Illinois bishops today called for Congress to quickly enact immigration reform in order to resolve the plight of young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.
"As Pope Francis has said, it is time to stop treating our immigrants as 'pawns on the chessboard of humanity,'" the bishops wrote in a statement. "It is urgent that you put an end to 'deferred action' and provide a permanent solution."
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in September announced on behalf of President Donald Trump that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would end in March if Congress did not find a way to keep the nearly 800,000 young adults safe from deportation. The announcment drew swift, harsh criticism from across the political spectrum, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Bishop David Malloy of Rockford.
Nearly 42,000 DACA participants reside in Illinois, where they have built a life by holding jobs, attending college or vocational school, and raising families after President Barack Obama implemented the program by executive order in June 2012.
"This is the only country they truly know," the bishops wrote in the statement. "This is their home!"
Obama instituted DACA to safeguard the young adults known as DREAMers, named after the long-stymied DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act). The program 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.
The Illinois Catholic faith leaders in the statement assured the DREAMers of their steadfast commitment to accompany them on a path to legal status.
"We are aware of your situation and we will work to assure your immigration status is regularized," the bishops wrote. "You have brought many wonderful assets to this country and our Church, and we are proud to have you among us."
Read the full statement below, or click here for a PDF version.
Statement of Illinois Catholic Bishops Concerning Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
For more than two hundred years people from almost every country of the world have dreamed of making the United States their home. Their dreams are the reason most of us are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. Today, a new generation of dreamers urgently needs our help to contribute their gifts to our country.
Even though we have the right to manage immigration for the sake of the common good, we can never become callous to the yearning of others to become citizens of this great country. Indeed, the continuous flow of immigrants is, in large measure, the reason our nation is great.
One particular group of immigrants today languishes in a cruel legal limbo. They are the hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to this country when they were still children. Today these young adults are fully integrated into our society and culture, holding jobs and starting their own families. This is the only country they truly know. This is their home!
When Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, President Barack Obama signed an executive order, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA. This order allowed these young people, who came to be known as “Dreamers,” to remain in the country for a period of time but offered no path to permanent legal status. Citing constitutional concerns, President Trump has revoked the executive order and called upon Congress to resolve the matter legislatively.
We call on the members of the Illinois congressional delegation to enact comprehensive immigration reform. We ask you to provide the young people among us, who truly have no other home, with secure legal status. As Pope Francis has said, it is time to stop treating our immigrants as “pawns on the chessboard of humanity.” It is urgent that you put an end to “deferred action” and provide a permanent solution.
We offer our compassion and support to the Dreamers. We are aware of your situation and we will work to assure your immigration status is regularized. You have brought many wonderful assets to this country and our Church, and we are proud to have you among us.