Too many young people are threatened with deportation because their parents brought them to the U.S. without documentation, and Congress needs to pass the Dream Act to help them, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles has said.
The proposed legislation “would permanently lift the threat of deportation that right now hangs over the heads of more than one million young people who were brought to this country illegally or are living in the homes of undocumented parents,” Archbishop Gomez said July 21.
“We are talking about people who have grown up in this country since they were young children. America is all they know,” he said. They are presently in “limbo”, without any legal status even as they work, go to college, and serve in the armed forces.
“It is long past time for us to welcome these young immigrants as citizens and give them the opportunities they need to flourish and to help our country grow. A just and compassionate society cannot continue to punish innocent children for the mistakes of their parents.”
The archbishop spoke the day after the introduction of the Dream Act of 2017 by Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). The bill would grant permanent legal status to over 1 million young people who arrived in the U.S. before they turned 18, provided they meet certain criteria. These criteria include enrolling in college, joining the military, or finding jobs. Applicants must have lived in the U.S. for four years. Its name derives from the acronym Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors.
The proposal would make permanent the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was implemented by executive order in 2012 by President Barack Obama, who cited lack of action from Congress.
Archbishop Gomez emphasized the situation of those who would benefit from the legislation.
“Under this legislation, these young men and women would now have the chance to earn permanent residency status and eventually to seek citizenship in our country,” he said. “This is the right thing to do and the compassionate thing to do.”
“In my experience, these are good kids who want to use their lives to make a difference in our country. These young men and women want to share the American dream,” he continued. “They exemplify what is best about the immigrant spirit that makes our country exceptional.”
Archbishop Gomez pledged his support and that of the Catholic community in Los Angeles, praying that leaders in Washington would enact the bill quickly. He prayed that the legislation would mark the start of “a more comprehensive reform” of the U.S. immigration system that protects national borders, that “enables us to welcome newcomers who have the character and skills our country needs to grow” and that provides “a compassionate solution” for the undocumented who are “forced to live in the shadows of our society.”
The attorneys general of 20 states urged President Donald Trump to maintain the DACA program. In a July 21 letter to the president, they said it represents a “success story” for the more than 750,000 people registered for it.
Registration for the program requires the submission of an application, passing a background check, and applying for a work permit. The attorneys general said recipients of DACA status benefit from a 42 percent boost in hourly wages, which gives them purchasing power that benefits everyone.
Rescinding DACA would have “severe” consequences both for the hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries, their families, their employers, and their schools. If the program ends, the attorneys general said, there would be lost tax revenue and billions in turnover costs for businesses. They said DACA has helped young people report crime to police without fear of deportation.
The attorneys general cited “a number of troubling incidents” that raise concerns over whether Department of Homeland Security agents are adhering to DACA guidelines and to public assurances from the Trump administration that individuals eligible for DACA are not being targeted.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had been a vocal critic of DACA. White House officials suggested the president would not support the act, the Washington Post reports. At the same time the president recently told reporters aboard Air Force One that ending DACA is “a decision that’s very, very hard to make.”
A version of the Dream Act was first introduced in 2001 but has never passed both chambers in the same session. One version passed the House of Representatives in 2010 and passed the Senate in 2013 as part of a larger immigration bill.
In a June 29 letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, attorneys general from Texas and nine other states demanded the Trump administration end the DACA policy. The letter threatened to amend a lawsuit against another deportation deferral program in order to target the policy, Politico reports.