By Esteban Garcia
What began slowly, with only a few dozen people gathered in the morning on the front steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, soon swelled into a large crowd full of hope and enthusiasm.
More than a thousand people gathered yesterday as justices heard oral arguments on DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans). DAPA is a key part of President Obama’s historic executive order to deal with immigration reform when Congress would not act. DAPA would allow the undocumented immigrant parents of Americans to stay with their children and work in the country legally. Obama announced the executive order in 2014 along with plans to expand DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
Both of these programs stalled last year after a federal judge issued a temporary injunction blocking the programs from going into effect. The future of DAPA is now in the hands of the court.
I was at the rally yesterday along with other Bread staff. We were there because immigration is a faith and hunger issue. Bread’s work is rooted in the belief that all men and women are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28). In Christ, no person differs from any other (Galatians 3:28).
The issue of immigration squarely intersects with hunger and poverty. A substantial percentage of undocumented immigrant adults in the United States struggle with poverty. In fact, 34 percent of the children of undocumented immigrants live in poverty. And we know poverty is inextricably tied to hunger. A pathway to citizenship would free hundreds of thousands of people from struggling with hunger and poverty almost immediately.
When undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are denied access to citizenship and fair employment, we all suffer. Studies show that immigration is a source of economic stimulation. More jobs are created and wages go up for most Americans, even those born here.
Children, teenagers, parents, and immigration activists lifted their voices yesterday because their lives here depend on the decision of the justices.
Yesterday, the national anthem was accompanied by Mariachi music, and members of different faiths were present to show their support for DAPA. In a show of solidarity, the Howard Gospel Choir of Howard University graced the crowd with stirring music. Yesterday’s rally was part political demonstration and part community gathering.
As I looked around at the swarm of people standing at the steps of the Supreme Court, one of the most powerful institutions in the U.S., I was reminded of the power of our collective Christian voice. We are continuing the quintessential American story.
It’s the story of newcomers with a different legacy working for a better life. It’s a story that has endured for over two centuries. Those families gathered yesterday wanted only to be guaranteed a rightful place in the iridescent fabric of our great country.
Esteban Garcia is a media relations specialist at Bread for the World.