Catholics gather on Hill to pray lawmakers will protect the Dreamers

By Kelly Sankowski
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A group of priests, religious, young immigrants and their supporters gathered outside of the U.S. Capitol Feb. 6 to pray for the Dreamers, whose lives are in limbo, and for the legislators who have the power to change their situation.

“We’ve done everything else … now we pray,” said Sr. Mary Ellen Lacy, a Daughter of Charity, noting the many marches and protests that have taken place over the past months. “It really is in God’s hands at this point.”

Members of several Catholic those organizations were on Capitol Hill as a part of the final day of the Feb. 3-6 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington. During that conference, they discussed social issues of importance to the Catholic Church and were meeting with their representatives Feb. 6 to advocate for these issues.

As participants in the prayer service gathered in front of the U.S. Capitol on a cold afternoon, Sr. Mary Ellen thanked everyone there for “sacrificing your comfort because other people have been forced to sacrifice (theirs).”

Following an opening song and Scripture readings, the group prayed the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary. Each decade began with a reflection on the suffering of Dreamers — young immigrants brought as minors by their parents into the United States without legal permission.

At right, Maria Jose, a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, joins participants at a Feb. 6 prayer service outside the U.S. Capitol to pray for Dreamers and for legislators who are working to pass immigration legislation. (Jaclyn Lippelmann/CNS via Catholic Standard)

Many of them have been protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, created in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama via executive order. Now the DACA recipients face an uncertain fate because the program is scheduled to end March 5, unless Congress acts to keep it in place.

During the third sorrowful mystery, the crowning with thorns, the crowd reflected on how Jesus’ captors did not find torturing him to be enough, but also needed to humiliate him with a crown of thorns. Similarly, stereotypes and other verbal abuses are the thorns that harm and humiliate Dreamers in the midst of this time of uncertainty, the reflection said.

“The burden of carrying the cross was so great that without the help of Simon of Cyrene, Jesus would have been crushed,” read the reflection for the fourth sorrowful mystery. “Often Dreamers bear crushing guilt,” because they survived the journey, while members of their family didn’t, it continued, concluding with a request for “the grace to help them carry the burden.”

For the fifth sorrowful mystery, the crucifixion, Maria Jose, a Dreamer from Sacramento, California, read the reflection, saying: “We DACA recipients also cried when DACA, our ticket to safety, ended.”

At the conclusion of the rosary, the group prayed for petitions, with the response, “We welcome you Jesus.”

“We see you today … in the Dreamers fearing the loss of the only home they’ve known … in the legislators who struggle to make the right decisions,” the group prayed. “Help us to recognize that whenever we welcome the stranger, we welcome you.”

“There are good people on both sides who want to protect these young people and their families,” said Vargas.

For Maria Jose, a 21-year-old college student who came to the U.S. from Peru when she was 4, it was encouraging to see so many people come together to support her and other Dreamers. She was especially thankful for those participating who are not personally affected by any DACA-related legislation.

“It brings me a lot of joy to see there are so many people with us,” she said.

Kelly Sankowski is on the staff of the CATHOLIC STANDARD, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.