Supreme Court Decision on DACA Finds Cancellation of the Program ‘Improper’

Supreme Court Decision
Catholic supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program march on Capitol Hill on Feb. 27, 2018. RNS
photo by Jack Jenkins

Faith groups are applauding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that temporarily halts the Trump administration’s efforts to rescind an Obama-era program granting legal protection to hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

The 5-4 decision, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and handed down June 18, blocked the efforts by President Donald Trump’s administration  to “wind down” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was created by President Barack Obama in 2012 to shield qualified young immigrants from deportation.

The decision hinged on a technicality: It did not prohibit the federal government from rescinding the program, but ruled that it did so improperly.

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts wrote.

Even so, faith groups from across the religious spectrum hailed the ruling as a win for undocumented immigrants.

“This decision is an important victory in the fight for all immigrants and part of a larger movement that demands justice, equity, divestment from racist systems and institutions, and investments in Black communities and communities of color,” the Rev. John L. McCullough, president and CEO of Church World Service, said in a statement.

“Faith communities across the United States have made their voices heard in support of DACA recipients countless times. We are called to welcome our neighbor. We recognize the God-given dignity in all human beings regardless of their immigration status.”

Leaders within the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops—which filed an amicus brief in the case in support of DACA—published a statement welcoming the decision and urging the president to abandon efforts to undo the program.

“We urge the President to strongly reconsider terminating DACA,” read the statement.

“In times of uncertainty, let us remember the teachings of the Gospel which encourage us to be open and receptive to those in need: ‘If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?’ (1 John 3:17). In this moment, we must show compassion and mercy for the vulnerable.”

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, also lauded the decision, saying in a statement that “today’s important decision must be reinforced by legislation that ensures our immigrant neighbors can continue to pursue educations, develop careers, raise families and worship alongside us without constant threats of deportation.”

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention was among many leaders to call for additional legislation.

"This Supreme Court decision might address an immediate question of administrative law, but it does not, ultimately, protect our vulnerable neighbors," Moore said in a statement. "There is no sending these people ‘back’—in many cases they have no memory at all of the land of their parents’ origin. Those who have lived as good neighbors and contributed so greatly to our country should be protected from the constant threat of having their lives upended. That will take action by the United States Congress. Most Americans agree on this question, which is quite a feat in times as divided as these. Congress should move immediately to protect our Dreamer neighbors.”

The Trump administration’s efforts to rescind DACA were met with widespread opposition by faith groups. When the case was first argued before the Supreme Court last fall, 127 religious groups—led by the Muslim Bar Association of New York—signed on to an amicus brief voicing support for the program and criticizing the government’s attempts to undo it.

Authors of the brief argued that the “arbitrary rescission of DACA” would “indelibly harm the vitality of their spiritual communities, including by forcing committed members of their congregations and organizations to leave the country or return to the shadows.” 

RELATED: Faith and Immigration Getting Beyond the Rhetoric (Nov. 2019)
CRC Releases Statement on Forced Family Separation Policy (June, 2018)

The Banner has a subscription to Religion News Service and to AP Religion and Faith and occasionally re-publishes articles of wide Christian interest, according to the license. This story was edited for length. The original story can be found here.

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