The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are urging Catholics to call Congress and demand they act on behalf of “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors but have been allowed to stay under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama administration policy that protected them from deportation.
The Trump administration announced in September that it would end DACA.
“We are deeply disappointed that the Senate was not able to come together in a bipartisan manner to secure legislative protection for the Dreamers,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Austin, Tex., the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, the U.S.C.C.B. vice president, and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Tex., chairman of the U.S. bishops' migration committee said in a joint statement Feb. 19. “We ask once again that members of Congress show the leadership necessary to find a just and humane solution for these young people, who daily face mounting anxiety and uncertainty,” the bishops said in their statement, announcing a national call-in day to protect Dreamers on Feb. 26. The call comes after the Senate failed to pass a bill last week.
“We are deeply disappointed that the Senate was not able to come together in a bipartisan manner to secure legislative protection for the Dreamers."
Next weekend, the U.S. bishops will be calling on the Catholic faithful to act on behalf of Dreamers. The bishops are calling for legislation that permanently protects Dreamers from deportation and provides them a path to citizenship. Such legislation should not take away “existing protections for families and unaccompanied minors,” the bishops said.
“Our faith compels us to stand with the vulnerable, including our immigrant brothers and sisters,” the bishops said. “We have done so continually, but we must show our support and solidarity now in a special way. Now is the time for action.”
An estimated 800,000 Dreamers have been protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, yet the Center for Migration Studies in New York estimates that more than 2.2 million Dreamers are in the United States. Recent court decisions have temporarily blocked the Trump administration from ending DACA March 5. But the rulings only impact DACA renewals and do not require new applications to be accepted.
The Trump administration had introduced a proposal that includes a path to citizenship for Dreamers but would also increase border security, curtail family-based migration and eliminate the diversity visa program, which brings in a limited number of people from parts of the world with relatively few immigrants to the United States. Last week, Archbishop Gomez acknowledged the need for secure borders but took issue with restricting family-based immigration, which the Trump administration has referred to as “chain migration.” The United States already limits the number of family-based visas granted each year.
“Our faith compels us to stand with the vulnerable, including our immigrant brothers and sisters.”
Kevin Appleby, senior director of international immigration policy for the Center for Migration Studies,, said the success of any legislative effort will depend largely on what the Trump administration would accept.
“It’s not over yet,” Mr. Appleby said in an interview with America. “There will be another attempt to pass something through the Senate, something narrower perhaps, for the Dreamers and with border security.”
The Feb. 26 call-in is good timing, he said, because Congress members will be returning from recess that day. He believes it will create a new sense of urgency.
“If there was a president willing to sign a reasonable bill, there would be the votes,” Mr. Appleby said. “Does Trump really want to help the Dreamers or not? Because he is getting something in return. Does he want to be saddled with deporting these young people?”
Ashley Feasley, director of migration policy and public affairs at the U.S.C.C.B., hopes calling Congress will help overcome last week’s legislative impasse. Measures that would pass through one house of Congress may not pass through the other, and the Trump administration has criticized compromise bills.
“What’s happening is that we’re losing touch with the human consequences of this,” Ms. Feasley said of the looming March 5 deadline, adding that church leaders throughout the country are hearing from Dreamers. “We have to work as hard as we can so that Congress makes a move.”
When Catholics call the offices of their representatives, they help voice the views of more than 70 percent of Americans who support legislation that allows Dreamers to stay in the United States.
“What’s happening is that we’re losing touch with the human consequences of this. We have to work as hard as we can so that Congress makes a move.”
“The bishops are asking the faithful to call. They will continue pushing for a resolution to this issue,” Ms. Feasley said. “It’s more than just pressing a button on your computer. We have to get this done.”
This article has been updated with an interview with Ashley Feasley, director of migration policy and public affairs at the U.S.C.C.B.