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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After DACA was rescinded, condemnation quickly followed.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.

     

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

By

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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Texas bishops object to call to end protection of young migrants

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — After a Texas attorney general gave the Trump administration an ultimatum to end a policy protecting young migrants or face a lawsuit in September, the Catholic bishops of Texas expressed disappointment in a letter to the state official and blamed Congress for the uncertain future the migrants are facing.

Immigration advocates rally in New York City Nov. 22, 2016. The U.S. bishops' migration committee chair in a July 18 statement urged President Donald Trump to "ensure permanent protection" for youth under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. (CNS photo/Justin Lane, EPA)

Immigration advocates rally in New York City Nov. 22, 2016. The U.S. bishops’ migration committee chair in a July 18 statement urged President Donald Trump to “ensure permanent protection” for youth under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. (CNS photo/Justin Lane, EPA)

In a letter made public July 20 and addressed to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Texas bishops say they are “disappointed” by his demand that the administration terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a 2012 policy under then-President Barack Obama.

While not providing legal status, it gives youth who were brought to the U.S. as minors and without documentation a temporary reprieve from deportation and employment authorization in the United States as long as they meet certain criteria.

The bishops also blame “Congress’ failure,” for the uncertain future being faced by young DACA recipients, who, “along with countless other migrants who truly believe in the American dream, are victims of a broken system.”

In late June, officials from nine states, mostly attorneys general and one governor, joined Paxton in urging the Trump administration end DACA, threatening the government with a lawsuit Sept. 5 if the program continues.

But President Donald Trump does not seem clear about what he will do. As a candidate, he said he would terminate the policy. As president, he said the decision is difficult and recently said he’s still weighing what to do about it.

Officials from Idaho, Arkansas, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia joined Texas in demanding an end to the program. The State Attorney of California sent Paxton a letter July 21 and, backed by 19 other attorneys general, opposed the request to end DACA.

On June 20, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, along with others, introduced the 2017 version of what in the past has been called the DREAM Act, seeking relief for DACA recipients that could result in their legal status and perhaps citizenship down the line.

“This is the right thing to do and the compassionate thing to do,” said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez in a July 21 letter.

However, White House officials told the McClatchy news service the day before the bill was introduced that the president would not support the legislation even if Congress passes it.

In Texas, the bishops’ statement says, ending DACA would result in the deportation of 117,000 young people from the United States. Nationally, 750,000 to 800,000 are said to have applied for the status, which asks that applicants not have a criminal record, have served honorably in the armed forces of the United States or be currently in school or have graduated from high school or earned a GED.

“These individuals contribute to the economy, serve honorably in our armed forces, excel in our schools and universities, minister in our churches, and volunteer in our communities. Texans should be proud to claim them as our own,” the Texas’ bishops statement said.

The bishops tell Paxton “to be mindful of migrants’ dignity and our own Texas values.” They also speak of the separation of families that some of the DACA recipients, known as “Dreamers,” experience.

“Under our federal system, migrants’ hopes for a better life are often met by bureaucratic ways of thinking,” the letter says, and remind Paxton that Texans stand “against such thinking because they value both liberty and opportunity.”

 

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U.S. bishops call for permanent protection for young migrants

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The chair of the migration committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged the Trump administration to “ensure permanent protection” for youth who were brought to the U.S. as minors without legal documentation. Read more »

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Catholic panelists discuss ‘Faithful Priorities in a Time of Trump’

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Catholic panelists gathered to discuss “Faithful Priorities in a Time of Trump” said it is difficult to get over some of the words the president-elect said during the campaign, and even before he was a candidate. But as his presidency nears, many of them said it’s important to find ways to work with him for the common good.

“When Donald Trump says things about women … I have a hard time stomaching those comments,” said Msgr. John Enzler, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. “We can still find a way, though, to listen and say, ‘How do we find common ground?’”

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks Jan. 11 during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City. (CNS /Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks Jan. 11 during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City. (CNS /Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Msgr. Enzler was one of five panelists Jan. 12 who addressed the role the Catholic faith can play as the country gets ready for the incoming Trump administration. Some Catholics such as Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Florida, expressed great optimism.

“We can have a lot of hope that he will protect life the way we want him to do … defunding Planned Parenthood, protecting life,” Rooney said. “Things like the insurance mandate can be brought into harmony of First Amendment rights.”

Yet others such as panelist Jessica Chilin Hernandez expressed uncertainty and apprehension of the days ahead. Chilin works at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, thanks to a work permit she has through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA. President Barack Obama, through executive action in 2012, created a policy that allows certain undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children to have a work permit and be exempt from deportation.

Chilin is one of more than 750,000 people who signed up for DACA. During the campaign, Trump said he would kill the program and threatened mass deportations, sending those like Chilin into panic.

“I felt a fear unlike any other fear I have had before,” she said about the moment she learned Trump won the election. “The fear was visceral. … one thought that occupied my mind was that homeland security knows exactly where I live. It was hard to imagine myself having a future in 2017.”

Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of U.S. Operations for Catholic Relief Services, said now is a good time to review the principles of Catholicism and social justice, explaining that they don’t divide people and don’t say refugees or immigrants are enemies or a burden on society.

“What we have to do is lift up our principles,” Rosenhauer said. “The problem is deeper because our own Catholic people do not know those principles.”

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization, said the country is showing a high level of ambiguity, fear, dysfunction and chaos.

“I think that challenges all of us as people of faith,” she said.

Now is the time to stand up for the stranger, the working poor, and anyone who needs of our kindness or help, and Catholic social teaching has a lot to say about it, Sister Campbell said.

Msgr. Enzler noted it is also important to understand that individuals can do much by performing kind actions toward others. People can start by asking: “What did I do today? It’s not an agency that can make things better but people,” he said.

Chilin said it’s important to keep in mind language that we use in daily conversation.

“Be conscientious of language,” she said. “Illegal is a racial slur. No human being is illegal and yet, in many circles, they use it to describe us.”

Panel moderator John Carr, director of Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, which sponsored the event, asked how Catholics can build bridges in “an angry country, a divided country.” There are a lot of people who feel under attack, he said.

“It’s important to see what role (Catholics) can play in divisions that have been created over the past year,” Rosenhauer said. “I was really struck by Cardinal (Joseph) Tobin and his homily at his installation where one of his key points was that our kindness must be known to all.”

It’s important to stand up for beliefs even when others disagree with them, she said, “but we have to find a way to do it with kindness.”

“We want to protect children in the womb. That’s something we can work with this (the Trump) administration and Congress on. … Senator (Jeff) Sessions said there would be no Muslim ban. That’s something we would support and work together on … then let’s be clear about the areas for disagreements.”

Msgr. Enzler said Catholics, particularly the church’s leaders, must also speak and raise their voices for the vulnerable, and strongly speak the church’s message.

Moderator Carr asked Sister Campbell whether she could offer any lessons about building bridges that she learned during the Nuns on the Bus tour last summer, a 19-day trip that a group of women religious undertook from Wisconsin to the national political conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia. Its aim was to learn what people around the country were thinking about just before the presidential election.

Sister Campbell used the bus as a metaphor for the country. Some said the bus had made them feel as if they were welcome back into a community, a feeling they had not had in a long time, because everyone was welcome on the bus. She said she heard stories about poverty, lack of jobs and lack of access to health care that resulted in the deaths of loved ones.

“No one can be left out of our care,” Sister Campbell said. “We are a nation of problem-solvers, but we have sunk into extreme individualism.”

As Pope Francis has said, it’s about the people, and when people feel loved, they flourish and when they flourish so does the country, she said.

 

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Catholic college presidents pledge help for ‘childhood arrivals’ — undocumented students with DACA status

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — More than 70 presidents at Catholic colleges and universities have signed a statement pledging their support for students attending their schools who are legally protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

The statement, posted Nov. 30 on the website of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, says it hopes “the students in our communities who have qualified for DACA are able to continue their studies without interruption and that many more students in their situation will be welcome to contribute their talents to our campuses.”

Jesuit Father Michael Sheeran is  president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. (CNS photo/courtesy Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities)

Jesuit Father Michael Sheeran is president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. (CNS photo/courtesy Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities)

President Barack Obama’s DACA program protects young immigrants brought into the United States by their parents as young children without legal permission. More than 720,000 of these young immigrants have been approved for the program, which protects them from deportation for two-year periods.

The college leaders’ statement also points out that “undocumented students need assistance in confronting legal and financial uncertainty and in managing the accompanying anxieties. We pledge to support these students, through our campus counseling and ministry support, through legal resources from those campuses with law schools and legal clinics and through whatever other services we may have at our disposal.”

The statement was released three weeks after the presidential election. During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump promised to deport those who are in the country without legal permission; build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border; and enact a ban on Muslims entering the country until a system for what he called “extreme vetting” of refugees is in place.

Trump also made promises during his campaign to undo what he called Obama’s “overreaching” executive orders, including the president’s November 2014 expansion of his 2012 DACA program to allow more young immigrants people to benefit from its provisions that defer deportations and allow them to have work permits.

“Many of us count among our students young men and women who are undocumented, their families having fled violence and instability,” the presidents’ letter said, adding that these students have met the DACA criteria.

Signers of the letter represent large schools, like Villanova, which is outside Philadelphia, DePaul University in Chicago and The Catholic University of America in Washington, and small schools, like Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts, and Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and dozens of colleges in between. They include leaders who have been vocal in their support of students with DACA status, such as Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, and Jesuit Father Kevin Wildes, president of Loyola University New Orleans. 

Michael Galligan-Stierle, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, and Jesuit Father Michael Sheeran, president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, also signed the statement.

Many of the signers are presidents of Jesuit colleges and universities who signed a similar Nov. 30 statement issued by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities that reiterated support for students who are in the United States without legal documents.

That statement, signed by 28 leaders, said: “We feel spiritually and morally compelled to raise a collective voice confirming our values and commitments as Americans and educators.”

The leaders pledged to continue working “to protect to the fullest extent of the law undocumented students on our campuses” and to promote retention of students with DACA status.

Several of the signers of both statements also signed a Nov. 21 letter with more than 400 college and university presidents from public and private institutions across the U.S. offering to meet with U.S. leaders on the issue of immigrant students and urging business, civic, religious and nonprofit sectors to join them in supporting DACA and undocumented immigrant students.

The letter from Catholic college and university presidents stressed that their schools “share a long history of educating students from a diverse array of socioeconomic, geographical and ethnic backgrounds, often welcoming those on society’s margins, especially immigrants and underprivileged populations.”

It also cited what Pope Francis said last year at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia when he welcomed many recent immigrants to the United States, pointing out that many of them came to the United States “at great personal cost, in the hope of building a new life.”

“Do not be discouraged by whatever hardships you face,” the pope told them. “I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to this nation.”

John DeGioia, president of Georgetown University, who joined the statement with Jesuit college leaders, also sent a similar-themed message to members of the school community Nov. 29.

In the letter, he noted that he has been meeting with students, faculty and staff members from the university and “many of them have shared with me that they feel vulnerable and unsure about their futures or the futures of close friends and family.”

DeGioia stressed that Georgetown’s school community would continue to support the DACA program and “protect our undocumented students to the fullest extent of the law.”

“I wish to encourage each of us to recommit ourselves to supporting one another — to working together to do all that we can to ensure that our community is a place of deep care for each person, especially those who feel most vulnerable,” he wrote.

 

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter @carolmaczim.

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