I am deeply disappointed by President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

I speak as a pastor not a politician. I cannot address the constitutional or political questions raised by this program. But as a pastor I think we need to clearly understand what this decision means. Today our country is announcing its intention to deport more than 800,000 young people. This is a national tragedy and a moral challenge to every conscience.

As Americans, we are a people of compassion. I do not believe this decision represents the best of our national spirit or the consensus of the American people. This decision reflects only the polarization of our political moment.

Americans have never been a people who punish children for the mistakes of their parents. I am hopeful that we will not begin now.

It is not right to hold these young people accountable for decisions they did not make and could not make. They came to this country through no fault of their own. They were brought here by their undocumented parents or family members when they were little children.

America is their home, the only country they have ever known. Most of them are working hard to contribute to the American dream — holding down jobs, putting themselves through college, some are even serving in our nation’s armed forces.

If we deport them, in many cases we would be sending them back to countries that they have not seen since they were infants or toddlers.

President Trump is right that immigration policy should be made by Congress, not by presidential executive order. Unfortunately, his action today may complicate the search for a legislative solution.

We need to remember that then-President Obama established the DACA program in 2012 because members of Congress could not get beyond their partisan self-interests to come together and fix our nation’s broken immigration system. 

It is time for Congress to step up. If we are going to restore the rule of law in this country, then those who make the laws need to take responsibility. We should not allow still another Congress to go by without addressing our nation’s broken immigration system.

The situation is serious here in Los Angeles. We are home to more than 1 million undocumented persons, many of whom have been living and working here for decades. Nationwide, 790,000 young people have received deportation relief and work permits through DACA. Of those, 223,000 are living here in California, more than any other state.

For the Catholic Church, here in Los Angeles and throughout the nation, these are our people, our family. They are our brothers and sisters; our classmates and co-workers. We pray together and worship together. We will continue stand together as a family and the Church will continue to defend their rights and dignity as children of God.

I am praying today and urging our leaders in Washington to set aside their partisan differences and come together to pass legislation that would simply codify the existing DACA program. 

Doing this would permanently lift the threat of deportation that right now hangs over the heads of more than 1 million hard-working young people. It would give them permission to work and it would bring peace of mind and stability to our communities.

This is a commonsense proposal and it should not be controversial.

Congressional leaders in both the House and Senate have expressed sympathy for these young people and expressed their desire that Congress should provide a permanent legislative solution. There is broad and overwhelming public support for DACA — not only among ordinary Americans but among corporate and civic and religious leaders. There should be no reason not to enact a simple bill that would make DACA the law of the land.

I am praying that Congress will rise to this moment and help these young people. And I am praying that finding a solution to DACA will mark the beginning of new work to seek immigration reform solutions in all areas: securing and protecting our borders; modernizing our visa system so we can welcome newcomers who have the skills our country needs to grow; and providing a compassionate solution for those who are undocumented and right now living in the shadows of our society.