March X, 2018
Secretary Kirstjen NielsenDepartment of Homeland Security3801 Nebraska Avenue NWWashington, D.C. 20016
Dear Secretary Nielsen,
On behalf of the XXX undersigned national, state, and local faith-based organizations, as well as XXX faith leaders from across traditions, we call on the leaders of our country to honor and protect the dignity of our fellow sisters and brothers. Together, we ask the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to take immediate action to expedite the renewal of applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients , to ensure DACA recipients receive automatic extensions of their protection from deportation and work authorization, and to issue clear written guidance to provide that current and former DACA recipients will not be enforcement priorities for removal.
The preliminary injunctions issued by the U.S. District Courts for the Northern District of California and the Eastern District of New York require DHS to accept renewal applications, and all courts that have considered the issue have recognized the dire and imminent harm facing DACA recipients, their employers, and their communities when DACA recipients lose their protection from deportation and work authorization. To adequately prevent these harms, it is vital that DHS process renewal applications in a compassionate and expeditious manner.
Our call stems from our shared values rooted in our sacred texts to love our neighbor and welcome the stranger, the sojourner among us. As Leviticus 19:33-34 reminds us: "Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God." We must remember that DACA recipients are our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers, and members of our congregations - they are an essential part of our communities.
We see firsthand of the tremendous fear and insecurity currently experienced by members of our cherished communities. Each day more DACA recipients are at risk of losing their jobs and being deported as more of them fall between their status ending and renewal. Over the last six months, more than 20,000 DACA recipients saw their protections expire while waiting on Congress to take action after the President's abrupt and cruel termination of the program on September 5th, 2017. These are students and members of communities who are seeing their prospects dim. In addition to losing their protection from deportation, many will lose their work authorizations, their driver's licenses, and their ability to attend college. It is in the best interest of local communities to see that DACA renewals are uninterrupted as many DACA recipients are teachers, nurses, healthcare workers, and other individuals who provide critical services to their community. It is not only the lives of DACA recipients being uprooted; the community around them will also be greatly impacted. DHS should do everything in its power to ensure that no further disruptions are made to these young lives. With the lack of clarity on DACA renewals and the status of the program, hundreds of thousands of recipients have been in a position of uncertainty, unable to know what the next step of the process would be. Because the situation has been so unclear, it is imperative that, in addition to an expedited renewal process, DACA recipients be given automatic extensions of their protection from deportation and work authorization. In the past, DHS has taken this step in similar circumstances for recipients of Temporary Protected Status, refugees and asylees, and certain visa applicants. Providing this automatic extension will ensure that those who are on the edge of their renewal do not lose their ability to work and provide for themselves and their families.
Furthermore, we ask that the DHS issue clear written guidance that leaves no misunderstanding that current and former DACA recipients will not be enforcement priorities for removal. These actions, while not a permanent solution, will go a long way toward ensuring that these young people, who are integral members of their communities can have a sense of security and assurance of a future. We believe strongly in the inherent value of every life and ask urgently that DHS: " Expedites the renewal of applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients ;" Ensures DACA recipients receive automatic extensions of their protection from deportation and work authorization; and" Issues clear written guidance to provide that current and former DACA recipients will not be enforcement priorities for removal.We pray you have compassion in your discernment process and do everything in your power to ensure young people can continue to contribute their gifts to our communities and live out the fullness of life that God intends for each of us.