On Tuesday, Sept. 5 Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the voice of the Trump administration, announced the end of a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This executive action temporarily blocked deportations of young, undocumented immigrants and gave them work permits.
The new order from the Trump administration directs the Department of Homeland Security to no longer provide DACA protection to people. Those who have applied for it already may still get DACA, and those who already have DACA may renew it if they file within one month. The order will phase out DACA within six months.
Sessions continued describing how DACA contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border of the United States and it also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing these jobs to go to “illegal aliens.”
Both cases were not true as these young people have been here for years and have worked, studied and paid taxes without receiving any benefits.
The U.S. Catholic bishops responded that this move by the Trump administration was “reprehensible and heartbreaking.” The decision announced not by the president, but by Attorney General Sessions, is “a heartbreaking moment in our history that shows the absence of mercy and good will, and a short-sighted vision for the future,” the bishops wrote. They insisted that the DACA youth are an important and vital part of our nation, and “are essentially American youth.”
I have watched with love and admiration DACA youth who live with hope and determination trying to contribute to American society. They work, they provide for their families, they serve in the military and study at the university. Now, they face an uncertain future that may include deportation.
Having lived in the United States for years, few Dreamers have the connections, language skills, cultural knowledge and experience necessary to live in their counties of origin.
Trump’s decision to throw the responsibility to Congress to resolve the problem is cruel, harmful and unjust. In the past, Congress has not been able to come up with legislation to protect Dreamers, therefore prompting Obama to create DACA by executive order in 2012.
I urge now a speedy, just and lasting solution from the United States Congress as we, as a nation, should commit ourselves to God’s law which calls us to love the stranger, remembering that our ancestors in faith were once strangers in a foreign land. Remember also that St. Joseph, the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus were foreigners in Egypt.
The church also calls us to welcome young people: “Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not just welcome me but the one who sent me” (Mark 9:37).
The bishops reiterated their stand with these words: “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.” This decision does not reflect who we are as Christians and Americans.
I now ask and pray that Congress work toward a lasting, legislative solution to this problem. Although President Trump pledged to treat DACA youth “with heart,” his decision to end DACA is troubling and heartless.
Our archbishop, Archbishop Charles Chaput, called the phasing out of this program “a drastic mistake,” and stated that this action only serves to complicate an already difficult issue — immigration reform. We can all act by contacting our senators and representatives to vote in favor of the Dreamers.
I pray and dream with the Dreamers that somehow Congress will be able to enact immigration reform within six months even though they have not being able to do so for years. After all, everything is possible with God!
Father Gus Puleo is pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Norristown.