This week, Mindy Plick and I had the distinct pleasure of meeting with other local pastors, non-profit leaders, Biola University staff, and a staff liaison at Congressman Ed Royce’s office in Brea. Ten of us in all overlooking downtown Brea, where we all dine and shop and congregate. It was truly a day where the church was the Church. I offer to you here a snapshot of what I shared with them on behalf of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA from now on) and the Dreamers:
As a pastor of thirty years and an NGO leader in Seattle with World Vision. I have traveled the world to places of extreme poverty where I was able to receive a snapshot of what life is like outside of the USA. I have traveled to Africa over a dozen times, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala multiple times and watched people struggle, to put it mildly. I have seen the ravages of poverty, government corruption, gangs, sexual exploitation, land grabbing, and the devastation on the family trying to provide for their children. I have met people who have sold their children to traffickers for domestic and sex slavery in the hopes of a better life for those they relinquished. I have met parents fleeing gang violence by the drug cartels. I have met mothers who traded their sexuality for a bar of soap to clean their children or to simply access feminine products. It has been my desire as a pastor to learn principles of community development in these dark places and apply those principles in my church neighborhood. Principles of safe environments for all people, education, mentoring, access to health care, food, and small micro enterprises to raise and sustain families.
Stalin said, “When one person dies it is a tragedy and when one million people die it is a statistic.” Currently, there are between 800,000 and 1,000,000 young people legally enrolled in the DACA program. The future of DACA is uncertain, and Dreamers could be put in peril in an instant. The issue with statistics is that they reduce people to a number. We stand in opposition to this notion. We must fundamentally reject any attempt to reduce a human being to a number on a social security card or a statistic. For all people are created in the image of God (Gen 1 and 2) and pronounced by the Creator, “very good.” Jesus commands the church to consider “whatever we do to the least of these, we have done it unto him.” A friendly reminder. It is with this background that I speak to you on behalf of a local DACA recipient.
Annie (not her real name) is a current DACA recipient and a recent El Dorado HS graduate. She came to the USA at the age of 6 months old. This is her home, she is an American, we are her people—every single one of us in this room. She has called this place home, for her entire life taking care of her two younger brothers and mother. She is an outstanding citizen, working hard to graduate from High school and attend college this fall at Fullerton College—she is unable to attend today because she is in class right now. She is a leader working hard to make our neighborhood better so that all may flourish. This past summer she served as a paid intern with PPC and Solidarity in a combined partnership to provide spiritual nourishment, education and healthy meals for children in the neighborhood on Bradford and Garnet. That partnership was so successful we are continuing that program this fall. She is working with another young leader from PPC to run an after-school program offering homework helps, nourishment and spiritual teaching with Solidarity.
Let me bring this home a bit. This summer a young man, was unexpectedly killed in the neighborhood in a horrific car accident, on a Sunday night. He was only 20 years old. The next day our summer camps for children began. Most of the adult staff was heavily involved in the death. Annie, as an 18-year-old came and was able to push through her own grief, took the reins and ran the entire first week of programming for fifty children and three other interns. She rose to the occasion like an optimistic morning sunrise offering hope for another day in the midst of our neighborhood lamenting tears like dark crayons melting off an eclipse.
Annie is a leader. Annie is a change agent. Annie embodies an urban street song of celebration, a tribute to Lady Liberty. Annie, simply put, my dear friends, is an American.
I have seen the world at its worst. And the DACA program is the world at its best – it works. Annie is living testimony and proof to that reality. I urge you to work across the aisle, ensuring that this program is continued; our families need it, our churches need it, our neighborhoods need it, our country needs it. We are specifically asking you to support the Dream Act. We need a legislative solution since we do not expect DACA to continue. Please support the Dream Act. DACA is what peace and justice looks like when they embrace in our streets.
One of my favorite African proverbs goes like this, “If the mountain was smooth you could not climb it.” I fully realize that this mountain is not smooth, but please work with us to climb this raggedly edged mountain. The heart moving scenery on the summit is what we are all working for.
Just a thought …