President Obama, you can end the nightmares of 5.5 million children

From the Congress Blog of The Hill

November 05, 2014, 03:00 pm
By Rev. John L. McCullough

Can I be honest? I am sick and tired of the predictable victory and concession speeches that we hear on election nights. Politicians promise to listen to all their constituents – both those who voted for and against them. They promise to go to Washington and to get to work. They ritually close their speeches with the national creed of “God bless America.” But these hollow promises rarely seem to ring true. Instead, we end up with too many politicians who cater to corporate interests and fringe voices – rather than follow the call of justice, dignity and the promise of our nation.

In recent months, when our elected leaders have failed us by ignoring the need for immigration reform, the faith community has decided to take prophetic action and to stand in the gap. Congregations across the nation are providing physical sanctuary to immigrant moms and dads facing final orders of deportation. For these parents, sanctuary has been their last hope and last option to remain here in the U.S. with their kids. This prophetic action in cities across the country has captured the attention of millions, and we pray that they have also inspired Congress and the President to act.

Despite having the best chance in a generation to pass immigration reform, House Republicans decided to abdicate their responsibility rather than actually lead our nation and reform and restore confidence in our immigration system. Now, after the mid-term election, I sadly see no hope for legislative reform with the new Congress. The House Republican leadership has made their head-in-the-sand position clearly known and there is no indication that anything but that status quo will prevail in a new Senate.

Our elected leaders appear utterly detached from the reality of our nation’s families who are living amidst the broken pieces of our country’s immoral and dysfunctional immigration system. The reality that Congress refuses to face is that millions in this nation live in fear. One in 6 children in California has an undocumented parent. One in 20 workers is undocumented. And 3 in 5 undocumented immigrants have been here for more than 10 years. Across the nation, 5.5 million children have at least one undocumented parent.

The nightmares and fears of millions children must end. Too many children have already experienced coming home from school to find their parents gone. This nightmare of racial profiling at traffic stops resulting in detention, deportation and family separation must end. Our nation has a higher calling: to foster a society in which all our community members – regardless of documentation, race, ethnic background, creed, sexual orientation or economic status – can flourish and pursue their dreams.

But let’s be honest that the bar has been immeasurably lowered. Our imaginations and our dreams have been severely limited by partisan deadlock and the views of a vocal anti-immigrant fringe. The bi-partisan idea supported by 70 percent of America and broadly passed by the Senate – to form a pathway to citizenship and enabling millions of aspiring Americans to reach their full potential – has been taken off the table. Now we are simply seeking an important but limited objective that was offered by the now discarded Republican “standards” on immigration: an end to the fear of deportation.

Given the current political outlook and climate, our best hope to end this fear and to keep moms and dads with their kids is for President Obama to act and to act boldly. He must exercise and embrace his full legal authority to end the deportation machinery that has only grown on his watch. To do otherwise would continue this moral stain on our nation when he has the power and authority to do so much good on behalf of so many.

To date, President Obama has made successive promises only to be delayed by the politics of the moment. With each successive delay, tens of thousands of immigrants have been caught up in the web of deportations across this country. As people of faith, congregations across the country have taken prophetic action to offer sanctuary and stop the family separations. Hundreds of congregations are signing on to support. Now the President must also take the same bold, clear and moral leadership on immigration that our communities and congregations so desperately need.

While we hear rumors of action by the end of the year, the battle for the Senate is now over. We ask this president: Why wait any longer? There are honestly no more excuses.

McCullough is president and CEO of Church World Service, a global humanitarian agency with programs in development and humanitarian affairs, advocacy for social justice, and refugee assistance.