The Rev. Louis Forsythe, shown on the right, is concerned about the future of DACA and African immigrants who benefit from it.  Imam Mohamed Al-masmari is on  the left.—Serena Maria Daniels photo

The Rev. Louis Forsythe is as distressed as he is determined.  

That’s the best way to describe the pastor of Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit after he learned of the Trump Administration policy position to rescind the program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, better known as DACA.

“I think it’s the wrong position,” Forsythe said about the announcement by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on September 5. “I wish that he could have been more compassionate.”

What’s more, Forsythe, an African American, is concerned that immigrants of African descent aren’t seen as prominently as immigrants from Latin countries in the intensifying public debate centering on the future of program.

He reminds us of the role of the church, and principally, Matthew 25:35:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”

Forsythe has offered to open his church as a sanctuary city for immigrants who could be negatively affected by DACA.

DACA: NATIONAL VIEW

The group of people affected by DACA are known as DREAMers—undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. To qualify for the DACA program, applicants must meet criteria that includes:

  • Having arrived in the U.S. prior to age 16
  • Continuously resided in the U.S. without legal status
  • Currently enrolled in school
  • No felony or serious misdemeanor convictions

African immigrants make up a small share of the nation’s immigrant population, but their overall numbers are growing – roughly doubling every decade since 1970, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

There were 2.1 million African immigrants residing in the United States in 2015, up from 881,000 in 2000. That’s a huge increase from 1970 when the U.S. was home to only 80,000 foreign-born Africans. They accounted for 4.8% of the U.S. immigrant population in 2015, up from 0.8% in 1970. What’s more, of the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants in America, about 600,000 of them are black, according to the most recent statistics by the Migration Policy Institute.

Ever since Trump’s DACA decision was announced last Tuesday, he and his administration officials have been trying to assure undocumented immigrants that they do not need to worry about being deported. His spokesperson Sara Huckabee Sanders said that “DACA recipients, whose average age is in their 20s, were not an enforcement priority before and they certainly won’t become a priority now.”

Meanwhile, former President Barack Obama, who implemented DACA on June 15, 2012, using an executive action, issued a strong statement in response to Trump Administration decision. Obama, whose father was Kenyan, called the move i “cruel’ and “self-defeating.”

“This is about young people who grew up in America – kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag,” Obama stated. “These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.”

LOCAL LEADERS SOUND OFF

Congressman John Conyers Jr, House Judiciary Committee ranking member took after Trump:

“It is clear that the president eliminated DACA to advance his xenophobic agenda,” he conveyed in a written statement. “This repeal aligns with the interests not of the 78% of Americans opposed to deporting these young people, but of un-American anti-DACA white supremacist leaders like Richard Spencer.”

“President Trump has failed the conscience of the country and Congress must take decisive action to right this wrong. I, along with my Democratic colleagues, support strong legislation that would provide DACA recipients with the legal status and path to citizenship that they deserve. We will continue to combat cynical efforts to use these human beings as bargaining chips.

Conyers stated further:

“Republican lawmakers face a simple choice—whether to stand with or against nearly 800,000 young people who are as American as they are. The nation is watching.”

Imad Hamad of the Dearborn-based American Human Rights Council executive director stated the following:

“We are deeply troubled by President Trump’s decision that needlessly and cruelly injects uncertainty and anxiety about the future into the lives of hundreds of thousands of decent and hard-working young men and women. President Trump should use his negotiation skills to spur Congress to action rather than use the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent young men and women as a political football and a tool to make a political statement. It’s simply inhumane and un-American.”

Gary Peters, Michigan’s junior U.S. senator, tweeted last week:

“Immigrants are essential to the fabric of our nation. I strongly disagree with President Trump’s decision to rescind #DACA.”

His U.S. Senate colleague, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, agreed. Here’s her Tweet:

“Wrong for admin to pull rug out from under children & young people who came to America undocumented through no fault of their own. #DACA.”

Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, who represents 22 southeastern Michigan communities including a portion of Detroit, declared that the local impact of the Trump Administration policy change on DACA hurts our state:

“Unless we act now to preserve the DACA program, our economy would stand to lose $460 billion from the national GDP,” Lawrence pointed out. “In Michigan, DACA has allowed more than 6,400 young people to come forward, pass background checks, and live and work legally in the country. Ending DACA in Michigan would cost Michigan more than $418 million in annual GDP losses.

Lawrence held a news conference, which included her colleague John Conyers, in Clark Park on Detroit’s southwest side on September 10 to protest the Trump Administration action.

“Immigration has always been fundamental to our U.S. story,” Lawrence stated. “I stand behind our young DREAMers, and we will continue to fight for the comprehensive immigration reform our nation so urgently needs.”

The Rev. Forsythe is working with Michigan United to defend the DACA program and to provide assistance to DREAMers just as Pleasant Grove has provided its space as a homeless shelter for the last several years.

Last week Michigan United, a statewide organization fighting for the dignity and potential of all people regardless of race, ethnicity and citizenship status, sponsored a rally in Clark Park. One of its board member is Seydi Sarr, who is general secretary of Detroit’s Senegalese Community Association. Many of the people who attended the Michigan United rally to push back against the Trump DACA policy were of Latino descent. Forsythe is certainly concerned about them and immigrants of African descent.

“I think that (black immigrants) are sometimes left in the shadows,” Forsythe concluded. “We’re talking about Haitians, Africans, those from the Caribbean. They are not highlighted as much as the Latino community.”

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