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The Chainsaw Carmelite: Texas principal knows the joys of serving and severing

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Catholic News Service

She inspired many when she rolled up the sleeves of her habit to clean up after Hurricane Irma with a chainsaw.

Carmelite Sister Margaret Ann Laechelin, principal of Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll High School in Miami, holds the chainsaw she used to help clean up debris following Hurricane Irma. (CNS photo/courtesy Sister Margaret Ann)

After the local police department posted a video Sept. 12 on Twitter of Carmelite Sister Margaret Ann Laechelin trimming branches off a fallen tree with a chainsaw, she became an instant hit and a symbol of sorts for the hurricane-ravaged Miami area.

“People are making a big deal about the chainsaw, but I’ve already given my life to God and that’s what brings true joy,” not the fame that came after the airing of the video, said Sister Laechelin in a Sept. 14 phone interview with Catholic News Service.

But the community at Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll High School, where she is the principal, has been enjoying the fame and the attention it has brought to the suburban Miami Catholic school of 300 students in West Kendall, she said.

“They say ‘Sister, you’re famous. Can I have your autograph?’” she said.

The community needs every bit of levity it can find as it recovers from the damage wrought by Hurricane Irma, which led to the school’s closing because a cooling tower needs to be fixed before students are allowed to return. Inspired by the Carmelite’s example of contributing to the cleanup, families from the school have shown up to help clean around the perimeter, she said.

Though it’s not open for classes, the school has been helping the surrounding community, giving out ice (from its icemaker) and providing a place for others to charge their phones and regroup, Sister Laechelin said.

“There’s such joy in giving,” she said.

And that’s what she was doing when she decided to clear the tree from the road when a police officer, armed with a phone, happened to drive by and filmed her. Though you wouldn’t know it from the video, she had never really used a chainsaw before, but when she was faced with finding a way to clear the tree, she remembered some important advice from her students.

“I had to go on YouTube” to figure it out, she said, “but growing up in Texas, I did a lot of yardwork and my dad taught me to figure things out.”

Though she lives in Florida, she is a member of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart in Los Angeles, who also have a community of four women religious in Florida. Via FaceTime, she has been talking to them, easing the concerns of her community in Los Angeles, she said.

“Sisters, we stick together,” she told CNS.

They weren’t surprised at all. she said, by seeing her wielding the chainsaw and said, “That’s Sister Margaret Ann, she never sits back and jumps right in.”

Her family in Texas, however, was in “awe” when they saw her on TV, she said, and told her “I always thought you’d be famous, but not because of a chainsaw.”

The best lesson she can impart on her students from the situation, she said, comes from the Gospel.

“I want them to know that if they see a need, to step in and to help people, to help others, because God didn’t create us to be selfish and to care only for our little world,” she said.

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U.S. bishops pray for ‘safety, care’ of all hit by two massive hurricanes

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops’ Executive Committee Sept. 12 prayed for “the safety and care of human life” after two catastrophic hurricanes and urged Catholics around the country to offer their prayers as well as financial support and volunteer help as they can.

Residents look at a collapsed house Sept. 12 after Hurricane Irma passed the area in Vilano Beach, Florida. (CNS photo/Chris Wattie, Reuters)

“The massive scale of the dual disasters and the effect it has on communities, families and individuals cannot be fully comprehended or adequately addressed in the immediate aftermath of the storms,” the statement said, noting that “lives and livelihoods” were “still at risk in Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands and throughout the Caribbean.”

Beginning Sept. 6, Hurricane Irma left hardly any place in its path untouched. The strength and size of the massive storm, with 120-plus-mph winds stretching 70 miles from its core, leveled entire islands in the eastern Caribbean, brought unprecedented flooding on Cuba’s north coast, devastated the Florida Keys, snapped construction cranes in downtown Miami and targeted cities along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Irma dwindled to a tropical storm as it neared the Florida-Georgia line early Sept. 11 and was forecast to die out over southern states later in the week. Officials in Florida and across the Caribbean, meanwhile, started to dig out and evaluate the full scope of the disaster Irma left behind. The death toll stood at more than 30 in the Caribbean and at 12 in the United States, as of Sept. 12.

More than a week earlier, Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on Houston and southern Texas Aug. 25-30. In a four-day period, many areas received more than 40 inches of rain. Flooding inundated hundreds of thousands of homes, displaced more than 30,000 people, and prompted more than 17,000 rescues. The death toll from that storm stood at 70.

“At this time of initial recovery, we mourn the loss of life, homes and other property, and the harm to the natural environment, and we pray for all those affected and in need of assistance” in the wake of the two massive hurricanes, said the Executive Committee, which includes the officers of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“We also pray for the safety of, and in thanksgiving for, the first responders who are risking their lives at this very moment in care for their neighbors, especially those who are elderly, sick, homeless, or otherwise already in need of special assistance,” the statement said.

The Executive Committee’s statement followed by three days a statement from the president of the USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, whose diocese was hit by flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

He called for prayers for the victims of Harvey and for those affected by Irma.

“At a time like this, when our endurance is tested, we implore God to direct us to yet unknown reserves of strength and human compassion for those suffering so deeply. May our manifestations of love and solidarity be lasting signs in the midst of this crisis,” he said Sept. 9.

The Executive Committee said it shared “Pope Francis’ trust that the Catholic faithful here in the United States will respond to the needs presented by these disasters with a ‘ast outpouring of solidarity and mutual aid in the best traditions of the nation.’”

“We encourage the faithful to respond generously with prayers, financial support, and for those who have the opportunity, the volunteering of time and talents in support of those in need,” it said.

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New York firefighters march, pray as they recall events of 9/11

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. —The ritual of remembrance continues.

Just as in previous years, Fire Department of New York Battalion 57 marched 2.5 miles from the World Trade Center, across the Brooklyn Bridge, ending at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Brooklyn to remember the fallen heroes of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.

Members of New York City Fire Department Battalion 57, based in Brooklyn, march from the World Trade Center site in Manhattan to the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Brooklyn for the commemoration of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. They carried the flags of the Fire Department and attended Mass celebrated by Father Sean Suckiel. (CNS photo/Matthew O’Connor, The Tablet)

Father Sean Suckiel, vocations director for the Diocese of Brooklyn, celebrated the memorial Mass at the church, praying for those who lost their lives and blessing the first responders still on the job.

“That day we were shocked, we were wounded,” Father Suckiel recalled. “Evil that day has its moment of triumph. That was a day of horrific events that we must never forget.

“When truly challenged, we forget ourselves and we become men and women for others, men and women who are willing to give up their lives. In times of disaster, we are present for one another, we change, we become our best,” he said.

“Our hearts are always saddened by the events that took place on this day,” the priest continued. “But we must look back through a different point of view. Heroism is where we find Jesus. He shows us the way.”

Firefighter Keith McElwain remembered driving through the tunnel into Manhattan and “when we got out, the clouds of smoke were everywhere and most of us didn’t know the towers had fallen yet. But I knew my brothers were in there and I had to bring them home.

“As long as I can walk, I will be in this march,” he said. “It is a good feeling to see the younger guys joining in today, to see them carry the flags and help pass on the tradition. Today is just about having everyone together.”

Firefighter Thomas Palombo graduated from the fire academy in 2015. His father, Frank Palombo, a graduate of Cathedral Prep School and Seminary in Queens, was killed on 9/11.

“So many risked their lives to save thousands and it is an honor to know my father was a part of that,” Palombo said. “This is my fifth year marching and I love being a fireman. I cannot actually put it into words what today means to me and so many people. Carrying the flag means a lot because for me it is to remember my father and to bring him back to Brooklyn.”

Firefighter Billy Stark marched for the 14th consecutive year and doesn’t plan on stopping.

“Every year the march seems to get a little tougher, but we keep going,” he said.

Twenty-three members of Battalion 57, located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, lost their lives at the World Trade Center.

“Of our battalion, we only recovered a femur of one firefighter. That was it,” Stark said.

“There was a sense of guilt for a long time that you weren’t one of the guys who died, but to the man none of us cared if we lived or died. We had to find our friends. It’s nice to see so many families still come out today and it shows how much love is out there.”

— By Matthew O’Connor, who is on the staff of The Tablet, newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

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Sen. Feinstein questions Catholic judicial nominee: ‘Dogma lives loudly within you’ — Updated

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, spurred outrage about possible religious tests for judicial appointees when she questioned a Catholic judicial nominee Sept. 6 about what impact her faith would have on her interpretation of the law.

Reaction from Catholic leaders to the hearing for Amy Coney Barrett, nominee for a seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. was swift, with a leading archbishop calling the Senate hearing “deeply disappointing.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, is seen in Washington Sept. 7. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

In the hearing, Feinstein not only referred to Barrett’s speeches in the committee hearing, but also to a 1998 article by Barrett, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, about the role of Catholic judges in death penalty cases.

The Marquette Law Review article, co-authored by John H. Garvey, who is now president of The Catholic University of America, concluded that although Catholic judges opposed to the death penalty could always simply recuse themselves under federal law, “litigants and the general public are entitled to impartial justice, which may be something a judge who is heedful of ecclesiastical pronouncements cannot dispense.”

Feinstein did not question Barrett about capital punishment cases, but rather the upholding of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal.

“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And, that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”

Barrett addressed this issue early in the hearing, answering a question from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, by saying: “It is never appropriate for a judge to apply their personal convictions, whether it derives from faith or personal conviction.”

Richard Garnett, also a University of Notre Dame law professor, said Feinstein’s line of questioning seemed to say “because you’re a Catholic, you can’t be believed.”

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, said the hearing was “deeply disappointing” since a number of senators failed to “simply consider the professional achievements of a nominee for the federal judiciary” and instead “challenged her fitness to serve due to her Catholic faith.”

In a Sept. 8 statement, the archbishop said the line of questioning Barrett received was “contrary to our Constitution and our best national traditions, which protect the free exercise of one’s faith and reject religious tests for public office, they are offensive to basic human rights.”

Garvey was among the first to respond in print to the hearing.

“I never thought I’d see the day when a coalition of left-wing groups attacked a Republican judicial nominee for opposing the death penalty,” he wrote in a Sept. 7 opinion article for the Washington Examiner.

“Catholic judges are not alone in facing such dilemmas. An observant Quaker would have the same problem. And I like to think that any federal judge would have had moral objections to enforcing the fugitive slave laws Congress passed before the Civil War.”

Garvey and others accused Feinstein of echoing talking points from The Alliance for Justice, a liberal advocacy group that has prepared reports on all of Trump’s judicial nominees.

The Alliance report on Barrett said she “has avoided definitive public statements on Roe v. Wade” but added, referring to the 1998 article as well as other “positions and philosophies,” that she held “the astonishing view that judges should place their religious beliefs ahead of the Constitution when carrying out their duties.”

“Barrett (and I) said no such thing,” Garvey wrote. “We said precisely the opposite.”

“I suspect what really troubled (the senators) is that, as a Catholic, her pro-life views might extend beyond criminal defendants to the unborn. If true, the focus on our law review article is all the more puzzling. After all, our point was that judges should respect the law, even laws they disagree with. And if they can’t enforce them, they should recuse themselves.”

The report also criticizes Barrett for signing a letter, produced by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, that criticized the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate as “morally obtuse.”

Eric Rassbach, the Becket Fund’s deputy general counsel, issued a statement in response: “It’s not something you could sue her over, but Sen. Feinstein would break her oath to defend the Constitution, including the part about no religious tests, if she were to vote against Barrett because of her Catholic religious beliefs.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, D- Illinois, a Georgetown University graduate, added fuel to the fire when, after calling himself “the product of 19 years of Catholic education,” he brought up the use of the term “orthodox Catholic” in Barrett’s law review article. He asked Barrett to define the term and to say if she considered herself an “orthodox” Catholic.

Barrett explained that in the context of the article, the term was “a proxy” for Catholic believers, but she didn’t think it was a term in current use.

She added, “If you’re asking whether I take my faith seriously and am a faithful Catholic, I am. Although I would stress that my present church affiliation or my religious beliefs would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.”

Durbin responded, “I happen to think Pope Francis is a pretty good Catholic.”

“I agree with you,” Barrett responded, smiling.

Archbishop Lori said the questions to Barrett “sadly, harken back to a time in our country when anti-Catholic bigotry did distort our laws and civil order.”

He wondered if the senators’ questions were meant “as a warning shot” for future law students and attorneys not to discuss their faith in a public forum at a time when “we should be encouraging faithful, ethical attorneys to serve in public office, not discouraging them by subjecting them to inappropriate, unnecessary interrogation based on their religious beliefs.”

Meanwhile, Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, sent a letter to Feinstein Sept. 9 expressing “my confidence in her competence and character, and deep concern for your line of questioning.

He challenged Feinstein’s stated concern that “dogma lives loudly in (Professor Barrett)” when it pertains to “big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.” He wrote that “dogma lives loudly” in his heart as well as “in the lives of many Americans, some of whom have given their lives in service to this nation.” He said dogma guided the country’s founders, who believed citizens should practice “their faith freely and without apology.”

“Professor Barrett has made it clear that she would ‘follow unflinchingly’ all legal precedent and, in rare cases in which her conscience would not allow her to do so, she would recuse herself. I can assure that she is a person of integrity who acts in accord with the principles she articulates,” the letter said.

Christopher L. Eisgruber, president of Princeton University, also expressed concern with the line of questioning during Barrett’s hearing.

He wrote in a letter to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Sept. 8 that he was committed to free speech and that he felt that Barrett’s willingness to write “candidly and intelligently about difficult and sensitive ethical questions” makes her an even stronger candidate for the bench.

Archbishop Lori said the questions to Barrett “sadly, harken back to a time in our country when anti-Catholic bigotry did distort our laws and civil order.”

He wondered if the senators’ questions were meant “as a warning shot” for future law students and attorneys not to discuss their faith in a public forum at a time when “we should be encouraging faithful, ethical attorneys to serve in public office, not discouraging them by subjecting them to inappropriate, unnecessary interrogation based on their religious beliefs.”

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Former Trump aide says Catholic Church welcomes illegal immigrants for their money

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — In an interview set to air Sept. 10 on the CBS TV program “60 Minutes,” former White House strategist Steve Bannon criticized the Catholic Church and U.S. bishops for their views on immigration, saying, “they need illegal aliens to fill the pews.”

Former White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon is seen at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., Feb. 23. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

In the interview Bannon, a Catholic, told newsman Charlie Rose that the bishops have “an economic interest in illegal immigration.” He also criticized his former boss, President Donald Trump, for taking a step back hours after ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, when the president said on Twitter that he might revisit the decision in six months.

“Trust me, the guys in the far right, the guys on the conservative side are not happy with this,” Bannon said.

Catholic officials, including a representative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, disputed the claim.

CBS released advance clips of the interview Sept. 7.

The interview marks the first time since leaving the Trump administration that Bannon, who founded the website Breitbart News, has spoken out. Since leaving the administration, he has returned to Breitbart.

Citing the Gospel call to welcome the stranger and other church teachings, the U.S. bishops have urged for comprehensive immigration reform and for the protection of youth under the DACA program.

Bannon said the U.S bishops have been “terrible” about handling immigration because they can’t “come to grips with the problems in the church. They need illegal aliens. They need illegal aliens to fill the churches. That’s, it’s obvious on the face of it.”

Bannon said immigration issues are not part of church doctrine and the bishops need to understand that “this is about the sovereignty of a nation.”

“And in that regard,” he added, “they’re just another guy with an opinion.”

 

‘Preposterous’ and ‘insulting’

In a Sept. 7 statement responding to Bannon’s interview, James Rogers, chief communications officer for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said it is “preposterous to claim that justice for immigrants isn’t central to Catholic teaching,” noting that the mandate comes directly from the words of Jesus, who spoke of feeding the hungry and welcoming the stranger.

“Immigrants and refugees are precisely the strangers we must welcome,” he added, saying:”This isn’t Catholic partisanship. The Bible is clear: Welcoming immigrants is indispensable to our faith.”

Rogers also noted that caring for the “Dreamers,” or DACA recipients, is a response to commands in both the Old and New Testaments.

He said the bishops’ views on life issues, marriage, health and immigration reform are “rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ rather than the convenient political trends of the day.”

Rogers stressed that for anyone to suggest that the bishops’ recent statements on immigrants are for “financial gain is outrageous and insulting.”

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan offered similar reaction in a Sept. 7 interview on the Jennifer Fulwiler Show, on The Catholic Channel, on SiriusXM satellite radio.

The cardinal said he had seen a transcript of the Bannon interview on “60 Minutes” and was “rather befuddled” by it.

He said Bannon’s comment that “the only reason the bishops care for immigrants is because we want to fill our churches and get more money” was insulting.

He also said he wanted to clarify Bannon’s remark that immigration issues are not part of church doctrine. 

“He might be right,” the cardinal said: “it comes from the Bible itself,” which he said is very clear about treating immigrants with dignity and respect.

Contributing to this report was Carol Zimmermann.

     

       

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It’s no ordinary week at flood-damaged Houston church

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HOUSTON — The 22nd week in ordinary time of the church’s liturgical year has been no ordinary time for Father Martin Eke, a Missionary of St. Paul, or his parish, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Houston.

“Ever since the rain started … my life has never been busier,” Father Eke said Sept. 6. Read more »

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Trump backtracks a little on DACA after backlash

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Hours after the Trump administration announced on Sept. 5 an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, the president seemed to backtrack, just a bit, by saying that if Congress can’t find a legislative solution to legalize the program’s 800,000 beneficiaries in six months, he might step in.

A Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals supporter demonstrates in El Paso, Texas, Sept. 5. (CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters)

“Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!” President Donald Trump tweeted in the evening, even after Attorney General Jeff Sessions said using executive action in such as manner, as then-President Barack Obama had done, was “unconstitutional.”

Obama established DACA in 2012 by executive action after Congress could not agree on legislation that would have legalized youth brought to the U.S. as children.

After DACA was rescinded, condemnation quickly followed. Javier Palomarez, the head of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said on a television show shortly after the decision was announced that he was resigning from the president’s diversity coalition because of its move to end DACA. The chamber of commerce then followed up with a statement saying that it “vehemently” opposed the president’s “inhumane and economically harmful decision to terminate DACA.”

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia announced Sept. 6 that they were filing lawsuits against the administration to stop it from ending the program.

Republicans, such as House Speaker Paul Ryan, seemed optimistic and said he had
“hope” that Congress could come to an agreement. Congress has not been able to agree on immigration legislation in more than a decade.

At a demonstration outside the White House on Sept. 5, DACA recipient Greisa Martinez, who is advocacy director at United We Dream, a national immigrant youth led organization, said DACA beneficiaries will try to press for a legislative solution. However, she and other beneficiaries don’t want to be part of political deals that will put other migrants at risk, she said. In other words, migrant youth will oppose any deals that attempt to use them as political pawns and oppose any legislation that will in turn put their parents or families at risk, she said.

The New York-based Center for Migration Studies said in a Sept. 5 statement by executive director Donald Kerwin that “Congress should act swiftly to pass the bipartisan DREAM Act, which was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Although the 2017 version is the latest move by Congress to attempt at bipartisan legislation to help the undocumented youth, the White House told news agency McClatchy in July that the president wouldn’t sign the proposed Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, legislation so it’s hard to tell what legislative solutions the president is seeking.

Kerwin also took issue with what he called the attorney general’s “demonstrably false claims and half-truths” when he announced why the administration was rescinding the program. The DACA program did not cause the flight of large numbers of unaccompanied minors to the United States, Kerwin said. That was a result of the violence from the Northern Triangle states of Central America, which includes El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

DACA recipients also have not deprived hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens of jobs, Kerwin said.

“Sessions also repeatedly invoked the phrase ‘illegal aliens’ to describe legally present young persons who are American in everything but status,” Kerwin said.

     

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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Stamp honors Father Hesburgh, former Notre Dame president

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A postage stamp honoring Holy Cross Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, president of the University of Notre Dame from 1952 to 1987, was issued during a ceremony at the school Sept. 1.

The hour-long event featured several speakers, including Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state and a 1975 Notre Dame graduate, Postmaster General Megan Brennan and Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, university president. Read more »

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Catholics turn out to support ‘dreamers’ after DACA rescinded

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Mercy Sister Rita Parks stood near the large crowd in front of the White House that was almost silenced after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced shortly after 11 a.m. on Sept. 5 that the Trump administration was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

Dafne Jacobs, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient stands with supporters during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, Calif., Sept. 1. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Sept. 5 that the DACA program is “being rescinded” by President Donald Trump, leaving some 800,000 youth, brought illegally to the U.S. as minors, in peril of deportation and of losing permits that allow them to work. (CNS photo/Kyle Grillot, Reuters)

“I’m astounded, saddened. I saw their faces, the tears and their dreams shattered,” said Sister Parks, of some of the DACA recipients nearby who were trying to take in the recent news. Many of them, the majority in their 20s, had just heard what they didn’t want to believe: that the program that grants them a work permit and reprieve from deportation, is months away from disappearing.

Some, like Catholic DACA recipient Claudia Quinones, who was in the Washington crowd, had held out hope up until the moment of the announcement that President Donald Trump would make a decision with “heart,” as he had earlier promised regarding the program that allows beneficiaries like her, brought to the U.S. as children without legal documentation, certain protections.

Instead, his attorney general said that by giving job permits to DACA recipients, jobs were “denied … to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens” meaning the young migrants. Sessions also criticized the program, calling it “unilateral executive amnesty” and said it was responsible for “a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences.” However, many organizations have attributed the surge of unaccompanied minors to scaling violence in Central America, not to the DACA program.

Many in the crowd held up signs saying “shame” and pointed them toward the White House after the announcement. Many shouted “Donald Trump, shame on you!”

The Department of Homeland Security, which administers the program, has stopped accepting DACA applications, and current recipients will not be affected until March 5, which Sessions said, gives Congress an opportunity to find a legislative solution for the current 800,000 beneficiaries. On its website, DHS says DACA recipients can continue working until their work permits expire. Those with DACA permits that expire between Sept. 5 and March 5, 2018 are eligible to renew their permits, the website says, but they won’t be able to renew after that two-year extension.

In what can be interpreted as a command, the president tweeted: “Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA!,” kicking the political ball into Congress’ hands. But it’s unclear what Congress can and will do.

“We’re not a political hot potato,” said DACA recipient Greisa Martinez, who is advocacy director at United We Dream, a national immigrant youth-led organization for so-called “dreamers,” as the DACA youth are called. The moniker comes from the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, a legislative proposal that has repeatedly failed to pass in Congress and which would give DACA recipients conditional residency. Though a recent bipartisan version of the DREAM Act was once again proposed by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, and Democrat Dick Durbin, of Illinois, the president said pre-emptively he would not sign it. So, it’s unclear what he means when he asks Congress to fix the situation for “dreamers.”

Martinez, who was brought from Mexico to the U.S. at age 7 by her parents, said in an interview with Catholic News Service that there’s a lot of uncertainty about what will happen to youth like her but says she’s focused on the fight ahead to “push politicians to better people.”

“I hold on,” she said, “because I know God is on my side.”

Her fellow “dreamer,” Quinones, a parishioner at Our Lady of Sorrows in Maryland, said the weekend before the announcement had been “very stressful.” Because of DACA, she has a work permit, a driver’s license and is able to attend college in the area. Now, that’s all up in the air. But DACA youth and other immigrants, as well as other Catholics, have shown a lot of support and that helps, she said.

The crowd in front of the White House was sprinkled with Catholics representing organizations such as the Sisters of Mercy, the Franciscan Action Network, Faith in Public Life, as well as men and women religious out to show their support.

Capuchin Franciscan Father Kevin Thompson of Washington, said he wanted to support the youth, which include many young Catholics at the nearby Shrine of the Sacred Heart, where he is the auxiliary pastor.

“This is their country,” he said. “This is the country they know.”

He said he would be praying for Catholics who are against programs such as DACA. The Old Testament is clear, he said, in saying that Christians must welcome the stranger.

“I pray for a change of heart,” he said.

Mercy Sister Anne Curtis said she, too, couldn’t understand the opposition of some Catholics against programs such as DACA because from the Christian point of view, “our tradition is so clear,” regarding immigrants, she said, and urged others to “look to the Gospel.”

She said she was particular disheartened with the announcement because the “dreamers” had been led to believe that the outcome would be different.

“My heart breaks,” she said. “The hope they were given and now to have their dreams dashed.”

Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy for the New York-based Center for Migration Studies, joined the crowd in Washington and said the decision was “cruel, as it violates a pledge made by our government to these young people and places them at risk of deportation to countries they do not know.”

“It is sad that the president was unable to summon the moral and political courage to stand by these inspiring young immigrants, who have shown great strength and fortitude in their efforts to achieve the American dream,” he said. “They represent the future leaders of our nation and would contribute greatly to our economy and culture, if given the chance. Instead of firing them, the president should be hiring them. Now it is up to Congress to do the right thing and find a long-term solution to their plight.”

That includes plans for granting them permanent residency and citizenship, he said.

Dreamer Quinones said she’d received much support from church members at the parish level and among those who turned out to support DACA beneficiaries like her during demonstrations but said she would like to see more support from the local hierarchy.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the cancellation of DACA “reprehensible” and said in a Sept. 5 statement that the president’s announcement “causes unnecessary fear” for the youths and their families. The bishops repeatedly called on the president to keep the program. They told DACA recipients on Sept. 5: “You are children of God and welcome in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church supports you and will advocate for you.”

      – – –

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Ending DACA program called ‘reprehensible’ and ‘heart-breaking’ by U.S. bishops

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Sept. 5 that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is “being rescinded” by President Donald Trump, leaving some 800,000 youth, brought illegally to the U.S. as minors, in peril of deportation and of losing permits that allow them to work.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals supporters demonstrate near the White House in Washington Sept. 5. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Sept. 5 that the DACA program is “being rescinded” by President Donald Trump, leaving some 800,000 youth, brought illegally to the U.S. as minors, in peril of deportation and of losing permits that allow them to work. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

Although the Department of Homeland Security will immediately stop accepting applications to the DACA program, current recipients would not be affected until March 5, which Sessions said will “create a time period for Congress to act, should it choose.”

He described the 2012 policy, popularly known as DACA and implemented under President Barack Obama, as an “unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.”

DACA does not provide legal status for youths who were brought to the country without legal permission as children, but it gives recipients a temporary reprieve from deportation and employment authorization in the United States, as long as the applicants meet certain criteria.

In the days leading up to the decision, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with other Catholic organizations, asked the president to keep the program.

A Sept. 5 statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the cancellation of DACA “reprehensible” and something that “causes unnecessary fear for DACA youth and their families.”

“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,” they said, adding that the decision by the Trump administration is a “heartbreaking moment in our history that shows the absence of mercy and goodwill, and a short-sighted vision for the future.”

The bishops also urged Congress to “immediately resume work toward a legislative solution.”

They told DACA recipients: “You are children of God and welcome in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church supports you and will advocate for you.”

The statement was signed by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president; Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, USCCB vice president; Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration; and Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington, chairman of the Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees, and Travelers.

 

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