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Catholic leaders sharply criticize Trump’s decision to end DACA

01 9.14.17_DACA11 PAGEStudents attending local high schools under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program listen to DACA recipient Margarita Garcia tell her story during an interfaith prayer vigil in Redwood City Sept. 6. Garcia, an Our Lady of Mount Carmel parishioner, earned a master’s degree and is now an elementary school teacher. (Photo by Christina Gray/Catholic San Francisco)

Archdiocesan faith community rallies in Redwood City to support ‘Dreamers’

September 14, 2017
Catholic San Francisco

WASHINGTON – Catholic leaders, immigration officials and university presidents were swift and unanimous in their condemnation of President Donald Trump’s Sept. 5 decision to phase out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals known as DACA.

“In the past, the president stated that the Dreamer story ‘is about the heart,’ yet (the) decision is nothing short of heartless,” said Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich. “The Dreamers are now left in a six-month limbo, during which Congress is supposed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, a feat they have been unable to achieve for a decade,” he said in a Sept. 5 statement.

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone said congressional action is urgent.

“In the meantime, we in the Catholic community pledge to continue standing with our immigrant brothers and sisters, assisting them in exercising their rights and assuring them that they are not alone,” he said. “I ask all people of good faith to join me keeping all vulnerable immigrants in our thoughts and prayers, extending to them our loving presence and visible solidarity.”

The California Catholic Conference said “DACA students are not the so-called ‘bad hombres,’ an insidious label used to instill fear in others and feed the racism and nativism that unfortunately is rearing its ugly head in our cities.

“Far from it, DACA eligible youth are high school graduates, in school or working on their GED. Many are now in college. They may be honorably discharged members of the armed services. No one convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor (or three misdemeanors) can apply for DACA.”

“These young people are working in businesses and professional jobs, harvesting our fields, building our homes, and providing many of the services of hospitality we take for granted,” the conference said. “They have placed their lives on the line to defend our liberty and freedom. Most importantly, they are giving back to the only nation they have ever known. They are the hard working good neighbors America needs to compete in the global economy of today.”

Scott McLarty, head of school at Mercy High School, San Francisco, said the action impacts many in the school.

“The people affected by this decision are not ‘illegal aliens’ – they are human beings, beloved children of God, and our neighbors,” he said.

The rescission of DACA, announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, places an estimated 800,000 undocumented immigrants, many of whom were brought to the United States as young children and have known no other home, under threat of deportation and losing permits that allow them to work. From August through December, according to the Department of Homeland Security, the work permits of more than 200,000 DACA recipients, known as “Dreamers,” will expire and only 55,258 have submitted requests for permit renewals.

The decision to end DACA is “a heartbreaking disappointment,” said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network. She also said her organization rejects and adamantly disagrees with Sessions’ “untested personal opinion that DACA is unconstitutional.”

“Americans have never been a people who punish children for the mistakes of their parents. I am hopeful that we will not begin now,” said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration. “I do not believe this decision represents the best of our national spirit or the consensus of the American people. This decision reflects only the polarization of our political moment.”

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, called the decision “malicious.”

“One can’t hide behind the term ‘legality’ in rescinding DACA,” his statement added. “That is an abandonment of humanity, and abandonment of talented and hopeful young people who are as American as you and I.”

Mercy Sister Aine O’Connor, who stood in front of the White House as the decision was announced, also took issue with Sessions’ remark: “Nothing is compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws.”

“We do not see it as a compassionate act. It is a merciless act,” Sister O’Connor told Catholic News Service, adding that it was “an abdication of responsibility by the Trump administration.”

The Ohio-based Ignatian Solidarity Network accused Trump of undermining “the dignity of undocumented individuals,” adding, “As people of faith, we are called to uphold the inherent dignity of our immigrant brothers and sisters, to stand with those marginalized by a broken immigration system, and to recognize the gifts and talents that these young people bring to our communities.”

In the Archdiocese of San Francisco, 200 people attended an interfaith prayer vigil and rally Sept. 6 in support of those affected by the decision.

The event organized by Faith in Action Bay Area was held at the San Mateo County center in Redwood City and included speakers from Catholic, Episcopal and Congregational churches and from the immigrant community.

“The Good Shepherd walks with us,” said San Francisco Auxiliary Bishop William J. Justice.

“We will walk with those who are afraid and say ‘keep going,’” he said. “We will work together so that people can walk through this dark valley and in the end see that the rain is over, the sun has come out and we can share the banquet of life together. That is our journey, that is our hope and that is where we are going.”

Joining Bishop Justice were Father Ulysses D’Aquila, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Redwood City; Father Lawrence Goode, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in East Palo Alto; and Father Paul Rossi, pastor of St. Pius Parish in Redwood City. They were joined by St. Pius pastoral associate Sister Norberta Villasenor, OSF; Father Gerald Coleman, PSS, from St. Pius; and Deacon Dave Rolandelli from St. Matthias Parish in Redwood City.

“Yesterday’s announcement about DACA was very devastating to us, our community, friends and family,” a Sequoia High School student told the crowd. “Our parents sacrificed so much for us to come here and we are going to show them it was worth it. We plan to make a very positive contribution to this country because it is our home.”

Through a translator, a DACA beneficiary who is the mother of two daughters said she is not giving up.

“If we are all united like we are all right now, we can do many things together,” she said. “With God in our hearts we can do many things.”

DACA beneficiary Margarita Garcia, 26, an elementary school teacher in Redwood City, said she came to the U.S. with her parents when she was six.

“Through my family’s efforts and my own I’ve been able to foster my love for education as an elementary school teacher,” she said. But despite earning a graduate degree and being a single mother to a child born in this country, her future is uncertain.

Flying from Colombia back to Rome late Sept. 10, Pope Francis was asked about President Trump’s decision to end DACA. The pope said he had heard of the decision but had not had time to study the details of the issue. However, he said, “uprooting young people from their families is not something that will bear fruit.”

Christina Gray and Catholic News Service contributed.

09 9.14.17_DACA20 PAGEOur Lady of Mount Carmel parishioner Pasqual M. led a crowd of more than 200 gathered in downtown Redwood City with chants of “Si se puede,” or “yes we can” throughout the two-hour interfaith vigil and rally Sept. 6. The event coordinated by Faith in Action Bay Area included messages of hope from local faith leaders including clergy and religious from four local Catholic parishes. (Photo by Christina Gray/Catholic San Francisco)


09 9.14.17_DACA32 PAGEA young woman attending the prayer vigil and rally held a sign that read “Undocumented and working for an education.” (Photo by Christina Gray/Catholic San Francisco)

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