Moving Mountains

 In Prayer Partner

Dear friends,

When I graduated from high school – quite a long time ago now – someone gave me a copy of Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go! The optimism of that coming-of-age moment was wrapped up in the promise near the end of that book:

And will you succeed?

             Yes! You will, indeed!

            (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)


This graduation season, I’ve been thinking and praying about a group of graduates for whom success – at least by traditional American standards of pursuing higher education, a fulfilling job and the economic security with which to support a family – seems a lot less certain than Dr. Seuss’ appraisal. For Dreamers – individuals brought as children to the U.S. without access to permanent legal status – the future is a lot murkier.

For more than a decade, Dreamers had a least some opportunities because of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s program to allow certain Dreamers to register with the government, pay a fee and, if approved, be granted temporary, renewable protection from deportation and employment authorization. DACA does not provide access to federal financial aid or a path to citizenship, but at least it meant graduates of U.S. high schools could work lawfully. And that, along with privately- or state-funded scholarships, has allowed many to enroll in and eventually graduate from college.

But one core requirement for DACA is that an individual must have arrived in the U.S. on or before June 15, 2007. Most graduating high school this year were born in 2006, so this is essentially the last year that there are any Dreamers graduating from high school who might possibly meet the requirements for DACA, and only if they were brought by their parents as infants. More than 100,000 Dreamers are graduating from high school this year who don’t qualify for DACA.

In reality though, it’s been several years since almost any new high school graduates have obtained DACA, even if they theoretically qualified. That’s because another requirement of DACA is that an individual be 15 years old to apply. Back in 2017, former President Trump suspended new applications for DACA, so anyone who was under 15 then (under 22 now) was excluded.

In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration had not followed the proper procedure to end the program, and DACA applications were re-opened. Roughly 100,000 Dreamers – presumably largely those who turned 15 in those three years – scrambled to submit their first-time applications, including paying the required governmental fee of roughly $500.

But in the summer of 2021, while almost all of those applications were still being processed by the government, a different court ruling came down. This time, the courts were not assessing the question of whether the Trump administration followed the law in how it sought to end DACA, but whether the Obama administration had the legal authority to begin the program. The judge ruled that DACA was created illegally, and while he allowed those who already had DACA to continue to renew while the case moves slowly through the appeals process, he blocked the Department of Homeland Security from approving still-pending applications. (The roughly $50 million in fees submitted by the 98,786 individuals with pending cases were not returned).

That lawsuit is still making its way through the courts. Most likely, within the next year or two, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide on the underlying legality of DACA. Based on past rulings, there is good reason to anticipate they will agree with the lower court and end DACA altogether, which would mean the roughly 500,000 individuals who currently have DACA would lose their employment authorization and be at risk of deportation. These people, who were kids in 2007 or earlier when they arrived, are now mostly in their late twenties or early thirties. They’ve been lawfully living and working in the U.S., in most cases, for more than a decade. Many now have children of their own – roughly 250,000 U.S. citizen children have at least one parent with DACA – who depend upon their ability to work and provide for their families.

And even if the U.S. Supreme Court would ultimately rule that DACA can stay – that President Obama was within his authority when he created the program back in 2012 – the Court has already clearly stated that this program created by executive action (not by Congress) could also be undone by a future president if he or she chooses and follows the appropriate process. The only sure solution for Dreamers is for Congress to pass and the president to sign a law such as the Dream Act.

Dreamers across the board – the cohort that can still benefit from DACA for the moment, those whose applications are caught up in legal challenges, and those born too late to qualify, who are graduating from high school now – face incredible uncertainty. I personally know Dreamers in each of these categories. They’re coworkers at the ministry where I’m employed, members of my church, students at the Christian college where I studied and have served as an adjunct faculty member.

At a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Dreamers earlier this month – for which the Evangelical Immigration Table submitted a formal statement that was cited in the hearing – it became clear that, despite bipartisan expressions of empathy for Dreamers, there is little likelihood that the Congress will address the situation any time soon, with partisan acrimony over the U.S.-Mexico border poisoning the possibility of bipartisan legislation to address the crisis facing Dreamers.

But if I’d have any wisdom for Dreamers graduating this month, it’d be this: Dr. Seuss’ confidence that that you, kid, will move mountains, feels cruel when the mountain is as large as a U.S. law that would require bipartisan collaboration to resolve. But though no 18-year-old has that power in him or herself, Jesus promised his disciples that “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20 NIV).

I don’t know or understand God’s timing, but I do believe that He answers prayer, even for what seems impossible to me. So, I’d ask each of you to pray with me that:

  • God would move in the U.S. Congress, changing hearts and minds among lawmakers so that they would finally pass legislation that would include the opportunity for Dreamers to apply for permanent legal status and eventual citizenship
  • God would grant wisdom to judges weighing the legal challenges to the DACA program
  • Those seeking the presidency of the United States would speak of and ultimately respond to Dreamers in ways that affirm their God-given dignity and potential
  • God would sustain young people graduating amidst the uncertainty of when or if they will be allowed to work lawfully or pursue higher education, meeting their needs and using their talents for His purposes
  • The Church in the U.S. would be a place of refuge for Dreamers facing anxiety and uncertainty, where they can find their ultimate identity as citizens of God’s Kingdom

In Christ,

Matthew Soerens

National Coordinator, Evangelical Immigration Table

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