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CONTACT: Jennifer Farmer, 202.306.0136
July 24, 2017


Faith Leaders Urge Congress to Create Fair Pathway to Citizenship for Undocumented Individuals and Families

WASHINGTON—Faith leaders with LA RED, an initiative of PICO National Network, the largest network of congregations and faith-based groups, today sent a reminder to Senators Dick Durban and Lindsey Graham to refrain from creating a dichotomy of “good” and “bad” immigrants. They urged the Senators to put families first by pushing for a fair pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals and families.

“It’s admirable that Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham are advocating on behalf of undocumented youth,” said Eddie Carmona, campaign director for LA RED, an initiative of PICO National Network supporting immigrant justice. “In introducing the ‘Dream Act,’ they may have been hoping to spare undocumented youth from deportation, but we should all remember that there is already a policy in place — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — that protects undocumented youth and allows them to thrive. Undocumented youth and their families now need members of Congress to show moral courage and support DACA, while simultaneously pushing President Trump to end the criminalization of immigrant families.”

“For faith leaders and immigrant justice advocates, the challenges facing undocumented families requires a comprehensive approach that includes both protecting immigrant youth from deportation while also exposing the harms of other anti-immigrant policies — such as militarizing the border and conducting aggressive raids — that place the broader immigrant community at greater risk.”

“I am conflicted about supporting the 2017 Dream Act,” said Nanci Palacios, lead organizer with Faith in Florida, a state federation of PICO National Network. “After being in this country for 22 years, it excites me that there’s another ray of hope to become permanently protected. However, I am torn because once again politicians are using language that criminalizes people like my parents; accusing them of ‘breaking the law’ simply because they came to the United States to escape violence. Once again politicians are making me and my community choose between supporting something that would relieve some of us, while continuing to criminalize others. I am not okay with gaining permanent protection while other vulnerable immigrants, like my parents, are criminalized by border enforcement.”

“A lot of us are clear about the moral and economic benefits of DACA — it improves local economies while enabling hundreds of thousands of youth to reach their full potential,” Carmona said. “What’s less clear is that DACA can be used to create a binary of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ immigrants. But in God’s eyes, all people are worthy of love and grace. As Senators Durbin and Graham advocate for the Dream Act, we hope they will press the Trump administration to reverse course on not only the anti-immigrant sentiments, but also inhumane policies.”

“I don’t believe in getting a benefit as a DACA recipient knowing my mom and my leaders, who have worked so hard to highlight the humanity of immigrant individuals and families, will be thrown under the bus,” said Catalina Morales, an organizer with ISAIAH Minnesota, a state federation of PICO National Network. “If we are going to support the immigrant community we need to first support the parents who endured much hardship to get their children and families to safety. Their choice to put the best interest of their families first doesn’t make them criminals; it makes them brave.”

“The introduction of a bi-partisan 2017 DREAM Act is an important step in providing relief to an estimated 1.2 million undocumented youth throughout the country,” Carmona concluded. “However, we will NOT sacrifice more enforcement and border militarization or be forced into choosing who is a ‘deserving’ immigrant. As people of faith, our families are our priority and we are committed to advocating to stop the devastation of families by President Trump’s deportation machine.”