United Methodists in Michigan are feeling the impact of the administration’s action on DACA.
REV. PAUL PEREZ
Director for Mission and Justice Engagement, Detroit Conference
United Methodists in Michigan are being affected by the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
DACA is a program created under President Obama. It offered young people, who arrived in the U.S. as minors and met other specific requirements, a temporary legal status and the ability to work. On September 5, 2017 Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of DACA. Close to 800,000 young people are DACA recipients. About 6,400 of them live in Michigan.
“Many of our members are undocumented,” shared Rev. Patricia Gandarilla, Pastor of Centro Familiar Cristiano UMC in Detroit. “The day of the announcement, many moms came to me in tears. They were scared. Scared not only for their kids, who are DACA recipients, but for the whole family. They are afraid of the information ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) has,” continued Rev. Gandarilla, “Afraid [ICE] will come for everyone.”
Maria Espitia is a young person connected to Centro Familiar Cristiano. Maria served as a Detroit Conference Mission Intern at Centro Familiar Cristiano UMC. As an intern, Maria staffed the congregation’s summer camp that served over 60 neighborhood children. Maria lives in Detroit. She is an undocumented immigrant and a DACA recipient.
Maria arrived in the U.S. from Mexico at the age of three. “My parents wanted a better future and opportunity for me and for themselves,” she shared. “We returned to Mexico when I was around five because my parents missed their family. We did not stay long. We came back to the U.S. because my parents wanted a better life for their family.”
Living in Detroit for most of her life, Maria graduated from Western High School. When President Obama announced the DACA program, Maria was among those who were first in line to apply in early 2012. “DACA changed my life. Without DACA I would not be able to work, have a license, own a car. Without it I would lose my job and my ability to drive.” Maria could lose all these things and more, if Congress does not act to renew DACA or create a similar program.
“I see the U.S. as my county. It is my home. Deportation is hard to think about.” ~ Maria Espitia
“Honestly, I was sad when I heard that DACA was ending. My parents rely on me. I am the only one in the house with a license,” Maria reflected. “People are talking about deportation. I know I was born in Mexico, but I don’t know it. I see the U.S. as my county. It is my home. Deportation is hard to think about.”
Maria recently renewed her DACA status. She plans to live in the city where she grew up and pursue her career as a dental assistant as long as she can. When asked if she is hopeful she replied, “Yes, I am hopeful. I hope people change their mind about DACA. This is my country, I was raised here, all my friends are here, Detroit is my home town. I am hoping that people change their mind, that they give us something permanent. Something that allows me to stay here. My family and I are doing everything we can to fight for DACA.”
LEARN, GIVE, & ACT in response to this story
Read the following statements about the end of DACA from United Methodist leaders and organizations:
- “A Call to Action on DACA,” UMC Council of Bishop Immigrant Task Force
- Michigan Committee on Hispanic/Latino Ministries Statement on DACA
- “Defend DACA: A Call to Action,” Dr. Susan Henry Crowe, General Board of Church & Society
If you are in need of immigration legal assistance or know someone who requires immigration legal assistance, please visit
- Michigan Immigrant Rights Center
- Justice for Our Neighbors West Michigan & Justice for Our Neighbors Southeastern Michigan
The following organizations are offering large group DACA renewal workshops and information sessions. Click below for event information:
- One Michigan: 734-239-6863
- Michigan United 1-877-507-7774
- MIRC/Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition on Immigrant and Refugee Rights 734-239-6863
Please consider donating to Justice for Our Neighbors West Michigan and Justice for Our Neighbors Southeastern Michigan, United Methodist related immigration legal aid organizations serving Traverse City, Holland, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Ypsilanit, Dearborn, and Detroit.
Pray for DACA recipients and their families. If you have the privilege of preaching, please consider preaching on immigration.