The U.S. bishops support efforts in Congress "to fully integrate hard-working 'Dreamers' and TPS holders" into the U.S., said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas.
"We need a permanent legislative solution for those who have spent their lives contributing and living in the United States, the country they know as home,” the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration said in a statement released late April 10.
Bishop Vasquez endorsed two pieces of legislation under consideration in the Senate. The first is the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2019, or DREAM Act (S. 874). The name "Dreamers" is taken from the bill's title and refers to the young adults who were brought by their parents to the U.S. illegally as children and remain in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
The second bill relates to TPS holders --TPS stands for Temporary Protected Status -- and those protected under Deferred Enforced Departure, or DED. The measure is the Safe Environment from Countries Under Repression & Emergency Act of 2019, or the SECURE Act (S. 879).
"Dreamers and TPS holders are vital members of our community who are going to school, working to make our communities better and raising families," Bishop Vasquez said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, introduced S. 874 March 26. The DREAM Act of 2019 would allow DACA beneficiaries to earn lawful permanent residence and eventually American citizenship if they: are longtime residents who came to the U.S. as children; graduate from high school or obtain a GED; pursue higher education, work lawfully for at least three years, or serve in the military; and pass security and law enforcement background checks and pay a reasonable application fee.
They also would be required to demonstrate proficiency in the English language and have knowledge of U.S. history. They also cannot have committed a felony "or other serious crimes" and must not "pose a threat to our country."
"My brother bishops and I believe in protecting the dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children," Bishop Vasquez said in an April 10 letter to senators about the legislation. "The Catholic bishops have long supported these immigrant youth and their families who are contributors to our economy, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes."
"These youth have grown up in our country, some even choosing to put their lives on the line to serve in our armed forces," he added. "They truly exemplify the extraordinary contributions that immigrants can provide to our nation. It is both our moral duty and, in our nation’s best interest to protect these youth and allow them to reach their God-given potential."
The SECURE Act was introduced in January by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland. It will allow individuals who had or were eligible for TPS from any country that has had a TPS designation, or who was in the U.S. under a grant of DED extended beyond Sept. 28, 2016, "to move forward with lawful permanent resident status" under certain conditions."
To qualify under the measure, TPS and DED holders must have been continuously present in the U.S. for at least three years and are present upon application for permanent residence status. For those who were removed from the U.S. on or after Sept. 28, 2016, they would have to have been continuously present in the U.S. for at least three years prior to their removal or voluntary departure.
Under the SECURE Act, eligible individuals must meet all current criminal and national security requirements for admissibility and pass a background check. The bill would allow them to work legally while their applications are pending.
"Finding a legislative solution for TPS and DED holders and their families is critical for humanitarian and regional stability," Bishop Vasquez said in an April 10 letter to senators. "The Catholic Church stands ready to work with Congress and will continue to welcome TPS and DED holders and their families into our parishes and communities."
On March 15, Bishop Vasquez urged the House pass its version of the DREAM Act and the SECURE Act. Called the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, or H.R. 6, the bill was introduced March 12. It has many co-sponsors. The bill would provide equal protection and a pathway to citizenship for qualifying DACA beneficiaries and those covered by the TPS and DED programs.