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U.S., Illinois bishops protest president's decision to end DACA

Catholic bishops across the country and Illinois today sharply criticized the decision by President Donald Trump to end a program that allows young undocumented immigrants to stay in the country without fear of deportation.

A statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) swiftly followed the announcement by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) would end in six months unless Congress took action to address the plight of nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

“The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible,” stated USCCB President Cardinal  DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Vice President Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles in a press release. “It causes unnecessary fear for DACA youth and their families. … This decision is unacceptable and does not reflect who we are as Americans.”

President Barack Obama created DACA by executive order in June 2012, after Congress had long failed to find a solution for the young immigrants often referred to as “DREAMers.” The bi-partisan DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) was first introduced in 2001 in the Senate but has never gained enough support to pass.

DACA allows applicants to get a renewable, two-year work permit and safety from deportation as long as they had entered the United States before their 16th birthday and before June 2007, and were younger than 31 on June 15, 2012.

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Bishop David Malloy of Rockford joined the USCCB in condemning the president’s move against program participants, of which nearly 42,000 live in Illinois.

Calling the decision “heartless,” Cardinal Cupich called upon members of Congress to act quickly to protect DACA individuals.

“They must be guided by compassion and respect for human dignity, and honestly consider the substantial evidence that deporting these young Americans would do great economic harm to the states where they reside,” Cardinal Cupich said in a statement.

Bishop-Elect MalloyBishop Malloy called the decision a “significant betrayal of trust,” and also urged Congress to immediately find a solution.

“As Catholic people we are called to treat our fellow brothers and sisters with justice and be merciful,” Bishop Malloy said in a press release. “This decision does none of this.”

However, later today Trump appeared to back-pedal on his threat to end the policy, tweeting from his personal account that “Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can't, I will revisit this issue!”

Meanwhile, the USCCB statement made clear the Church’s defense of DACA youth.

“The Catholic Church supports you and will advocate for you.”