Land of the Free

During this July 4th holiday, I hope that my fellow Tennesseans and our Attorney General Herbert Slatery take some time to reflect on its historical significance. Because they were unable to practice Protestantism (specifically Calvinism) in their homeland, 104 Brits risked their lives emigrating to Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 so they could get a fresh start. Only thirty-eight of them survived the winter. Every year, we simultaneously celebrate this country’s independence from England as well as our own pride in transforming from a nation of immigrants into a thriving country where we are free to pursue the American Dream.

You can imagine my indignation when I learned that Mr. Slatery signed a letter with Attorneys General from nine other states whining to Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that was enacted in 2012. In this letter, all ten of these states are urging the phasing out of this program or else they will waste tax dollars and collectively sue the federal government on the grounds of having a program that actually helps people.

In case you were wondering, the DACA program was created to protect immigrant children who were brought to this country by their families, and it provides them with lawful citizenship on a temporary basis. To be eligible for this program, applicants must meet all of the following conditions: be under 16 when they arrived in the U.S; have lived in the U.S. continuously for at least five years; graduated from high school, received a GED or currently be enrolled in an education program; have arrived before June 15, 2007 and was 31 years old or younger in 2012; demonstrate a clean criminal record; submit a lengthy application, undergo biometric screening, pay a fee of $465; and renew every two years.

A strong anti-immigrant climate has permeated every nook and cranny in this country. Many Americans believe that the presence of unauthorized immigrants is harmful to the economy and would like to see steps taken to reduce their presence. At the state level, Nashville was going to enact measures to protect its vulnerable immigrant population but was forced to back off when state representatives, like Coffee County’s own Judd Matheny, threatened to withhold state funding. Likewise, Rep. Diane Black has joined President Trump in taking a hard stance against illegal immigrants. Interestingly, a recent study by the conservative Cato Institute sheds some light onto why these politicians are squarely on the wrong side of this issue.

The Cato Institute describes itself as “a public policy research organization--a think tank--dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace.” On January of this year, they released a report on their website titled “The Economic and Fiscal Impact of Repealing DACA.” Cato Institute’s research indicates that “working and earning a higher level of income in the formal sector means that the DACA workers pay more taxes, both through payroll, income, and sales as a result of greater consumption associated with higher incomes.” Additionally, “59 percent of DACA recipients reported getting their first job, 45 percent received a pay increase, 49 percent opened their first bank account, and 33 percent got their first credit card due to their participating in DACA. All of these factors contribute positively to the economy.” This report draws the strong conclusion that the “total cost estimate of immediately eliminating the DACA program and deporting its participants of $283 billion over 10 years. In other words, the United States economy would be poorer by more than a quarter of a trillion dollars if President Trump were to make good on his threat to repeal it.”

Like the British who first colonized this country, immigrants move here to live a better life and to provide for their families. We have a program in place that protects their children from deportation and that is already benefitting our economy. DACA should be expanded, instead of phased out, because it is the morally right thing to do. The Bible is crystal clear about helping immigrants. Leviticus 19:33-34 says: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” As we celebrate our freedom on this 4th of July, we should keep in mind how we got here. We need to stop turning our backs on those who need our help the most, and stop electing politicians who ruthlessly aim to tear families apart, harm the American economy, and extinguish American ingenuity.