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Photo by AbbyNoelle Photography

The Rev. Orlando and Emily Gallardo were married on July 16, 2016. He is a recipient of a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and is concerned he may be deported if changes are made to that program.

Photo courtesy of Orlando Gallardo

The Rev. Orlando Gallardo

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‘Dreamer’ pastor concerned about his future

 

By Kathy L. Gilbert
July-August 2017

Experiencing diversity

The Rev. Orlando Gallardo was 15 when his mother decided it was worth the risk to send her youngest child across the border of Mexico to give him a chance at a better future.

"My mother always worried about me; she pushed me to get an education," he said.

Gallardo has an older brother who is a United States citizen living in Iowa. He agreed to take parental rights and responsibilities for his youngest brother and filed the papers to get legal status for Gallardo.

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"Just coming to the U.S. as an ordinary person is very difficult. I got denied," Gallardo said. "My mother and brother made a decision I should just come to the U.S. without documents, that it was my best shot."

Getting to the U.S. was a harrowing journey. At one point he waited in the freezing river naked, and at another was afraid of being abandoned in a hotel with strangers and no food.

Gallardo, now 33, is associate pastor of Trinity Community Church, a United Methodist congregation in Kansas City, Kansas. He believes his mother's prayers got him to this point in his life. He counts it as divine intervention that he completed high school in Waterloo, Iowa, college at the University of Northern Iowa and seminary at the Saint Paul School of Theology in Overland Park, Kansas.

He became a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) when then-President Barack Obama signed the executive order in 2012.

DACA allowed certain undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.

During the campaign, President Donald Trump promised to terminate amnesty programs issued by Obama. The fate of DACA is now unknown.

If Gallardo is deported, he may be forced to leave the U.S. and go back to Mexico for as long as 10 years. He has petitioned for a waiver from that ban. Gallardo is also working to make his church a sanctuary church that would shelter anyone threatened with deportation.

"With DACA, I was able to answer my call to ministry," he said. "I know a lot of DACA recipients that have been able to develop themselves, and they are really afraid now."

Nearly 120,000 young people with DACA status, also known as Dreamers because they had lobbied for the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act before DACA, are awaiting a response from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services about the status of their applications for initial or continued inclusion in the DACA program, according to data released in September 2016.

As of March, the Homeland Security Department was continuing to accept and process requests, although some immigrant advocacy groups were discouraging people from applying at that time.

"There is justifiable fear among those who have DACA about their future," said Rob Rutland-Brown, executive director of National Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON), a United Methodist immigration ministry that offers free legal assistance to immigrants. "Will they lose their work authorization? Will the government use their personal information against them? What happens when their DACA expires?"

JFON is not helping people apply to DACA at this point because of the cost and risk of applying. Rutland-Brown said the organization's sites across the country are "receiving an unprecedented amount of calls not just from those with DACA, but from immigrants in general about what their options will be in the Trump Administration."

Kathy L. Gilbert is a multi-media reporter with United Methodist News Service. This article has been updated from the original story published on Jan. 25.