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Texas bishops object to call to end protection of young migrants

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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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Texas bishops oppose state’s new ‘anti-sanctuary’ law

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AUSTIN, Texas — The Catholic bishops of Texas said the state’s move to prohibit cities and other jurisdictions from providing sanctuary to immigrants facing deportation “does not help peace officers build trust with the migrant community.”

On May 7, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law the “anti-sanctuary” measure passed by the Texas Legislature.

In a May 5 statement, the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops had urged Abbott to veto the bill, known as S.B. 4, saying they were disappointed lawmakers had voted for the bill and said it went beyond the governor’s goal “to ensure local sheriffs and police did not undermine the immigration laws enforced by the federal government.”

“The bill exceeds this goal, because it also allows local peace officers to inquire into the legal status of people who are detained, rather than just those who are arrested,” the bishops said. “With such a law, people who have done nothing to merit arrest or citation can be asked for their legal status. The bill will decrease trust from our immigrant community in our law enforcement officers.”

The new law bans cities and other jurisdictions from providing sanctuary to immigrants in the country without legal permission if they are facing deportation. It says police chiefs and county sheriffs who refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities would face jail time.

It also allows police officers to ask people they detain, including for a routine traffic stop, about their immigration status.

“Enforcement measures should have the goal of targeting dangerous criminals for incarceration and deportation. S.B. 4 does not meet these standards,” the Texas bishops said.

“Our clergy, religious brothers and sisters, and laity have a long history of involvement in serving migrants,” they said. “Our ministry compels us to speak out on the issue of immigration reform, which is a moral issue that impacts human rights. We continue to advocate for more just and comprehensive immigration laws, which include reunification of families and creating more just pathways to citizenship.”

The bishops asked all Texans to join them “in praying for our leaders, peace officers, migrants and citizens. May we give thanks for the good laws of our state, and tirelessly work to ensure that our laws always protect each of our God-given rights.”

On May 8, the state of Texas filed a lawsuit in federal court as a preemptive move against local officials who oppose the new law and are expected to fight it in court.

State Attorney General Ken Paxton filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.

The new law “is constitutional, lawful and a vital step in securing our borders,” he said in a statement. “Unfortunately, some municipalities and law enforcement agencies are unwilling to cooperate with the federal government and claim that S.B. 4 is unconstitutional.”

In January, President Donald Trump signed an executive order saying the federal government would withhold funds from cities and other entities if local officials do not cooperate with immigration enforcement. A federal judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked the order, ruling that only Congress could withhold funds.

According to news reports from around the country, several cities, towns and counties, have revised or reversed “sanctuary” declarations for their jurisdictions after the threat of losing federal money.

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