The parishes of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles have taken a significant leadership role in reaching out to our brother and sister immigrants who are here without full legal papers or documentation.
When Governor Jerry Brown signed into law last year a provision whereby those without legal status could petition for, and obtain, a California driver’s license, our parishes began an intensive effort to assist those persons eligible. Working with the Office of Justice and Peace in the archdiocese, efforts were made to invite parishes with large numbers of undocumented persons to form parish teams to assist them.
Training sessions were set up in each of the pastoral regions, and our Hispanic permanent deacons and their wives took a leadership position to assist.
To begin, over 90 parishes became involved in this effort. All efforts were focused on helping parishioners without documents to study for the Department of Motor Vehicles [DMV] test, and to take that test successfully. Many thousands of parishioners were able to obtain their valid California driver’s license because of the work of our volunteer parishioners.
This effort continues, but our attention is now turned to the federal possibilities because of the deferred actions proposed by President Barack Obama. Two deferred actions are now in place, pending final approval from the federal courts.
The first is called DACA, or, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This provision applies to those who entered the U.S. before Jan. 1, 2010, and were under the age of 16 years when they entered. They must have graduated from high school, be currently enrolled in school or obtained the GED.
Potential DACA students need to gather all documents to prove their eligibility, save money for the fees and prepare for the next steps.
The other group is known as DAPA, or, Deferred Action for Parental Accountability. These people must have been residing in the U.S. continuously since before Jan. 1, 2010. As of Nov. 24, 2014, they must be the parent of a son or daughter eligible for DACA or some other program.
There are many unanswered questions until the federal courts rule on the outstanding legal issues. However, our parish teams are organizing to inform parishioners about what we know as of this time.
Parishioners who may be eligible need to be doing several things now:
> Securing and keeping all of the needed documents to prove that they are eligible for these programs;
> Saving money for the fees which will be required for each applicant;
> Remaining informed of the latest developments from the courts or the federal government.
Although we do not have final answers, we must inform our parishioners about what we do know, and assist them in preparing for both the DACA and the DAPA possible deferral actions that could affect them.
Parishioners are warned to not hire lawyers or other persons since they do not know any more than the rest of us — but they could charge large sums of money to our people.
Our parish teams are becoming well trained in all of these matters, and working closely with Catholic Charities, we will be able to keep our parishioners better informed.