Bennet, Durbin, Religious Leaders Announce DREAM Act Sabbath

Events to be Held Nationwide this Fall

Washington, DC – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and more than a dozen religious leaders representing a broad variety of faith traditions today announced a DREAM Act Sabbath – an initiative enlisting churches, synagogues, and mosques around the country to dedicate time during their regular weekly worship service to a conversation about the DREAM Act. The nationwide event will take place this fall on September 23rd, September 24th, and September 25th.

“Community efforts, including the unique perspective that can come from our faith communities, are essential to passing the DREAM Act,” Bennet said. "The struggle for these kids is guided by lessons from our history: we cannot give up, and we all stand on the shoulders of people who have come before us, who have fought for rights that seemed unimaginable at the time they were fighting for them. These kids only know America as their home, and we should provide them with the opportunity to go to college or serve our nation in the military.”

“For the last ten years I have been working on the DREAM Act, there has been one constant:  strong support from the faith community,” Durbin said. “The DREAM Act is based on a fundamental moral principle that is shared by all the faith traditions represented here today – it is wrong to punish children for the actions of their parents. This fall, congregations around the country will put their faith into action when they observe the DREAM Act Sabbath.  They will put a human face on the plight of undocumented students and mobilize support to pass the DREAM Act.”

The DREAM Act is a narrowly tailored bill that would give undocumented students a chance to earn legal status if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and complete two years of college or military service in good standing. Introduced for the first time in 2001, the DREAM Act has been reported out of committee by a wide bipartisan majority, passed the House of Representatives, and received a bipartisan majority vote in the Senate, only to fall because of a filibuster. Today’s announcement will continue to build on the broad grassroots support for the DREAM Act, focusing particularly on faith communities.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, said: "These young persons, who are for all practical purposes Americans like all of us, love this country so much that they risk deportation in order to advocate to become American citizens. Why would we not want to embrace their dedication, energy, talents, and courage--characteristics that have made our nation great? It would be to our detriment to forsake them."

Bishop Minerva Carcano of the Phoenix Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church said: “These young men and women are not strangers. They have grown up in our communities. They are making our country a better place now and for generations to come. Across faith traditions, children hold a very special place. Without DREAM, the well-being of children will be stunted and undermined. If our political leaders fail to support this, we fail to be faithful guardians of the children God placed in our care. But we will not fail. We will not fail because God is with us.”

Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference said: "Christ himself admonished us to permit the little ones, the children, to come to him for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them.  Without a doubt, Christ stood committed to the care and protection of the most vulnerable, especially children. To continue to punish these children is nothing less than anti-Christian, anti-American and morally reprehensible.... For at the end of the day this issue is after all about dreams. Not just the dream of innocent children but the American dream. How we treat the innocent, the children and the least amongst us speaks to the moral fiber of our nation. Let us save these dreams by passing the Dream Act. In doing so, we protect our values, our families, our communities and as a result we salvage the American Dream."

Reverend Derrick Harkins, Senior Pastor of the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington said: “It's short-sighted and wrong-headed to say that young people who have done nothing wrong and want nothing more than to be hardworking contributors to the country they call home shouldn't get that opportunity. The best of America's hope and promise lies in instilling in young people the faith that their studiousness and sacrifice will lead to a better future not only for themselves, but also for the nation. The DREAM Act is a moral priority of national importance that every Member of Congress should support. If we fail in this, we fall short of the American dream.”

Rabbi Lisa Grushcow, Associate Rabbi at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in New York City said: “Judaism teaches us to love the stranger, but in this case the more relevant command is to love our neighbor.  The young people who would benefit from the DREAM Act are our neighbors.  My own Jewish immigrant ancestors saw America as the goldene medineh, the golden land.  They knew that higher education was the key to getting the most America had to offer, and giving back in return.  How can we close those doors to this next generation, who are in search of the American dream?”

Sister Simone Cambell, SSS, Executive Director, NETWORK, said: “Passage of the DREAM Act would be one step toward building up our nation by fully integrating young people into our society. These young people only know the US as their home and are committed to making our democracy work. It is the right civic action to take, but it is also the right faith action.”

Dr. Fred Kniss, Provost, Eastern Mennonite University, said: “As a private faith-based university, Eastern Mennonite University stands ready to invest its own institutional financial aid funds in developing the knowledge and skills of our gifted immigrant students, regardless of their documentation status.  Without passage of the DREAM Act, American society is unable to reap the benefits of our investment.  This is a great economic and social loss for our region and for society as a whole.”

Rabbi Doug Heifetz, Oseh Shalom Congregation, Laurel, Maryland, said: “Jews start every Passover seder by reading the biblical verse: ‘My father was a wandering Aramean’ (Deuteronomy 26:1).  The verse reminds us of our own origins as strangers and immigrants, who arrived in this country perhaps unwelcome and afraid.  However, the verse speaks only in the past tense.  It thus also suggests us that each progressive generation must receive the opportunity to become better integrated and to belong more fully.  The DREAM Act will allow young people who grew up here--who violated no laws in doing so--to realize their place as productive citizens, students, soldiers, working people and entrepreneurs who share a stake in America.”

The Rev. Richard Graham, Bishop, Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said: “Last year I joined Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and Lutheran leaders to urge Congress to pass the DREAM Act. Although I was disappointed that the Senate failed to pass the bill, I stand committed to working with congregations in my synod to advance just and humane solutions for these ambitious and talented young people.”

Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, O.F.M., Franciscan Friar of the Holy Name Province, said: “The DREAM Act is a moral test for our nation.  How are we going to act towards the talented young men and women among us who want to develop their God’s given talents, pursue their dreams, and contribute to our society?  Will we act with fear and malice, or with love and justice?  The Bible is clear: when we are deaf to the cries of the poor, when we deny others their human rights, when we builds wall rather than bridges, we fail God.  One of the letters in the New Testament offers an important advice – not only for the people who lived 2,000 years ago, but also to us.  It says: ‘Welcome and care for the stranger in your midst, for in doing so, you may be entertaining angels.’  (Heb. 13:2) As followers of St. Francis of Assisi we wholeheartedly support the DREAM Act, which embodies the values of Christ and St. Francis.”

Also attending the announcement were The Rt. Rev. David Jones, Bishop, Diocese of Virginia, The Episcopal Church and Imam Mohamed Magid, President, Islamic Society of North America.