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The Biblical (?) Case for Saving DACA

The writers of the Salt Collective blog seem to be a nice bunch of people, a group of "diverse writers who are shaped by and grounded in the spirituality and ethics of the Beatitudes." But the recent post The Biblical Case for Saving DACA treads on dangerous ground.

The article draws from Bible verses about welcoming strangers and aliens—and there are many such verses, e.g., Deuteronomy 10:19, Leviticus 19:34, Ezekiel 47:22-23, Matthew 25:35. The author draws a direct line from these verses to support for the Deferred Action against Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) established in 2012 by President Obama. This program benefits young immigrants who were brought here illegally when they were children. Obama created DACA through an executive order after Congress failed to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would have given its beneficiaries a path to citizenship. Because of the acronym of the failed legislation, those beneficiaries are sometimes known as "Dreamers."

This line of reasoning has two serious flaws. The first is the notion that DACA itself is the modern American equivalent of the biblical commands. The reality is, DACA falls short of fully welcoming young immigrants. It's merely a stopgap measure that doesn't offer them a path to full citizenship or any of the benefits citizenship confers. If we really want to base U.S. law on biblical injunctions, we'll have to come up with something a lot more generous than DACA. Something more like the DREAM Act.

But, of course, if we want to base U.S. law on random biblical injunctions, we're opening ourselves up to eliminating marriage equality, mandating creationism in the public schools, or even instituting the death penalty for adultery. We might—depending on how we interpret it and how far we take it—ban shellfish or ham sandwiches, forbid tattoos and piercings, or outlaw clothing made from two kinds of fabric.

And that's the second flaw in this argument. I'm a Christian too, but I don't want to see U.S. laws grounded in random biblical injunctions. There are too many ways this could end badly for a whole lot of people. If we want to make the United States a more welcoming nation, instituting a form of theocracy is not going to get us there.

Welcoming the Dreamers, giving them a path to full citizenship, is a good idea whether or not we can find a Bible verse to match it. Recognizing the contributions of young people, most of whom do not remember ever living in a different country, and giving them a chance to become in name what they already are in fact—American citizens—is simply the right thing to do. It shouldn't need any more justification than that.

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