If you have been following the news lately, you have read and heard much about the recent hurricanes in both Texas and Florida. This awareness calls for our continued prayers for the many, many people who have been impacted by these natural disasters as well as those who have been affected by the fires in the western part of our country and the earthquake in Mexico.
Immigration has also been a hot topic in the news over the past number of weeks. You would have most likely heard that President Donald Trump has suspended the five-year-old program instituted by former President Barack Obama known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It is estimated that approximately 800,000 individuals referred to as “Dreamers” have been in the program created by DACA.
The Dream Act associated with this policy is intended to protect immigrant youth who entered the United States as children. These young people are seeking to reach their full God-given potential and fulfill the promise of being able to give back to the only country most have ever known. The decision to end this program plunges these immigrant youth into uncertainty.
As stated recently by the leadership of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “The cancellation of the DACA program causes unnecessary fear for DACA youth and their families. 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.”
DACA is a pro-life policy which protects the life and unity of the family. The family is vital for building up a sound social order. Family is the very foundation of society and a communion of persons called to reflect the life of the Trinity. These images are not to be taken lightly because they reveal the heart of God for the family. These young people were brought to the United States by their parents because they desired to provide their children with hope, opportunity and safety that they could never find in their countries of birth.
In a recent interview, former White House strategist Steve Bannon, a Catholic, criticized the Catholic Church and U.S. bishops for their views on immigration, stating; “The bishops have been terrible about this. … Because unable to really … come to grips with the problems in the church, they need illegal aliens to fill the churches. … They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration.”
I, like many other bishops, find this statement outrageous and insulting. Jesus himself, in Matthew 25, has put the stranger, the immigrant, the refugee, the poor at the heart of his Gospel message, “For I was hungry and you gave me food… a stranger and you welcomed me.” The immigrant and the refugee are precisely the ones whom we are called to welcome. The sacred Scriptures very clearly declare that welcoming immigrants is indispensable to our faith. We will all be judged on how well we have responded to this call.
At the heart of Catholic Social Teaching is the moral obligation to protect the life and dignity of every human being, particularly the most vulnerable, which includes the many youth impacted by DACA. The church’s pro-immigration position is based on fidelity to God’s word and respects what all Americans desire — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To think otherwise is ridiculous and has no merit.
As stated by James Rogers, Chief Communications Officer for the USCCB, “The witness of the Catholic bishops on issues from pro-life to pro-marriage to pro-health care to pro-immigration reforms is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ rather than the convenient political trends of the day. We are called not to politics or partisanship, but to love our neighbor. Let’s reject the forces of division that insist we make a false choice between our safety and our humanity. It is both possible and morally necessary to secure the border in a manner which provides security and a humane immigration policy.”
No matter where a person is politically on this issue, this recent decision by President Trump is clear evidence that permanent and comprehensive immigration reform in our country is desperately needed. Let us all pray diligently that this can be accomplished and soon.