The announcement by President Trump and Attorney General Sessions ending the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program represents a new low in the xenophobic and white supremacist assault on immigrants in our country. This is a transparent attempt to use a vulnerable population as a political bargaining chip: to further limit legal immigration, to further militarize the border, and to further cut taxes for the wealthiest in society.
Winning DACA was a long and hard-fought campaign led by directly impacted immigrant youth, but it was always a small sliver of what is necessary, and it unintentionally reinforced the narrative that there are ‘good’ immigrants and ‘bad’ immigrants. We reject the respectability narrative that elevates some immigrants as valuable and worthy of protection while excluding the vast majority of undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Amidst the constant stream of lies from our current administration, people of faith and moral conscience must consistently tell the truth. The United States immigration system is a racialized program of labor exploitation and carceral violence. It serves to maintain a vulnerable workforce that has fewer rights than citizens, and uses the threat of detention and deportation to keep workers from exercising what few rights remain. The immigrant detention system is a primary driver of the private prison industry, and every dollar spent on immigration detention and deportation is money that is not being used to repair infrastructure, relieve poverty, provide healthcare, or serve the common good in any way.
While there is a quantifiable cost to this system, the human cost of separated families, devastated communities, and lives lived in fear has no dollar value. The system is an unjust stain on society and a moral crisis.
On Tuesday in New York City, shortly after the announcement, 34 people, including 9 undocumented youth, were arrested in an act of civil disobedience in front of Trump Tower. They are showing the way. The faith-rooted sanctuary movements of the past also model for us what is necessary: public resistance and willingness to sacrifice on behalf of our neighbors.
Faith communities in New York are joining the Sanctuary movement today: by opening their doors to house those at risk of deportation, by accompanying immigrants to ICE office check-ins, and by lobbying for pro-immigrant legislation at the state and federal levels.
The Labor-Religion Coalition will continue to support and strengthen this work. If you are part of a congregation that would like to do more to defend immigrants, please contact us right away.
Rev. Emily McNeill and Joe Paparone, on behalf of the NYS Labor-Religion Coalition