By Kurt Jensen
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Catholic church leaders, immigration officials and university presidents were swift and unanimous in their condemnation of President Donald Trump’s Sept. 5 decision to phase out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals known as DACA.
“In the past, the president stated that the Dreamer story ‘is about the heart,’ yet (the) decision is nothing short of heartless,” said Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich. “The Dreamers are now left in a six-month limbo, during which Congress is supposed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, a feat they have been unable to achieve for a decade,” he said in a Sept. 5 statement.
The rescission of DACA, announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, places an estimated 800,000 undocumented immigrants, many of whom were brought to the United States as young children and have known no other home, under threat of deportation and losing permits that allow them to work. President Trump later tweeted that he was depending on congress to take action in that time and then hinted that he may re-visit DACA if no plan is passed by then. From August through December, according to the Department of Homeland Security, the work permits of more than 200,000 DACA recipients will expire and only 55,258 have submitted requests for permit renewals.
Amelia McGowan, the program director for Catholic Charities of Jackson’s Migrant Resource Center, said her office is still working on DACA cases and renewals. “We remain committed to to supporting our clients with DACA,” said McGowan. She urged calm for those in the program. “We understand there is some uncertainty. We want to remain a resource for everyon in the community with questions. There may be other immigration options for those seeking DACA, so we want to remain a resource for them,” she added.
Bishop Joseph Kopacz of the Diocese of Jackson echoed his support of the program. “Here in Mississippi, we cannot ignore the contributions immigrants make to our culture and our economy. Our neighbors from other nations have now been here so long, they have set roots in the soil. They are raising families and working to strengthen our state in many ways. It is time to seek a just and reasonable solution to the issue of immigration. Scripture instructs us to ‘welcome the stranger,’ and care for those on the margins. As Catholics, we will stand with immigrants and support their efforts to become citizens,” said the bishop.
The decision to end DACA is “a heartbreaking disappointment,” said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network. She also said her organization rejects and adamantly disagrees with Sessions’ “untested personal opinion that DACA is unconstitutional.”
“Americans have never been a people who punish children for the mistakes of their parents. I am hopeful that we will not begin now,” said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration. “I do not believe this decision represents the best of our national spirit or the consensus of the American people. This decision reflects only the polarization of our political moment.”
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the USCCB, said in a statement with other USCCB leaders: “The Catholic Church has long watched with pride and admiration as DACA youth live out their daily lives with hope and a determination to flourish and contribute to society: continuing to work and provide for their families, continuing to serve in the military, and continuing to receive an education. Now, after months of anxiety and fear about their futures, these brave young people face deportation. This decision is unacceptable and does not reflect who we are as Americans.”
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, called the decision “malicious.”
“One can’t hide behind the term ‘legality’ in rescinding DACA,” his statement added. “That is an abandonment of humanity, and abandonment of talented and hopeful young people who are as American as you and I.”
Mercy Sister Aine O’Connor, who stood in front of the White House as the decision was announced, also took issue with Sessions’ remark: “Nothing is compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws.”
“We do not see it as a compassionate act. It is a merciless act,” Sister O’Connor told Catholic News Service, adding that it was “an abdication of responsibility by the Trump administration.”
Future plans for her group include lobbying members of Congress to show “the root cause of immigration, which includes American policies that destroy economic stability in other countries.”
The Washington-based Franciscan Action Network’s statement compared Trump to Pontius Pilate: “Like Pilate, President Trump has tried to wash his hands of responsibility when he could have and should have kept DACA in place. God commands his people to care for immigrants and treat them ‘no differently than the natives born among you.'” (Lv 19:34)
The Ohio-based Ignatian Solidarity Network accused Trump of undermining “the dignity of undocumented individuals,” adding, “As people of faith, we are called to uphold the inherent dignity of our immigrant brothers and sisters, to stand with those marginalized by a broken immigration system, and to recognize the gifts and talents that these young people bring to our communities.”
Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia, in a statement on his Facebook page, said he wanted to emphasize Georgetown’s “strongest support for all of our undocumented students. As a nation, we have the capacity and responsibility to work together to provide a permanent legislative solution to ensure the safety and well-being of these young women and men who have – and will – contribute to the future of our country in deeply meaningful ways.”