Hispanic Christian communities in North Carolina are pulling together in support of young undocumented immigrants as they deal with uncertainty caused by the Trump administration’s announcement Sept. 5 that it would phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Luis Tejera, campus pastor for Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, met the following week with more than two-dozen students and young adults that were shielded from immediate deportation by the Obama-era policy.
They were concerned, Tejera said, but the group of “Dreamers,” as they are commonly called, understood the “dynamics of the situation in the political arena.”
The DACA program relied on White House administrative discretion to allow 800,000 young adults to live and work in the United States, since they were brought into the country illegally as children, through no fault of their own.
A six-month delay was included in the phase-out process to keep protections in place for DACA recipients while lawmakers develop replacement legislation.
Tejera also said the group from Hickory Grove was aware that “God is in control” and is striving to “wait in Him.”
David Duarte, Hispanic campus pastor for Daystar Church in Greensboro, expressed his support for Dreamers during a Sunday morning service Sept. 10. He also provided informational documents about immigration to attendees.
“It was a hard hit to our dreamers,” Duarte told the Biblical Recorder. “They’re facing a lot of insecurity.
“My biggest concern is the sense of security people have. This is really affecting the way we minister to Hispanics.”
In early 2017, two Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) staffers began helping churches discover how to serve people in their communities with immigration-related needs through education, raising awareness of missions opportunities and referrals to legal advocates for adjustment of citizenship status issues.
Larry Phillips, BSC immigration ministries strategist, holds a certification from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Access Programs (OLAP), which allows him to assist applicants in the immigration process.
Antonio Santos, BSC Hispanic strategy coordinator, is also applying for the OLAP certification and, with Phillips, conducts general training sessions for congregations. “The convention has seen the need to help our churches understand the immigration issue from a biblical standpoint,” Santos told the Recorder.
“It’s a venue for them to do ministry, to reach out to a segment of the population that usually flies under the radar.
“It also allows local churches to build bridges with people living in fear and anxiety, develop trust with the community and provide a social service that will create opportunities to share the gospel.”
Phillips and Santos will lead two breakout sessions – one each in Spanish and English – discussing practical applications of a biblical understanding of immigration during the BSC annual meeting Nov. 7 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, N.C.
Southern Baptists across the United States, including Félix Cabrera, lead pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central in Oklahoma City, Okla., and co-founder of the Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance, have signed onto letters from the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT) to President Donald Trump and congressional leaders that called for legislation to protect DACA recipients.