PHOENIX, Arizona – The Catholic bishops of Arizona and New Mexico have joined the growing chorus of voices calling on President Donald Trump to maintain the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program (DACA).
“(We) want to reiterate our strong and unwavering support for DACA youth so they do not have to live in fear of deportation,” the bishops said in an Aug. 31 statement.
“These young people entered our country as children and should have the opportunity to remain in our country to be educated here and to have opportunities to exercise their gifts for the enhancement of our nation.”
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was established under President Obama to protect young people who were brought into the country illegally as children from deportation and to allow them to secure work permits.
The Trump administration is under pressure from the attorneys general of 9 states, who have said they will file suit against President Trump on Sept. 5 unless he cancels the program. It was 10 states until Tennessee dropped out of the lawsuit threat last week.
“Presently, DACA protects nearly 800,000 of these young people, while allowing them to live and work in our country without fear of deportation,” the bishops of Arizona and New Mexico noted in their statement. “Through DACA they have furthered their education, started small businesses and become integral members of our communities in Arizona and New Mexico.”
The statement was signed by Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares of Phoenix, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix, and Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup.
The bishops acknowledged that “DACA is not a permanent solution,” but said they “support its continuance until a permanent solution can be found.
“Accordingly, we urge our federal elected officials to move forward with permanent solutions that grant relief to these young people along with the chance to earn permanent residency and eventually to seek citizenship,” they said. “We ask that all people of goodwill join us in praying and advocating for governmental efforts to protect DACA youth and for reform of our broken immigration policies.”
Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles has also called on President Trump to reconsider his stance on DACA.
“They did not make the decision to enter this country in violation of our laws, and in fairness we cannot hold them accountable,” Gomez said in an Aug. 29 column for the Archdiocese’s Angelus magazine.
On Aug. 21 the Vatican released the Pope’s message for the 2018 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, to be observed by the Catholic Church on Jan. 14.
“Collective and arbitrary expulsions of migrants and refugees are not suitable solutions, particularly where people are returned to countries which cannot guarantee respect for human dignity and fundamental rights,” Francis said, stressing the need to increase access to humanitarian visas and to reunite separated families.
Francis cited the words of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who in his own message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in 2007 said the family is “a place and resource of the culture of life and a factor for the integration of values.”
Other backers of DACA youth include the Catholic bishops of Nebraska. On Aug. 29, they said these young people have become “contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes.
“To the DACA youth here in Nebraska, please know that the Catholic Church stands in solidarity with you,” said the bishops of the Nebraska Catholic Conference. “It is our desire to accompany you in the anxieties and fears you face through this journey.”