Court Decision Offers Dreamers Newfound Hope
Friday, Jun. 26, 2020
Bishop Oscar A. Solis
For the past several months the world has suffered the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which has disrupted the lives of millions of people of all races, gender, creed and status in life. However, a common thread binds everyone – the desire to find a cure, eradicate the virus’ dreadful effects, save lives and bring life to normal again.
During these times of grief, sickness, poverty and hopelessness, it is very gratifying to see the best of humanity, how people make sacrifices and reach out to those in need to contain the disease and protect the well-being of the community. The progress achieved in confronting the pandemic, easing of government restrictions, economic rebound, resumption of public worship and living in a “new normal” provides new hope and a renewed sense of joy.
We need more hopeful moments to alleviate the prevailing concern and feeling of discouragement around us. Hence, it is heartwarming to welcome other good news. I join my brother bishops in the United States in welcoming the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week rejecting President Donald Trump’s bid to revoke the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program implemented in 2012 by President Barack Obama. The program allows young people who were brought as minors into the country illegally by their parents to stay in the United States to escape, in many cases, extreme poverty, senseless violence, political corruption and other injustices, and to find better opportunities in life.
Since its inception, “DACA has enabled approximately 800,000 young people, who paid a fee and submitted to a background check, the opportunity to work legally, access educational opportunities and not fear deportation,” according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Terminating this program would be devastating for these vulnerable young people, known as Dreamers, who would be forced to go back to live in a strange country they have not known.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision is a great blessing to hundreds of thousands of Dreamers – our brothers and sisters and their immigrant families living as if in purgatory, and suffering the pain of not knowing their future in this country. It means that hundreds of thousands of young people, including some who live in our own neighborhoods here in Utah, can breathe a sigh of relief and find some stability in their lives. They can continue to work, get insurance and a driver’s license, go to school without interruption or serve in the military without fear of deportation.
Our Catholic Church stands in solidarity with the Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants based on our Gospel values and fundamental belief in the sanctity and inherent dignity of every human life, and the need to protect the vulnerable, including children. Christ reminds his disciples that they will be judged by how they respond to the needs of the vulnerable, including the stranger (Mt 25). The pastoral letter “Strangers No Longer: Together on a Journey of Hope,” issued in 2003 by the bishops of the United States and Mexico, stated that welcoming the stranger is both an imitation of God and the manifestation of the great commandment to love one’s neighbor.
Dreamers, like all human beings, need our respect, love and compassion to help achieve their God-given potential and aspirations in life. They are woven into the fabric of our nation and community of faith. They live in our neighborhoods, go to school, find work to improve themselves, contribute to the good of our society, and have attempted in good faith to comply with the law. Unfortunately, in the midst of their struggles, recent statistics show that they are highly affected by the coronavirus and are now hurting more. During the past several weeks we also have experienced a re-awakening of racial discrimination and exclusion of other people, including our DACA brothers and sisters.
This is a special moment to remind ourselves of the teachings of Christ, that we are to be sensitive to the suffering of the poor and attend to the needs of our brethren, especially those systematically marginalized. Our Church has long affirmed that their lives matter. We need to act now and become agents of change and harbingers of hope. The Dreamers need our prayers and support, because their struggle is not yet over. The Supreme Court decision gives them only temporary relief, so let us urge our legislators to protect them by creating a legal path to permanent residency and citizenship, and pray that the president strongly reconsiders terminating DACA, so Dreamers can find a home here and fulfill their dream.
This nation realized her greatness when she opened her doors to welcome the refugees and immigrants, especially the poor, tired, battered and huddled masses longing for freedom. The Statue of Liberty still stands majestically today as a beacon of hope for the downtrodden that come to our shores. Let us pray and work together to recapture the true and noble identity of our great country – the land of plenty, of opportunity and of the free. Help and support our Dreamers!