November 8, 2019

Archbishop Chaput’s Weekly Column: Daca and Our Future

Dear friends,

One of the great blessings I’ve had in my years as a bishop was serving with then-Auxiliary Bishop José Gomez during my tenure in Denver. As shepherd now of the largest and most diverse archdiocese in the United States – the Archdiocese of Los Angeles – Archbishop Gomez has brought a balanced, prudent, and articulate leadership to a wide range of difficult issues, especially immigration. On Nov. 6 he published the important column below, and it’s a pleasure this week to turn over my own column space to endorse and join his words by reprinting them.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Philadelphia

From the desk of Archbishop José Gomez:

On Nov. 12, the U.S. Supreme Court will review several appeals court rulings that have blocked President Donald Trump’s 2017 order ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Established by President Barack Obama’s executive order in 2012, DACA provides protections from deportation and work permits for undocumented immigrants who are under age 36 and have no serious criminal record.

No doubt there are constitutional and legal questions raised by DACA and how it was enacted. But we need to be clear: The fate of these young adults should never have been in the courts in the first place. And it would not be, if our leaders in Washington would simply set aside their political interests and come together to fix our nation’s broken immigration system.

Washington’s failures cut across party lines and date back to 1986, the last time Congress made comprehensive reforms to immigration policy.

Since then, there have been six presidents from both parties and 17 sessions of Congress. During that period, there have been years when Democrats and Republicans have each held the presidency and controlled both houses of Congress. Either party on its own, or both parties together, could have solved this issue, if there was political will and the courage to do so.

What is important now is for this president and this Congress to do something about DACA.

In this great country, we should not have young people living under the threat of deportation, their lives dependent on the outcome of a court case. The issues at stake are legal, but they are also humanitarian, economic, and moral.

The 800,000 current DACA beneficiaries are among an estimated 1.8 million “Dreamers,” young adults brought to this country by undocumented family members when they were small children.

By now, these young people are grown up and are deeply integrated into our social fabric — studying in universities and colleges, serving in the police and military, working in hi-tech fields and hospitals; some are even preparing for the priesthood and religious life.

Using the promises of DACA, they are working hard to contribute to the American dream. More than 95% have jobs, about 5% have started their own businesses, and nearly 15% own homes.

Business leaders from every sector of the economy say these young adults are vital to our nation’s economic future; already, they are contributing billions each year in tax revenues and income.

This contribution is especially important at a time when 10,000 baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, are reaching retirement age every day.

Americans have never been a people who punish children for their parents’ mistakes. And despite the polarization of our politics, we know in our hearts it is not right to hold these young people accountable for decisions about their lives that they did not make.

America is their home, the only country they have ever known. They are “Americans” in every respect except their legal status. If we deport them, in many cases we will be sending them back to countries they do not remember and have not seen since they were infants or toddlers.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the DACA cases in late June, just a few months before the 2020 elections. Congress and the president should take responsibility and act now, and everyone should resist the temptation to make this a campaign issue.

There is broad bipartisan public support for DACA, not only among ordinary Americans but among corporate, civic, and religious leaders. And there has been broad sympathy and support for helping these young people among our leaders in Washington.

In addition to Obama’s executive order on DACA, many members of the House and Senate have backed legislation that would make the DACA protections permanent. Trump in 2018 also proposed to provide a permanent legal status and a path to citizenship for the 1.8 million who are DACA-eligible.

Now is the time for true leadership. That means we need to stop opposing ideas just because “the other side” has proposed them. That means we need to reject the thinking that causes us to resist compromise because it might give our political rivals a “win.”

A simple, sensible, and humane solution does exist: Provide a path to legalization and citizenship for those eligible for DACA, and at the same time enact meaningful measures to strengthen border security.

It is true, there are many other issues that need to be addressed to fix our broken immigration system. But it is not right to keep these young adults living in a kind of legal limbo until all the other more complex and contentious issues are resolved.

Our nation made a promise to these “Dreamers.” We have a moral obligation. It is time for the president and Congress to honor that promise and live up to this obligation. May our Blessed Mother Mary intercede and help guide the consciences of the leaders of our great nation.

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Editor’s Note: Columns will be published each week on www.CatholicPhilly.com and can also be found at http://archphila.org/archbishop-chaput/statements/statements.php