President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has triggered contrasting opinions on the legality and morality of deporting undocumented immigrants.
When it was created by executive order in 2012, DACA provided undocumented children and young adults with a reprieve from deportation. While it didn’t offer legal status or government benefits, DACA did allow qualifying recipients work permits and a chance to secure a driver’s license.
Nearly 800,000 young people took advantage of the program, including nearly 8,000 in Wisconsin. Now they wait to learn their fate.
The Department of Homeland Security is no longer accepting DACA applications and current recipients have until March 5 for Congress to act. Either a law is passed allowing DACA recipients a path to citizenship or deportation is a real possibility. Lawsuits, such as ones that have stifled the Trump administration’s refugee travel ban, are also a reality, forcing deportation delays.
Support for ending DACA has ranged from concerned citizens — who believe immigration laws should not allow exceptions for anyone — to anti-immigrant hardliners like ex-Trump staff member Stephen Bannon, who said in a 60 Minutes interview that the U.S. bishops support DACA because “they need illegal aliens to fill the pews.”
Bannon’s comments were met with strong rebuttals from many U.S. bishops, who called the Brietbart News founder’s words insulting.
Trump’s DACA decision and Bannon’s comments have also united religious leaders in calling for a speedy resolution.
“The witness of the Catholic bishops on issues from pro-life to pro-marriage to pro-health care to pro-immigration reforms is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ rather than the convenient political trends of the day,” stated James Rogers, chief communications officer for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “We are called not to politics or partisanship, but to love our neighbor. Let’s reject the forces of division that insist we make a false choice between our safety and our humanity. It is both possible and morally necessary to secure the border in a manner which provides security and a humane immigration policy.”
The United States is at a watershed moment in regard to its immigration policy. Trump recently announced the RAISE Act as a step to overhaul immigration system. However, that plan is based on a point system and lacks equal access to poor immigrants and others.
The best response to Trump’s decision on DACA is for Congress to find a legislative solution that transforms DACA’s tenuous footing into part one of a long-awaited immigration overhaul. Today it takes years for most people to meander the maze to citizenship.
Why not begin the process by allowing young immigrants in the DACA program to qualify for legal residency? A majority of them are bilingual, have been raised in this country, have attended schools and colleges and have even served in the armed forces.
Making permanent legislation like DACA is supported by Wisconsin’s Catholic bishops. In a statement issued Sept. 9, the bishops asked members of Congress to “find a legislative solution that protects DACA youth.”
“We also urgently ask that Congress and President Donald Trump commit themselves to achieving permanent and comprehensive immigration reform,” said the bishops.
Immigration is part of the fabric of our country, and we all want immigrants to enter our borders legally. Let’s make it possible by welcoming young adults in the DACA program.