As DACA deadline nears, Catholic voices speak up to fix immigration woes

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Last September, as President Donald Trump pulled the plug on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, he also gave Congress a March 5 deadline to find a permanent legislative solution that would help some 800,000 young adults living the U.S. who were brought into the country without legal permission as children.

Activists and DACA recipients are seen in New York City Feb. 15. The group is walking 250 miles to Washington to demand Congress pass a “clean” bill with no conditions to save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, such as the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act. (CNS photo | Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

So far, lawmakers have failed to deliver any solution even as the deadline approaches and the president’s repeal of DACA gets tangled up the courts.

But Catholic leaders and organizers from around the U.S. have been loudly clamoring for relief for the young adults, some who already face deportation and the loss of permits that allow them to work, drive and attend school.

The Ohio-based Association of U.S. Catholic Priests is urging its members to fast and pray, but also to call lawmakers — and encourage their parishioners to also take part in personal and public actions — asking that Congress pass permanent relief for the young adults affected.

In a Feb. 21 newsletter, the association asked its members via email to “fast on Fridays in union with Father Gary Graf, the Chicago priest who has been fasting in support of Dreamers every day,” and to support Father Ray Pineda, an ordained priest in Atlanta, who has benefited from DACA and also is facing an uncertain future in the country.

Many U.S. bishops have been making personal pleas, peppering various social media channels, posting videos on Facebook and YouTube, and tweets urging Catholics to push lawmakers for action.

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone made two videos, in English and Spanish, urging participation in the Feb. 26 National Catholic Call-in Day organized by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The archbishop’s videos can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/SFHLD or at sfarchdiocese.org/immigration.

The USCCB call-in event urges Catholics to call their local representatives in Congress that day and demand “a legislative fix for DACA, so our brothers and sisters, young people who are here without proper documentation, can get on a track for citizenship and continue contributing to our country, to ask as well for reform of immigration policy that will favor keeping families together. Families are the basic unit of society and society stands and falls on family unity,” Archbishop Cordileone says in his video message.

Among the messages being put out, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico is calling attention to a music video by the local band Reviva that depicts agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement picking up three workers, including a teacher and a construction worker. It’s message reflects that reality some in the country are facing.