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Free Chapel pastor Jentezen Franklin lobbied Trump against DACA deportations
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The Rev. Jentezen Franklin, Free Chapel senior pastor. - photo by Erin Smith

The Rev. Jentezen Franklin, Free Chapel senior pastor, said he lobbied President Donald Trump against deporting immigrants covered by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

People in the United States covered by DACA entered the country illegally as children. People as old as their early 30s could be covered by DACA, an administrative program created by former President Barack Obama’s executive order, if their families illegally entered the country decades ago.

In a Wednesday afternoon interview on CNN, Franklin said he hopes the approximately 800,000 people involved in the program are not deported.

“I can tell you now that I believe … and the other ministers that are there, the black pastors and Hispanic pastors and those of us who pastor to multicultural churches,” Franklin said. “We were basically saying, ‘We’re in the trenches.’ I know these kids; they’ve been in my home. I know these kids; they’ve been in my children’s ministry, my youth ministry. I love these kids — these are great kids. We pleaded passionately with the president that we have got to find a pathway.”

He said that he believed Trump would sign a bill granting amnesty for DACA residents if Congress sent one to his desk. People covered by DACA are often called “Dreamers” — an acronym referencing the failed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act first introduced in 2001.

Franklin’s discussions with Trump were reported by The Washington Post on Monday. He’s one of several pastors on Trump’s evangelical advisory council.

Franklin was pressed by CNN on whether he believed the “Dreamers” in his church would be deported and, if they were, whether he would resign from the council.

If he chooses not to listen, he chooses not to listen, but you know, you don’t resign from a board – at least I don’t – every time somebody does something you don’t agree with.
Jentezen Franklin

He said he was “very optimistic” that Gainesville residents covered by DACA wouldn’t be deported but that he “cannot guarantee that” because he’s “not president and I’m not Donald Trump.”

The Trump administration announced this week that Congress had six months to pass a bill before the DACA program would be scrapped.

If the residents here illegally do end up getting deported, Franklin said he wouldn’t resign from Trump’s faith council.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Presence is everything,’ when he was asked, ‘Why are you going to the White House?’ He said presence is everything,” Franklin said. “(If I wasn’t on) that board, I wouldn’t have been able to look across the table there, the desk in the Oval Office, and have this very conversation that I’m having for you.”

One megachurch pastor from Brooklyn, A.R. Bernard, resigned from Trump’s faith council after the president’s comments on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, which saw violent clashes between white nationalists, neo-Nazis and counterprotesters, some of whom were members of the often violent anti-fascist movement named Antifa.

Close to the end of the interview, CNN anchor Brianna Keilar asked Franklin, “What good is being on the board, what good is being on the board if some of your parishioners are deported?”

Franklin said that if “you’re not at the table, you can’t argue the points.”

“If he chooses not to listen, he chooses not to listen, but you know, you don’t resign from a board — at least I don’t — every time somebody does something you don’t agree with,” Franklin said. “The president has done (several) things that I didn’t agree with, but I can’t influence that world if I’m not in it. I didn’t ask other pastors who served on President Obama’s board to resign — I wanted them there.”

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