Faith

Catholic Bishops: DACA Cancellation 'Reprehensible' and 'the Opposite of How Scripture Calls Us to Respond'

Members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops pray during the USCCB's annual fall meeting in Baltimore on Nov. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops slammed as “reprehensible” President Trump’s decision to “wind down” the program that protects immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, charging that the uncertainty as Congress is left to forge a consensus “causes unnecessary fear for DACA youth and their families.”

Some 800,000 beneficiaries are covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “While new applications for work permits will not be accepted, all existing work permits will be honored until their date of expiration up to two full years from today,” President Trump said in a statement issued by the White House an hour after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of DACA. “Furthermore, applications already in the pipeline will be processed, as will renewal applications for those facing near-term expiration.”

“This is a gradual process, not a sudden phase out. Permits will not begin to expire for another six months, and will remain active for up to 24 months. Thus, in effect, I am not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act.”

A joint statement from USCCB President Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB Vice President Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, Chairman of the Committee on Migration Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, and Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, chairman of the Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees, and Travelers, said that “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,” the bishops added.

“The Church has recognized and proclaimed the need to welcome young people: ‘Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me’ (Mark 9:37). Today, our nation has done the opposite of how Scripture calls us to respond. It is a step back from the progress that we need to make as a country. Today’s actions represent a heartbreaking moment in our history that shows the absence of mercy and good will, and a short-sighted vision for the future. DACA youth are woven into the fabric of our country and of our Church, and are, by every social and human measure, American youth.”

The bishops “strongly” urged Congress “to act and immediately resume work toward a legislative solution,” adding that “we pledge our support to work on finding an expeditious means of protection for DACA youth.”

“As people of faith, we say to DACA youth – regardless of your immigration status, you are children of God and welcome in the Catholic Church,” the statement concluded. “The Catholic Church supports you and will advocate for you.”

Gomez separately tweeted that Trump “is right that immigration policy should be made by Congress, not by presidential executive order,” but “unfortunately, his action today may complicate the search for a legislative solution.”

“I speak as a pastor not a politician. And as a pastor I think we need to clearly understand what this decision means,” the L.A. archbishop said. “…As Americans, we are a people of compassion. I do not believe this decision represents the best of our national spirit. This decision reflects only the polarization of our political moment. Americans have never been a people who punish children for the mistakes of their parents. I am hopeful that we will not begin now. It is not right to hold these young people accountable for decisions they did not make and could not make.”

Gomez called on Congress to vote for a bill to “simply codify the existing #DACA program.”