White House Turns to Religious Leaders for DREAM Act Support

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Jennifer LeClaire

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The White House
is calling on religious leaders to help make the DREAM Act a reality. The White
House hosted a call on Thursday morning with rabbis, pastors and Christian leaders
who hope to convince at least 60 United States senators to pass the bipartisan
legislation before Congress takes its holiday break.

The DREAM Act is
legislation that would give students who grew up in the U.S. a chance to
contribute to the nation’s well-being by serving in the U.S. armed forces or
pursuing a higher education. The limited, targeted legislation would allow only
the best and brightest young people to earn their legal status after a rigorous
and lengthy process. It applies to those brought to the United States as minors
through no fault of their own by their parents.

“This is a
critical moment for the government, for our educational and military
institutions, for the faith community, and most importantly for the young
people all across our great nation,” says Joshua Dubois,
director of the White
House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. “Through
the DREAM Act we are on the verge of bringing a greater degree of rationality
and compassion to our nation’s immigration system and at the same time
improving our economy as well.”

On the call were
Rabbi Jack Moline from Congregation Agudas Achim
in Alexandria, Va.; Joel C. Hunter, pastor of
Northland, A Church Distributed in Longwood, Fla.; pastor Rich Nathan from
Vineyard Columbus in Columbus, Ohio; and Noel Castellanos
from the Christian Community Development Association in Chicago. All these
men support the DREAM Act.

Moline says many of the kids at schools in his Alexandria
community epitomize what the
Bible calls a resident stranger—an individual who is already with but not of
you. He says the Torah instructs Jews to welcome strangers and make them
members of their home.

“I don’t suggest
for a moment that the laws of this land should be determined by the Bible or
any religious text. That’s Congress’ job. But the values that our senators and
representatives rely on to decide what good law is must come from somewhere,”
Moline says. “What I would offer as the Jewish contribution to this
deliberation about the DREAM Act is the notion that we have a special
responsibility to these young people who wish no longer to be resident
strangers, but to take their place among us with shared values and practices.”

In terms of the
larger immigration reform picture, Hunter says helping youth by passing the
DREAM Act is the easiest and most sensible part of the challenge to address. As
he sees it, it’s morally wrong to punish kids for something their parents did.
The voice of any religion, he says, is to transfer people from the wrong path
to the right one.

“These are talented young people who grew up with
Americans and want to give back to the nation they call home. They are willing
to put their lives on the line for the country they love,” Hunter says. “This
is not amnesty. Amnesty comes at no cost. There’s a high cost and a very strict
guideline to the completion of these requirements.”

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