“They are not reflective of our country’s immigrant past, and they attack the most vulnerable, notably unaccompanied children and many others who flee persecution,” the bishop said in an Oct. 10 statement as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration.
“Most unfortunately, the principles fail to recognize that the family is the fundamental building block of our immigration system, our society and our church,” Vasquez said.
His remarks came in response to a 70-point immigration policy proposal from President Donald Trump released the evening of Oct. 8.
Vasquez also urged Congress to act quickly on a bill to legalize the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and allow the approximately 800,000 youth — known as “Dreamers” — who have benefited from DACA to stay in the country.
“We exhort Congress to take up legislation and move forward promptly to ensure true protection for Dreamers once and for all,” the bishop said.
Trump said that in any bill to legalize DACA, Congress must include funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall and more Border Patrol agents — as laid out in his policy proposals — or he won’t sign such a measure.
On Sept. 5, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the program, which began under then-President Barack Obama in 2012, would end under the Trump administration.
DACA provides a work permit and temporary reprieve from deportation for youth brought to the U.S. as children without legal permission, if they meet certain criteria. Sessions said the program was “unilateral executive amnesty,” and said its beneficiaries had taken away jobs from “hundreds of thousands of Americans.”
Trump campaigned on a promise that he’d get rid of the DACA program, but after Sessions’ announcement on ending the program, Trump was working with Democrats to find a way to help the “Dreamers” stay in the country.
Late Sept. 13, the two top Democrats in Congress, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader in the House of Representatives, and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader in the Senate, said they met with the president to hash out a deal, and they reportedly had agreed to “a fix.”
Since the release of Trump’s 70-point immigration proposal, Pelosi and Schumer have said any DACA deal with Trump was off. Trump’s proposal includes 27 different suggestions on border security; 39 improvements to enforcement on immigration laws in the U.S.; and four major changes to the legal immigration system.
“Since July, Congress has introduced legislative solutions for Dreamers, including the Dream Act,” Vasquez said in his statement. “The administration should focus attention on ensuring that a legislative solution for Dreamers is found as soon as possible.
“Every day that passes without that solution, these youth experience growing apprehension for their futures and their families,” he continued. “Each passing day brings us all a step closer to March 2018, when DACA recipients will begin to lose legal work privileges, and far worse, face the threat of deportation and family separation.”
Vasquez added: “Together with so many others of goodwill, we shall continue to offer welcome and support to these remarkable young people, and we shall not stop advocating for their permanent protection and eventual citizenship.”