Diocese of Phoenix holds Mass and gathering to support DACA recipients

Supporters of DACA attend a special Mass at St. Agnes Sept. 23. (Margaret Naczek/CATHOLIC SUN)

By Margaret Naczek
The Catholic Sun

Estamos unidos [we are united]!”

These were the words preached by Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares Sept. 23 at St. Agnes Parish where a special Mass was held to show support and gain awareness of the difficulties of DACA recipients — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — and their families.

“The importance of the event shows that the Church continues to stand on the side of the marginalized, immigrants and those on the peripheries,” said Ignacio Rodriguez, associate director of the diocesan Office of Ethnic Ministries. “The Phoenix church wanted to give the message of solidarity and a sense of hope.”

Prior to the Mass, local organizations helped DACA recipients fill out the necessary paperwork to get their applications processed. Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona, said at least 20 applications were completed in the session.

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A second collection was earmarked toward the $495 DACA application renewal costs that each person must complete and donated to Catholic Charities’ Office of Immigration Advocacy.

DACA recipient Karina Ruiz shared her story of moving to the U.S. from Mexico at 15, and though she started a semester late, she graduated high school on time with fellow classmates. From 2003-2009 she attended Arizona State University but was unable to graduate because of the financial burden. After DACA was introduced in 2012, Ruiz returned to school and received her degree in biochemistry in 2015.

Ruiz hopes that through her story and the stories of others, the narrative of DACA recipients will change.

“The act that our parents did, it’s portrayed as something illegal, something criminal, something breaking the law. People get stuck in that,” Ruiz said. “I think it’s a process for people to understand or see that we are not defined by the act that we did, whether by fault or not. I don’t want to blame my parents for looking for a better life, for looking for an opportunity for me.”

Speakers called for “oración y acción” [prayers and actions]. Ruiz said that prayer is what turned her helplessness into empowerment and she urges others to do the same.

“I encourage people to pray and to find it in their heart to be open-minded to immigrants and our stories, to change the narratives that people are not criminals or a threat but instead they are just brothers and sisters looking for a better life,” Ruiz said.

She also encouraged involvement within the community and government, something Bishop Nevares emphasized in his homily.

“We want to encourage and support them [DACA recipients] through our prayer that, through our petitioning our Congresspeople, they may come to a resolution that will help these — our brothers and sisters of the DACA program — to be welcomed into this nation of ours,” Bishop Nevares said.

Sr. Christa Parra IBVM, who attended the event, believes standing in solidarity with DACA recipients is crucial for every Christian. She stressed living the Gospel radically and living like Jesus, which she believed meant inclusivity of all people.

“These aren’t strangers. These aren’t foreigners. These are our brothers and sisters who go to our schools, who play on our sports teams, who contribute to the society in wonderful ways, whose parents have been here and given so much of themselves to our society,” Sr. Christa said. “We have to stand with our DREAMers. We have no choice. We have to as Christians.”

DACA recipients whose applications expire between Sept. 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 have until Oct. 5, 2017 to renew their applications.