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DIVERSITY

Praying, Pleading, for Consensus That Protects Dreamers

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” the Bible tells us. Regrettably, Dreamers throughout the country have lived that experience repeatedly in recent months.

By Rev. Samuel Rodriguez And Abigail Molina

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” the Bible tells us.

Regrettably, Dreamers throughout the country have lived that experience repeatedly in recent months and in new ways in recent days. The creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012 was life-changing for hundreds of thousands of young people—but the announcement of its termination last September meant, barring legislative intervention, that they would lose their jobs and potentially even face deportation. Reports of a bipartisan “deal” gave us new hope—only for it to be dashed within hours. We’re fervently praying that our elected officials will come together quickly to find consensus.

We write, respectively, as the leader of a network of more than forty thousand Hispanic evangelical congregations and as a staff member at one of those local churches—World Impact Center – Impacto de Fe in Commerce City, Colorado—whose employment is possible only because of the DACA program.

My (Abigail’s) story is similar in many ways to those of tens of thousands of others within churches that are represented by the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC). I arrived in the U.S. on a tourist visa with my family on July 4, 1999. I thought the fireworks were there to welcome us to our new home. But when my family overstayed their visas—a concept I could not understand as a small child—and became undocumented, our life was very challenging. When my friends were applying for driver’s licenses, I discovered I could not. Though I was a strong student, I was ineligible for federal financial aid or for in-state tuition rates, so I could only afford to attend college part-time.

My family and I found strength in our local church, though, and I genuinely believe it came as an answer to the prayers of many in that church and in churches throughout the country that the DACA program came about, allowing me to work lawfully, pay my taxes, pay my way through college, and give back, serving on the staff of a local elementary school and now at my church. I am so incredibly grateful for this country and the many blessings it has offered to me, and I desperately want to be able to continue to contribute. But, without congressional action, I will lose my work authorization next year—a message I conveyed to legislators as I joined a delegation of other Christian Dreamers in Washington, D.C. recently.

I (Samuel) meet young people like Abigail on a regular basis in my role with the NHCLC and within the church that I pastor in Sacramento, California. They want nothing more than to continue to live, work, and contribute, using the gifts that God has given each of them to their fullest potential. Their churches are standing with them in pleading with both Republicans and Democrats in Congress to come together to pass legislation.

But it’s not just Latino Christians who care about this: a  poll last fall found that more than 70 percent of evangelical Christians of all ethnicities support legislation to allow Dreamers to stay in the U.S. and keep their jobs. More than 60 percent of those who voted for President Trump want these individuals to be able to become U.S. citizens, according to a  Fox News poll. By roughly an eight-to-one margin, a recent  Quinnipiac University poll found, Americans prefer allowing Dreamers to stay to their deportation.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” the author of Proverbs continues, “but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Members of Congress from both parties can come together quickly to resolve their differences, and President Trump can have the opportunity to do something none of his predecessors have been able to do: offer real, permanent hope to young people who are Americans in every way except on paper. In doing so, we promise that they will bear fruit, giving back many times over to this great country.

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Diversity Reward

Vanguard University‘s efforts to recognize racial and ethnic differences in community life are accelerating, thanks to an infusion of funding from the U.S. Department of Education. As part of a more than $51 million federal grant for 96 Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), the Assemblies of God school in Costa Mesa, California, has received a five-year $2.57 million grant to strengthen and expand educational opportunities for Hispanic and low-income students through its Diversity and Inclusion Department. Vanguard is one of only two Council for Christian Colleges and Universities institutions to receive funding.

Vanguard opened its Diversity and Inclusion Department in 2009 to encourage students to explore cultural diversity, racial reconciliation, and gender equality issues. The school is a federally designated HSi: an institution of higher education with at least 25 percent Hispanic full-time equivalent undergraduate enrollment. This grant will allow the private, Christian university of liberal arts and professional studies to further educational opportunities for students through faculty development, curriculum development, and academic tutoring and mentoring.

“Across the nation, more Hispanics are enrolling in college and Hispanics soon will represent nearly one in three American workers,” says Vanguard President Michael J. Beals. “We’re committed to helping educate these emerging leaders and introducing them to ways they can transform the campus and their communities through their talent, faith, and influence.”

Vanguard expects this grant to help more students access post-secondary degrees and credentials, which are key to building a highly skilled workforce. Plus, Vanguard aims to ramp up Diversity and Inclusion Department efforts to educate the entire student body about cultural diversity, racial reconciliation and gender equality issues. Already, Vanguard students such as Heidi Lepe and Sylvana Marquina are stepping up to extend this awareness beyond the campus.

Lepe, class of 2016, is promoting social and economic opportunities for Hispanics. The sociology major and recipient of a National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference scholarship for Latino students aims to help generate equitable opportunities for educational advancement, employment, and distribution of wealth and resources. As an intern at the Down Syndrome Association of Orange County, Lepe provides bilingual resources and educational support to families. She also works for the El Paseo Academic Program, helping dozens of students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Set to graduate in 2017, Marquina is a biology major and Hispanic student scholar. She juggles her undergraduate studies with an internship at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, and volunteered previously for John Muir Medical Center, delivering surgery schedules, training dozens of health care volunteers, and delivering hundreds of lab specimens. At Vanguard, Marquina is learning how to become a health care leader who advocates for affordable, high-quality, culturally and linguistically appropriate care in a timely manner. She intends to become a pediatrician.

The campus Diversity and Inclusion Department relocated to the newly commissioned Scott Academic Center this year. The three-story education center spans nearly 50,000 square feet and increases classroom capacity by 1,500 students per day.

– See more at: http://penews.org/Article/Diversity-Reward/#sthash.TaatBvsz.dpuf

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