault of their own, had come to the United States with their parents and have remained in the country without status ever since. It is estimated there are 1.8 million dreamers in the United States. On average, dreamers were 6 1/2 years old when they first arrived in this country. They have grown up in the U.S., and this is the nation they call home.
Edith is, without a doubt, a dreamer. She is fluent in English and Spanish; she writes poetry and short stories. She received an award as a young scholar at Baptist University of the Américas in 2016 and graduated in May with a bachelor's degree in Spanish language and literature. But, Edith will not be able to keep DACA for much longer.
DACA will soon be gone unless Congress enacts a law or devises an alternative solution to the dilemma faced by dreamers. Since 2012, it is estimated 800,000 dreamers received work permits and protection from deportation because of DACA. Many did not register for fear the U.S. would change the policy and pursue their deportation using the same information provided to secure DACA.
The potential damage to human lives and the negative impact on our economy of losing dreamers are beyond description. DACA was an act of mercy from the U.S. government. It was always meant to be a temporary solution to the dilemma many of these young immigrants found themselves in.
In thinking about DACA as an act of mercy, I am reminded of God’s own mercies toward me. My favorite Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, wrote in his Lamentations, that “Because of the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning” (Lm 3:22-23). After being a believer most of my life, I am guilty of taking the Lord’s mercy for granted. I am always counting on His mercies to be renewed because I know Him to be a compassionate, gracious, and tender-hearted God and, frankly, because I always need His help.
Due to my propensity for sin, I suspect God suffers a bit every time He grants me his mercy. I know full well that without His compassions, though, I would be consumed. And yet, in extending His mercy to us as His children, He is constantly showing us that His faithfulness toward us is indeed great. I know I should not abuse the Lord’s mercies, but on the other hand, they are renewed to me every morning because the God I seek to serve is a compassionate God.
Maybe it is because I am so grateful to experience God’s mercies fresh every morning that deep within me I long to extend mercy to others, even when sometimes it is a challenge.
Dreamers deserve our compassion as a nation. Yes, their parents broke the law, but we don’t in any other circumstance make children pay for their parents’ choices regarding the law. Beyond the skills and talents dreamers bring to our country, they are valuable in the eyes of God and His mercies are new every morning for those with legal status and for those without.
We are grateful to President Trump for demanding that Congress act on behalf of dreamers and are encouraged by the growing bipartisan consensus that these young people represent what makes America great. We should call upon our elected officials to extend new acts of mercy to these young immigrants, many of whom are serving in our military, attending our Baptist institutions, and serving in our churches. As we remember how God has extended mercy to us, may we encourage our elected officials to extend the same mercies to Edith and her fellow dreamers.
The Immigration Service and Aid Center (ISAAC) provides legal counsel and is available to the dreamers in our churches who need help. Our office is at Baptist University of the Américas in San Antonio, and our phone number is (210) 633-6257. We are more than happy to serve them, especially since there is a small window of opportunity, for those who qualify, to renew DACA for one last time. Call us!
If you are interested in advocating for dreamers to receive permanent legal status, here is a short script you can use when you contact your elected officials.
Jesús Romero leads Immigration Service and Aid Center and is chair of modern languages at Baptist University of the Américas, both in San Antonio.