Faith Communities Unite over DACA Repeal

Tuesday, 05 September 2017

U.S. Catholic Bishops Statement 

Upon this morning's announcement that the Trump administration would rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the US' Catholic leadership has responded with an exceptional degree of fury, its pointedness matched only by the rare united front of church entities which have pushed for months to support the survival of the Obama-era effort protecting some 800,000 undocumented young people from deportation and authorizing them to study and work. 

In a form reserved solely for the most significant policy pronouncements of the Stateside bishops, the USCCB president and vice-president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, issued a searing response within minutes of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' confirmation that DACA permits would begin expiring in six months and gradually be "phased out," pending a new arrangement enacted by Congress:

The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible. It causes unnecessary fear for DACA youth and their families. These youth entered the U.S. as minors and often know America as their only home. 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 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. 

We strongly urge Congress to act and immediately resume work toward a legislative solution. 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 Catholic Church supports you and will advocate for you. 

From the helm of the nation's largest diocese, while Gomez pleaded for the program's survival in his own name ahead of the White House move, as reports circulated yesterday that President Trump would honor his campaign pledge to eliminate DACA, a group statement from the California bishops – remarkably issued amid the quiet of the Labor Day holiday – preemptively slammed the move as "capricious" and "ill-conceived." 

"As bishops, every day we see the impact of the failure of a political leadership that washes its hands while immigrants suffer," the Western prelates said. "We choose to continue to serve, comfort, and protect our brothers and sisters," likewise pledging that they would "not allow reckless rhetoric to bully us from the course of compassion and basic decency" – one of several thinly-veiled critiques of the president himself. 

A defeat for what's arguably been the US church's most concerted issue-advocacy of the Trump era, the fierce response marks yet another prominent break by the nation's largest religious body with a Republican administration that – despite an accord with Catholics on matters of abortion and religious liberty – has been found wanting in church circles for either opposing other top-tier priorities for the bishops, or failing to deliver on its stated goals in cases of agreement (most vividly the case on a broad conscience exemption from the contraceptive mandate in health-care plans). 

As a similar drivenness to today's comments characterized the church's opposition to the GOP majority's thwarted efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, another protracted fight in Congress signals the bench's return as a key arbiter on the acceptability of dueling proposals for DACA's substitute, a standing born both from the historic role of Catholic entities in serving immigrant communities, not to mention the demographic reality that, today, sees Hispanics comprise roughly two-thirds of American Catholics younger than 30 – the very group most affected by today's policy change and the debate now ahead.


Leadership Conference of Women Religious Statement

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) shares the disappointment of millions of people across the country who had hoped and prayed that President Trump would continue the protection offered Dreamers by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA is a common sense path to stability for families, communities, and local economies and a reaffirmation of American values. Ending DACA will cause irreparable harm to families and communities and force 800,000 of our young people back into the shadows.

In the wake of this unconscionable action by President Trump, we urge Congress to immediately take up and pass the bipartisan Dream Act of 2017.

As women of faith we take seriously the gospel call to welcome the stranger and care for those in need. LCWR and its members will continue to press for compassion for our neighbors, relief for families, and an end to needless deportations.  “We will continue to advocate for bipartisan legislation that addresses our outdated immigration system,” said LCWR Executive Director Sister Joan Marie Steadman, CSC. “We will continue to stand in solidarity with families, regardless of immigration status, who labor daily to provide safety and security for their children. We will continue to walk with Dreamers and together with people of goodwill we will work to ensure that the dignity of all people is fully protected.”

Catholic sisters have a long history of accompanying immigrants and refugees. They continue to minister to these aspiring citizens in schools, hospitals, and service agencies along the southern border and across the country. They see the devastating effects of the current immigration system every day. They share the hopes and dreams of these young Americans who represent so much of what is right and good about this country we all call home.

LCWR is an association of leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States. The conference has nearly 1300 members, who represent more than 38,800 women religious in the United States. Founded in 1956, LCWR assists its members to collaboratively carry out their service of leadership to further the mission of the Gospel in today’s world.