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story.lead_photo.caption Pastor Melanie Tubbs of Augusta expresses concern about the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program during a gathering Monday at the state Capitol. ( Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Thomas Metthe)

More than 100 clergy members from across Arkansas issued a statement Monday expressing "grief" over the end of the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals program and the lowering of refugee admission levels during a "global refugee crisis."

The clergy members also condemned ideologies of isolationism and nationalism.

"Walling out immigrants and refugees is not consistent with Kingdom assurance of security in Jesus, and placates the more racist and xenophobic elements of our communities," according to the "statement of unity." "We resolve to preach, teach, and advocate against the sins of oppressing the immigrants and sojourners in our midst, and excluding the millions of refugees abroad in need of refuge."

Arkansas clergy members held two news conferences Monday morning, one at the state Capitol in Little Rock and one an hour later at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville.

"We're gathered today to speak as a unified faith voice," the Rev. Clint Schnekloth of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, who spearheaded the effort, said at the Fayetteville news conference. "What we wanted to do is speak out very clearly about our grief and the end of DACA and our hope for a clean Dream Act by the end of this calendar year."

Dream is an acronym for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors.

Deferred Action for Children Arrivals, frequently referred to as DACA, is a program created by President Barack Obama in 2012 that protects about 800,000 people nationwide, including more than 5,100 in Arkansas.

The program has granted two-year work permits and deferred-removal status to people who arrived in the United States before their 16th birthdays and are living here now illegally.

On Sept. 5, President Donald Trump said he would terminate the program in March and asked Congress to come up with a replacement. Lawmakers are trying to find a bipartisan solution before the end of the year.

Mayra Esquivel, immigrant integration director with Arkansas United Community Coalition, said she is one of the "undocumented" people known as Dreamers. Esquivel, 26, moved from Mexico to Fort Smith when she was 3 years old.

"It means a lot to us to have you be here and be so outspoken about such an important issue, as we know how it relates to the story of Mary, Joseph and Jesus himself," she said, referring to all of the clergy members who signed the statement.

"We are seeing 122 Dreamers losing their status every day since Sept. 5," said Esquivel.

She said about 12,000 Dreamers are now in a "very vulnerable state," having lost their eligibility to keep jobs or continue going to school.

In Little Rock, Bishop Anthony Taylor said he spoke recently with a man who had no memory of his home country and spoke no Spanish.

Taylor and others noted the jarring nature of deportation for individuals and families.

"I think it's pretty clear what we would have done unto us if we were in this same situation," he said.

Pastor Melanie Tubbs of the United Methodist Church in Augusta noted the immigrant ancestry of most Americans and described the difference between countries as "an imaginary line drawn on a map."

In an interview after the news conference, Schnekloth said most of the clergy members were contacted by email and quickly signed on.

"I did have one say I was putting passion over orthodoxy," Schnekloth said, adding that there might be something wrong with that minister's orthodoxy.

Schnekloth said welcoming refugees isn't a threat to national security or economic self interests.

Interfaith Arkansas Executive Director Rev. Steve Copley, who helped spread the statement outside of Northwest Arkansas, said reaction to the message online was generally receptive. No one responded negatively, he said.

Metro on 12/19/2017

Print Headline: Clergy members lament DACA's end in statement


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Archived Comments

  • AmpieMolina
    December 19, 2017 at 6:16 a.m.

    The Democrats really have no respect for the actual citizens of this country. To think they would shut down the government for illegal aliens really shows what and who is their priority. 2018 citizens will have their say.

    The CBO just cme out with a 26 billion dollar price tag for "Dreamers" over 10 years. Nice. So either write of tweet your congressman or get out your check book. Jeff Flake is doing the citizens of Arizona and the American taxpayers a great disservice.

    DACA is just like the TPS program (Temporary Protective Status) the goal for Democrats is permanent placement in the U.S. "Delayed" or "Temporary" are just terms used to mislead. These are programs used by Democrats to import as many refugees from third world country's as they can then fight to keep them permanently. So their answer is pass a "Dream act" legalize millions of illegal aliens (DACA.) But they don't want to separate families..... so add another 1-2 million. Same with the TPS program. Chain migration. Obama put a warm and fuzzy name on it "Dreamers." Have you noticed the Democrats have actually changed the language. It's not illegal alien anymore its "Immigrant." They're not adults, they are "Kids" or "children." what a sales job.

    One in four American citizens unemployed. 40,000 veterans homeless and unemployed but illegal aliens security is the top priority? and why do they demand for a "clean" Dream act? why do they oppose border security? you would think DACA woud be happy just getting to stay. The goal is obvious, more illegals to cross.

    There is an estimated 800,000 DACA recipients in the US. That is 800,000 jobs American Citizens don't have or will be in competition for.

    So when you hear of the "contributions" by illegal aliens paying taxes. Remember that also is at a cost in jobs citizens should have. Why must the citizens of our country have competition for jobs, education in their own country from foreign nationals?

  • AmpieMolina
    December 19, 2017 at 6:17 a.m.

    "Some" of the costs associated with illegal immigration.

    *The cost of educating illegal aliens children is staggering. From K-12 it costs taxpayers $122,000 for EACH illegal alien student. This doesn't even reflect the millions and millions of dollars spent on bilingual education teaching illegal aliens to read and speak English. We've been paying this for decades.

    * CBO (Congressional Budget Office) estimates that it will cost the taxpayers 26 Billion over 10 years in benefits if DACA is legalized.

    *Currently state officials are appropriating millions of taxpayer dollars for legal fees to to file law suits and in defense of illegal aliens being deported. California, Oregon, NY, Wash, Colorado are just some of the states.

    *2012 illegal aliens sent home $62 BILLION in remittances back to their countries of origin. This is why Mexico is getting involved in our politics.

    *30% percent of all Federal Prison inmates are illegal aliens. Does not include local jails and State Prisons. At $21,000 per year expense per inmate in Federal Prison---U do the math.

    *$3Million Dollars a DAY is spent to incarcerate illegal aliens, I repeat 3 MILLION a DAY to process Illegals in the Criminal justice system.

    *$2.2Billion dollars a year is spent on food assistance programs such as SNAP (food stamps),WIC, & free school lunches.

  • GoBigRed
    December 19, 2017 at 7:50 a.m.

    Nice cut and paste job. Do you want to give the real author credit?

  • Packman
    December 19, 2017 at 10:01 a.m.

    Where were all these folks during Obama's 8 year run?
    Hey Timber and GoBigRed - Your childish ad hominem attack in lieu of even a feeble attempt at rebuttal is quite telling. The win with mercy rule firmly in place goes to AmpieMolina.

  • AmpieMolina
    December 19, 2017 at 3:17 p.m.

    Packman- I'm use to it. Very typical of liberals / Democrats to attack the person and not the subject matter. They all seem to believe these services are free. All they need to do is use Google lol