Catholic leaders have responded to developments in the legal battle over the DACA program, including a court order maintaining legal protections for undocumented youth, known as “Dreamers,” and a presidential commitment to legislative support for them.
U.S. District Judge William Alsap’s Jan. 9 order temporarily blocks President Trump’s attempt to phase out the DACA program, which was initiated by President Obama in 2012. Nearly 690,000 undocumented immigrants are beneficiaries of the DACA program.
While President Trump has worked to phase out the program, he has also called for a legislative solution to resolve the immigration status of DACA recipients. In a televised meeting with bipartisan lawmakers Tuesday, President Trump that he hopes to reach a solution for DACA recipients with a “bill of love.”
In a recent column, Archbishop José Gomez expressed concern for the estimated 125,000 DACA recipients who live within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, all of whom could face deportation when the program ends in March.
“It would be cruel to punish them for the wrongs of their parents, deporting them to countries of origin that they have never seen, where they may not even know the language,” Archbishop Gomez wrote.
The archbishop called for systematic immigration reform, explaining that most DACA recipients have not experienced a healthy U.S. immigration system in their lifetime.
“This debate is passionate and partisan, as it should be. Systematic reform of our immigration policy is absolutely vital to our nation’s future. And we need to have this conversation. But Congress needs to separate the conversation about DACA from these larger issues.”
Deportation of DACA recipients, Gomez said, “would lead to a humanitarian crisis.”
The DACA program postponed deportation of undocumented immigrants under the age of 30, who had been brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 and lived in the U.S. since June 2007.
DACA participants are eligible to apply for work permits, obtain social security numbers, and, in most cases, apply for a driver’s license. In 2017, a group of business leaders explained that if DACA recipients were deported, “our economy would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions.”
In a Jan.10 statement, Bishop Joe Vasquez, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, wrote that bishops are “encouraged by the consensus that emerged from yesterday’s White House meeting that Congress and the President should move expeditiously to craft and enact legislation that would provide urgently needed relief for Dreamers. For years, these young people have been living in and enriching the United States in many ways. They are contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes and communities. They and their families deserve certainty, compassion, generosity, and justice.”
Vasquez also called for financially sound, effective, and safe measures to strengthen national security at the US border. “Our teaching acknowledges and respects the right of sovereign nations to control their borders,” he wrote. “However, we caution against introducing unrelated, unnecessary, or controversial elements of immigration policy—especially those that jeopardize the sanctity of families or unaccompanied children—into the bipartisan search for a just and humane solution for the Dreamers.”
The Minnesota Catholic Conference recently organized a postcard campaign urging lawmakers to support bipartisan legislation that “protects the dignity of every human being,” particularly the “immigrant youth who entered the United States as children and know America as their only home.” Other Catholic organizations have organized similar campaigns.
“As a nation, we have a moral and humanitarian obligation to Dreamers,” Vasquez wrote.