GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – More than a million immigrants are heading into the new year with a realm of uncertainty.
Lawmakers are supposed to vote on legislation surrounding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, next month. However, Upstate religious leaders are wanting to have their voices heard before that vote is made.
More than 60 religious leaders across the Upstate of different faiths and political backgrounds all signed a statement in support of DACA.
Pastor Keith Ray/Clemson United Methodist Church
“The Holy Family, Jesus, Joseph and Mary having to be refugees, fleeing for the safety of their child, so their similarities struck us as an opportune time for Christian pastors in the community to stand up,” said Senior Pastor Keith Ray with the Clemson United Methodist Church.
DACA allows some undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children to apply for a two year period deferment which gives legal protection.
“They want to go to college, they want to contribute to the nation they know and they love, and they are worried that they don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Rev. Alejandro Mejia, the pastor at Parroquia Nuestro Salvador on Wade Hampton Blvd.
Mejia has six DACA recipients who attend his church. He says they are one of the reasons he signed his name along with the other pastors to the statement of support.
“I know their stories, and I know how [they’re] hard workers, or how they’re good students, and how they’re good people,” Mejia said.
Republicans say they want to crack down on illegal immigration but give options to children who are DACA recipients.
“Whether they get citizenship, whether they get a green card or a work permit, or in the case where their parent would be deported, they can make the choice to go there or stay in the United States,” said Nate Leupp, the Greenville County Republican Chairman.
Democrats say ending DACA would tear apart families, but Leupp says it’s not tearing families apart but giving the children choices. He says he opposes DACA simply for the word “deferred”. He says it’s an issue that needs to be addressed.
“We need to quit deferring this and kicking the can down the road and actually deal with immigration,” Leupp said.
The pastors say they want to see a clean DREAM Act passed.
“There’s a lot of legislation that’s trying to be tacked on to the DREAM Act, including stuff about border security, so what’s important for us is that DREAMers, the people who have a DACA status, would have a pathway to citizenship,” said Pastor Kristin Dollar with Buncombe Street United Methodist Church.
Republicans say any legislation would need to be a bi-partisan effort.
“Let these DREAMers know what’s going to happen,” Leupp said. “Don’t continue to put them in a position where they don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
President Trump has said he will extend the March 5th deadline for DACA if more time is needed for Congress to find a solution.