Dreamers and recipients of Temporary Protected Status are “children of God” and the church will work “to ensure that they and their families can live dignified lives and reach their God-given potential,” according to Auxiliary Bishop Mario Eduardo Dorsonville-Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
“Our work assisting and advocating on behalf of immigrants and refugees stems from the belief that every person is created in God’s image,” he said during testimony given before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on “Protecting Dreamers and T.P.S. Recipients,” held on March 6. Along with the bishop, the committee heard from both DACA and T.P.S. recipients.
“We follow the teaching of the Gospel, and in his own life and work, Jesus identified himself with newcomers and with other marginalized persons in a special way: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me,’” said Bishop Dorsonville-Rodríguez, who is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ incoming chairman of the Committee on Migration.
“Our work assisting and advocating on behalf of immigrants and refugees stems from the belief that every person is created in God’s image.”
The Trump administration announced it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in September 2017. DACA, an Obama administration policy, protected undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors from deportation. Court rulings have kept DACA in place, but its future is uncertain.
The Department of Homeland Security grants Temporary Protected Status to individuals whose home countries are suffering from ongoing conflict, environmental disasters or other unsafe conditions and protects them from deportation. The Trump administration has sought to terminate Temporary Protection Status for more than 340,000 recipients from El Salvador, Haiti and Honduras, among a number of other countries. On March 1, in response to a legal challenge to the termination orders, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it is extending T.P.S. for foreign nationals from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti and Sudan until Jan. 2, 2020.
The U.S. bishops have long advocated for the Dream Act, Bishop Dorsonville-Rodríguez said. They also applauded DACA at the time, he said, though they also noted it was no substitute for a permanent measure to protect Dreamers and give them a path to citizenship.
“How do we make sure people can have a right to migrate if they want to but also have a right to stay in their home country?”
“This is the only home that [Dreamers] know and where they are sure they will be able to succeed because they are part of the language, the culture and they have their roots here,” he said. “These young people have grown up in our country, some even choosing to put their lives on the line to serve in our armed forces. They truly exemplify the extraordinary contributions that immigrants have long provided to our nation.”
Bishop Dorsonville-Rodríguez also noted that a substantial number of T.P.S. recipients have lived in the United States for more than 20 years. Recipients have more than 273,000 children who are U.S citizens.
“Would families endure separation of parents living apart from their children in order to ensure U.S. citizens receive the educational opportunities in the United States to which they are entitled?” he said. “These are questions that we as the church are facing and, more importantly, T.P.S. holders and their families are grappling with every day.”
Many T.P.S. recipients are from Central America, a region beset by crime and violence, Ashley Feasley, the director of migration policy and public affairs at the U.S.C.C.B., told America. She noted how the church, because of its humanitarian work in these countries, can offer a grounded perspective.
A compromise to protect Dreamers and T.P.S. recipients “must not be achieved at the expense of other immigrant children and families.”
“We need to look for a solution in a holistic way that takes into account root causes,” Ms. Feasley said. “What are the drivers that are causing people to flee? How do we make sure people can have a right to migrate if they want to but also have a right to stay in their home country?”
Yet Ms. Feasly said having a hearing about protecting Dreamers and T.P.S. holders was in itself encouraging. Congress is “moving forward with this commitment to protect those who have been impacted by Trump administration decisions.”
“They’ve lived lives completely integrated into our society,” she said. “A path to citizenship is so important. They’re American except for their immigration status. It’s good for them to reach their full potential, including the right to vote.”
While court decisions and preliminary injunctions have temporarily protected some, both DACA and T.P.S. holders face an unclear fate. “They are hanging on a court order,” Ms. Feasley said. “This is a chance to move forward. We’re hopeful of working with Congress to get them protected.”
In his testimony, Bishop Dorsonville-Rodríguez also called on Congress to protect unaccompanied children, asylum seekers and family-based migration. A compromise to protect Dreamers and T.P.S. recipients “must not be achieved at the expense of other immigrant children and families,” he said. “Such a trade-off would be heartless and untenable.”