Local faith leaders urge Congress to act

In November of 2017,  Rev. Tom Hagood of Columbia Presbyterian Church held a press conference in front of the church to announce Columbia Presbyterian would be a sanctuary church for immigrants.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which is being replaced under President Donald Trump, will expire on March 5. With the expiration date looming, multiple faith leaders across the country issued a “moral declaration” request.

The declaration calls for Congress to pass a “clean” Dream Act that protects young immigrants and immigrant families from being deported.

Several Decatur faith leaders signed the declaration, including Rev. Jonathan Favors-Grimes of Ikon Community Church, Rev. Liz Hilton of Church of the Common Ground, Pamela Croft and Rev. Tom Hagood of Columbia Presbyterian Church.

“From a faith perspective and from a church perspective, we’re really concerned about what’s going on,” Hagood said. “There’s no reason why we can’t have fair, just immigration laws.”

According to the declaration, DACA expires on March 5. Approximately 1,000 people per day will be at risk of being deported or lose their work permits.  

“Our young immigrant neighbors need the safety and security that only Congress can provide through a clean Dream Act,” the declaration states.

In November of 2017, Hagood, along with community members, faith leaders and immigrant families, announced the Columbia Presbyterian Church in Decatur would become a sanctuary to immigrant youth and families.

Hagood is also a member of the New Sanctuary Movement of Atlanta—a group of faith leaders who promote “immigrant justice.”

“We, as a church, are praying very hard right now,” Hagood said. “We are calling our representatives to get this thing through.”

The declaration claims 800,000 youth immigrants will be at risk of deportation, losing their job, healthcare or separated from spouses and parents.

On Jan. 14, Trump wrote on twitter that a deal for DACA would end because of Democrats.

“DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don’t really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our military,” Trump wrote.

Trump has referred to the DACA program as “illegal amnesty” for immigrants.

In an interview with ABC News, Rep. Luis Gutierrez said Democrats should back Trump on his promise to build a wall if it means Trump will agree to reconsider repealing the DACA program.

“As a church, we have to change the conversation and think about the long term in this country. We must find ways to dialogue with one another,” Hagood said. “The art of being able to dialogue seems to be lost.”

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