Bethany College, as a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, cares what our students learn (head knowledge) and who they become (heart knowledge). We care deeply about all of our students and our alumni; all of them. Given our faith tradition, core values, and educational mission, it was with serious concern that we at Bethany witnessed President Trump’s decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Bethany students are required to learn about Jesus and his ministry. Jesus cared deeply for widows, orphans, and strangers. Jesus’ central message was love–to love God and to love people. Jesus teaches us that when we take in a stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, care for the sick, or visit those in prison, it is the same as caring for Jesus himself. Bethany’s core values of integrity, community, hospitality, servant leadership, sustainability, and excellence are derived from our Christian faith tradition and these teachings.
Bethany students are taught to carefully search for and thoughtfully evaluate the facts. The facts are DACA recipients are not eligible for federal programs like food stamps, financial aid for college, or Social Security. They cannot vote. They can obtain a driver’s license (but it has a special designation on it). And, at Bethany College, some do receive private scholarships and grants based on academic eligibility, talent (art, theater, music or athletic), and financial need. DACA recipients contribute $1.2 billion annually in federal, state, and local tax revenue. The 800,000 individuals who have registered in good faith under this policy have passed rigorous vetting. These young people were brought to the United States before their 16 birthday and have been here no less than 10 years. The young people eligible for DACA do not represent a threat to national security. For these folks, the United States is home. All of these 800,000 are students or are employed. Odds are that you know one of them personally; they might be your child’s teacher, a first responder you saw on the evening news helping Hurricane Harvey victims last week, or your daughter’s best friend at school or college. Losing these 800,000 young people from our communities and the economy would be a severe blow and seems counter to American values.
Yes, our laws must be followed. Yes, as a nation that treasures rule of law, legal immigration must be our goal. However, blaming these young people for the laws their parents broke makes no political, legal, or moral sense. Are we going to start extending such logic to other areas of society? Will we hold young people responsible for the financial debts of their parents? Or, if a four-year-old is in a car when a parent receives a DUI, will we hold the child responsible too?
The hard work and determination of the DACA recipients embodies the American dream. And, the DACA students studying at Bethany College represent the best of our core values. As President of Bethany College, I join with my peers in higher education and members of the faith community in asking Congress to act quickly to find a reasonable and compassionate legal solution for these young people. I hope you will join me and contact your House and Senate members. Let them know you stand with the DACA recipients. You might also share that Jesus did not teach us to deport the stranger, but to take them into our homes and to love them.