President Donald Trump fulfilled a controversial campaign promise Sept. 5 by announcing the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) within six months, despite politicians, business and religious leaders, including those in the Catholic Church, speaking out in support of teens and young adults called “Dreamers.”
After Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has pushed to end the program, formally announced the rescinding of DACA, Trump released a statement that said in part: “As I’ve said before, we will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion -- but through the lawful democratic process -- while at the same time ensuring that any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve,” Trump stated, according to The Hill. “We must also have heart and compassion for unemployed, struggling and forgotten Americans.”
This statement came despite Trump saying in an Associated Press interview in April that “Dreamers,” as they are known -- minors brought to the United States illegally -- can “rest easy” and should not fear deportation. Even though the Trump administration has said with this latest announcement that Dreamers will not be a priority for deportation, Trump’s immigration initiatives do not include categories for deportation and because of that, everyone is a priority. Rescinding the program now puts children and young adults, who may have been in the United States for almost all of their lives, at risk for deportation to a country they’ve never called home.
The announcement gives Congress six months to provide legislation that could save, terminate or alter the DACA program.
There are several proposals being discussed in Congress, including the BRIDGE (Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow Our Economy) Act, a bipartisan bill that would extend the program three years, allowing for permanent legislation to be enacted, according to The Washington Post.
DACA is a federal program implemented by President Barack Obama in 2012 via executive order that protects young immigrants from deportation as long as they meet certain requirements as listed on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, uscis.gov:
As of March, the latest data available, there are 787,580 undocumented immigrants under the protection of DACA. While not given citizenship, Dreamers are given work permits and can serve in the U.S. military. The Department of Homeland Security will stop accepting DACA applications and current recipients will not be affected until March when Congress will be urged to make a decision on the fate of the program, according to Catholic News Service.
Trump acted on DACA after 11 state attorney generals, including Arkansas’ Leslie Rutledge, threatened to sue the federal government if the administration failed to rescind the program by Sept. 5.
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor released an open letter to Gov. Asa Hutchinson Aug. 31 asking him to support the continuation of DACA.
In his letter, Bishop Taylor said. “The DACA program has been a great success in Arkansas. Through it nearly 6,000 young adults have received assurance that they will not be immediately processed for deportation. This has allowed them to enter the workforce, start businesses and pursue an education. In short, the program has been an overwhelming benefit to our state’s economy.”
Bishop Taylor said it is not in the state’s best interest to oppose DACA.
“Their dream is to become citizens in the country in which they were raised, in which they were schooled, for which some have served in the military and in which they call home,” he said.
He went on to say that protecting DACA is a pro-life concern because “it keeps families together (and thus is ‘pro-family’), and it respects the inherent and fundamental human dignity of each individual person (and thus is ‘pro-life’).”
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ president Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, vice president, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angles and other chairmen of the USCCB called the cancellation of DACA “reprehensible.”
“It causes unnecessary fear for DACA youth and their families. These youth entered the U.S. as minors and often know America as their only home. The Catholic Church has long watched with pride and admiration as DACA youth live out their daily lives with hope and a determination to flourish and contribute to society: continuing to work and provide for their families, continuing to serve in the military and continuing to receive an education. Now, after months of anxiety and fear about their futures, these brave young people face deportation. This decision is unacceptable and does not reflect who we are as Americans,” the statement said.
The statement also invoked Mark 9:37, “Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me,” while adding that DACA children are “children of God” and the Church will support and advocate for them.
“Today, our nation has done the opposite of how Scripture calls us to respond. It is a step back from the progress that we need to make as a country. Today’s actions represent a heartbreaking moment in our history that shows the absence of mercy and good will, and a short-sighted vision for the future. DACA youth are woven into the fabric of our country and of our Church, and are, by every social and human measure, American youth,” the USCCB stated.
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