A teacher makes the Christian case to keep DACA

Immigration supporters are seen outside the Supreme Court, April 18, 2016 (CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, EPA).

It’s 90 degrees out, but the butterflies, made of colorful cardboard with messages like “Love” and “Justice,” are out in full force. The Coalition for Humane Human Rights has called us together—college students, parents, teachers, workers, clergy. Perhaps there is a tinge of inevitability in the air, but there is also urgency and defiant courage. We are all here to defend DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and as I hold up our banner that simply states “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:31), I reflect prayerfully: Why am I defending DACA?

There is a special vantage point I have as a teacher. I spend much of my time looking into the faces of young people from my privileged spot in front of the classroom. In these 10 years, technology has changed but little else has. When I look out, I invariably see some baseball caps, headphones that must be removed, tussled hair from a late night of studying and hopeful eyes. It is those eyes I cannot forget. In each classroom, I encounter the next unfolding mystery of the human race, the ones who will forge futures we cannot yet imagine, the ones who will love, and build, and dream. And as I look at them, read their writings and listen to their questions there is one thing I cannot do—I cannot ever agree that only some of these young people have worth and others have not. Every single one of them was known and loved from their mother’s womb by the One who brings all things into being.

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How can I then look at a system, economic, educational, or social, that takes the accidents of history—whether you were born in New York City, or in San Salvador, white or brown or black, physically able or struggling—and agree that this pure coincidence of birth rightly excludes some? As I look out at the young faces in my classroom, I want the very best for each of their budding lives.

DACA is a small and imperfect step in realizing what we Christians assert as truth about the dignity of all.

These are just some of the stories of my former students with DACA: three elementary school teachers, one medical school student, two lawyers, one urban planner, one city engineer, one software engineer, one college counselor, one gifted writer. And the very first undocumented student I ever taught is now a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. These are the human beings and members of our communities who are now political cannon fodder. Many of them are supporting extended families or helping siblings go to school. All are examples of hope and promise.

DACA is a small and imperfect step in realizing what we Christians assert as truth about the dignity of all. It represents a recognition of the God-given beauty of these young people, who want nothing except to provide dignified lives for their families and to contribute their talents to our communal well-being. At the rally I attended, a mother speaks about the difference it has made that her children, protected under DACA, can work without the fear of exploitation. She points to the low wages and disenfranchisement that being undocumented brings, as others in the crowd nod knowingly.

DACA is a step, a vital step, that needs to be followed by comprehensive immigration reform; it is not the answer, but for now it has allowed 800,000 youths to take their rightful place in our classrooms and our workplaces.

As I look out at my students, I hear Father Gustavo Gutierrez, who, when I was blessed enough to be in his classroom, looked out at us and said, “we don’t love the poor because they are good, we love the poor because God is good.” Unauthorized immigrants all over the world are the poor who cannot overcome their marginality on their own. Our laws have made them into “no one,” our love must make them into “someone.”

We pray these days for hearts of flesh and the courage to love.

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William Bannon
8 months 3 weeks ago

Each side of this issue must be more truthful. CNN in July mentions a Fuentes Gonzalez dying of heat in a tractor trailer in San Antonio after previously having his DACA status revoked for mob assault possibly in MS13 and being deported to Gautemala for same....months prior. Mention the bad apples and tell us how many and you'll come across as more honest.
Secondly how many DACA successful graduates plan to help their country of origin by returning and being lawyers and teachers etc.....there...so that we don't have basket case countries...there...forever.
Thirdly has any Catholic writer written a good history of why so many countries that had Catholic culture for five hundred years...are in fact dysfunctional....and what can be done to reverse that so that DACA successes actually want to return there and help make them functional. Spain, the Inquisition country, seems to have birthed some of the world's worst countries by murder rate....from Venezuela to Mexico....to the Phillipines....ditto for Portugal vis a vis Brazil.
I'm in the northeast. We are filled with mideastern doctors who have left their poor countries to get affluent here. Will Catholic liberals notice the sin of immigrant flight as one possible description among others for the flight from homeland choice.

J Cosgrove
8 months 3 weeks ago

I want the very best for each of their budding lives.

Why not want the best for the country from which they came?

Isn't the Christian thing to do is to send them back to their native land and have them work in their native economy in order to strengthen it with their acquired US cultural values and education.

Also I find it exhilarating that people like Ms. Cecilia González-Andries recognize the superiority of the culture that has made America so exemplary. So why not use the DACA people to spread it to their native culture. This is in the true missionary tradition of the Catholic Church.

C.S.S.M.L. N.D.S.M.D.
8 months 3 weeks ago

"And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us." There is no injustice in pardoning and forgiving, because we were pardoned and forgiven super-abundantly by the Lord. CCC#2840: "Now - and this is daunting - this outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us. Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brother or sister we do see. In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious to the Father's merciful love; but in confessing our sins, our hearts are opened to his grace."

Dcn Cliff Britton
8 months 3 weeks ago

The President removed (by Executive Order) a President Obama Executive Order that was issued to modify immigration law outside the legislative process. The real solution is for Congress to take action.... that is now what will have to happen if The People want to keep the protections of DACA.

Vincent Gaglione
8 months 2 weeks ago

Through Democrat and Republican administrations alike immigration laws were not enforced. Having taught in a NYC school for 25 years where there were undoubtedly a large number of undocumented students, having once lived in an Irish section in NY where there were undoubtedly a large number of undocumented neighbors, I have met the people who are now the subject of a lot of venomous reaction. They got here the old fashioned way: they arrived on a tourist visa and disappeared into the fabric of the native population.

If we want to start solving the problem, then I suggest that we figure out ways to enforce the laws on the books.

We also need to deal decently and justly with those who broke the laws but who became productive members of USA society. The solution of deportation for the vast numbers who came, stayed, and became productive is both unnecessary and morally reprehensible. For the undocumented children whom I taught, they are now productive “Americans” in every aspect except the paperwork. For the neighbors who found jobs and started families they too are “Americans” in every aspect except the paperwork.

I read a ferocious resentment about the undocumented. This ferocity of opinion towards those who are productive members of our society seemingly has less to do with justice and mercy than it does with bigotry and mean-spiritedness.

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