Supporting 'Dreamers' is our civic and moral duty
© Getty

Sixteen years ago as a pastor of a Latino church in my Chicago neighborhood of La Villita, I saw the impact firsthand when our U.S. House Representative, Luis GutierrezLuis Vicente GutierrezDem tears into Kelly over immigrant comments: 'He eats the vegetables that they pick' WATCH: Gutiérrez says ‘lonely’ Trump can cry on KKK’s shoulder over WH departures Read Trump's remarks at Gridiron dinner MORE (D-Ill.), introduced a piece of legislation that would help undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, move toward legal status. Not long after his idea was introduced, it moved to the Senate where it was named the Dream Act. 

This aptly named piece of legislation seemed to be a sensible and humane solution to a pressing problem I was seeing in my congregation. With no opportunity to make their status right with the law, the broken immigration system was penalizing young people. My young congregants were working hard to build the better life their parents had risked life and limb for, but too often their dreams of college, reliable vocations, or even a driver's license were permanently delayed due to their legal status.

Still, I watched these young people persist, and then the Dream Act came along fueling a new generation of young people with the hope of a country whose founding is rooted in opportunity and immigration. 

Since then, the Dream Act and immigration reform legislation has been riddled with political posturing, inflated rhetoric and minimal political will to work together to fix the broken immigration system. For nearly two decades now, young futures have hung in limbo, and the well-being of families has been put at risk, as Congress and each corresponding administration have routinely come to an impasse on immigration reform having yet to pass the Dream Act.

As a pastor, my faith calls me to “love my neighbors” and to welcome people whose experiences are different than my own. As a Mexican American leader who understands how important and challenging it is to encourage others to build bridges of reconciliation for the benefit of others, I applaud the work of Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump says he will sign executive order to end family separations Trump backs narrow bill halting family separations: official Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Trump officials move to expand non-ObamaCare health plans | 'Zero tolerance' policy stirs fears in health community | New ObamaCare repeal plan MORE (R-S.C.) and Richard DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor Live coverage: FBI chief, Justice IG testify on critical report Hugh Hewitt to Trump: 'It is 100 percent wrong to separate border-crossing families' MORE (D-Ill.) and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinenin (R-Fla.) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) bringing the Dream Act back up for a vote. 

Widely supported by both Republican and Democrat voters, The Dream Act numbers have clearly shown that this should not be a challenging vote for Congress. 

Yet we need to see more leaders in Washington be willing to demonstrate moral courage by reaching across the aisle to work together to support the American Dream for our young people. I’ll go further and suggest, as politics in Washington remains a daily roller coaster, Americans need to see bipartisan cooperation on key issues impacting our country. Congressional support for the Dream Act is an important opportunity to put partisanship in the back seat and put young people in the front seat. Let’s move their futures and ours forward, and begin to re-build confidence that we can work together for the common good.

As a nation that has been a beacon of freedom and opportunity for millions of immigrants, loving our neighbors means more than just being nice to the people who live nearby. We are called to protect all who are most vulnerable, in word and in deed. This policy is not just good politics, it’s sound theology.

Supporting the Dream Act allows young people to thrive in the only country they have ever known, and gives them the opportunity to give back to the country they call home.

Noel Castellanos is president of Christian Community Development Association and is also on the boards of the National Association of Evangelicals and World Vision. 

The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.