Announced end to DACA program is ‘reprehensible,’ U.S. bishops say

Demonstrators gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington in this 2016 file photo as the justices heard oral arguments in a challenge by several states to then-President Barack Obama’s deferred deportation programs. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced an end to the DACA program Sept. 5. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

By Rhina Guidos
Catholic News Service

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— Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Sept. 5 that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is “being rescinded” by President Donald Trump, leaving some 800,000 youth, brought illegally to the U.S. as minors, in peril of deportation and of losing permits that allow them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

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 José H. Gómez, USCCB vice president; Bishop Joe S. Vásquez 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.

The bishops of Arizona and New Mexico issued a similar joint statement Aug. 31, reiterating their “strong and unwavering support for DACA youth so they do not have to live in fear of deportation.”

They acknowledged that although DACA is not a “permanent solution,” they supported its continuation until a permanent solution could be foud.

“Accordingly, we urge our federal elected officials to move forward with permanent solutions that grant relief to these young people along with the chance to earn permanent residency and eventually to seek citizenship,” they said. “We ask that all people of goodwill join us in praying and advocating for governmental efforts to protect DACA youth and for reform of our broken immigration policies.”