KNOXVILLE - A Knoxville faith leader says immigration laws should be viewed with a compassionate heart.
That statement comes following reports that President Trump may end a program called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The Obama-era plan allows undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to stay. Those roughly 800,000 young people are often called "dreamers."
Father Bo Townsend works closely with Allies of Knoxville's Immigrant Neighbors, or AKIN.The organization advocates for immigrants' rights in East Tennessee. Townsend says the loss of DACA could separate families.
"When you start to deport children like that, you tear families apart," said Townsend.
Father Bo Townsend is a priest at St. Luke's Episcopal Church. He believes DACA starts with family.
"I think it has to do with families that already live here," said Townsend. "Children that have grown up in the United States and consider themselves citizens of the United States."
Hundreds of thousands of people nationwide are covered under DACA, which gives undocumented immigrants the ability to work and study for two years without fear of deportation.
Reports indicate President Trump is leaning toward ending the program, and is giving Congress six months to find a replacement. GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan thinks Trump shouldn't end it -- and that Congress should fix it.
Tennessee is one of several states that's been pushing the president to stop the program.
Attorney General Herbert Slatery was working with Republican leaders in nine other states, but wrote in a letter Friday he's no longer pursuing litigation. Slatery thinks lawmakers can set policy that addresses people who came here illegally as children.
"I think in East Tennessee in particular and in Knoxville, we are about taking care of people and taking care of our communities," said Townsend.
Townsend believes ending the program would hurt families.
"Families that have been integral parts of our communities that work, play, live here, that contribute to not only the financial tax base but also contribute to the well being of the community," said Townsend.
The president's decision is expected Tuesday.
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