Bishops Appeal for ‘Dreamers’

News: US News
by Paul Murano  •  •  June 9, 2020   

Illegal immigrant children, intact families are priority

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WASHINGTON ( - The migration chairman for the U.S. bishops has called on Congress to advance a bill that would help illegal immigrants gain a pathway to citizenship.

Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington, issued a statement June 4 challenging the Senate to reconsider the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6). This would create a path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants, commonly known as "Dreamers."

"One year ago today the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6, a bill offering a pathway to citizenship to Dreamers, TPS and DED holders," Dorsonville said. "Today, sadly, Dreamers and TPS holders remain vulnerable and without permanent legal status."

Bp. Joe Vásquez of Austin

Under the bill, those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) could apply for lawful permanent residence if they have been in the country for at least three years and have passed background checks. After five years of lawful permanent residence, they can apply for citizenship.

"As we await a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on the legality of ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program," Dorsonville said of the legislation which protects Dreamers from deportation in two-year renewable increments, "we again call on the Senate to push forward with legislation that provides a path to citizenship for these individuals, who are essential to our communities, our Church and our country."

The bill would make citizenship easier for those who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children by their parents. It had passed the House by a 237–187 vote in June. The lack of certainty that such migrants face is a particular stressor during the Wuhan virus pandemic, Dorsonville said. Many of them work in health care or other sectors that may expose them to the virus.

"This continued uncertainty for Dreamers and TPS holders comes at a time during the COVID-19 pandemic when many Dreamers and TPS holders are alongside U.S. citizens, on the frontlines providing essential work for our country in health care, food supply and transportation. For example, currently, more than 62,000 workers ... who are DACA-eligible are working in health care," he said.

If this bill becomes law, it would immediately grant qualifying childhood arrivals 10 years of legal residence. And with two years of higher education or military service, or three years of employment, they could then receive permanent legal residence.

Families are the foundation of our faith, our society, our history and our immigration system.

The Trump Administration's alternative immigration plan prioritizes immigration status based on skills rather than family ties. Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin and Cdl. Daniel DiNardo of Houston decried this plan for not providing legal status for Dreamers or a clear path to citizenship for TPS holders.

"We oppose proposals that seek to curtail family-based immigration and create a largely 'merit-based' immigration system," they said. "Families are the foundation of our faith, our society, our history and our immigration system."

Cdl. Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston

An Ongoing Push

This is not the first time the U.S. bishops have raised their voices on the volatile immigration issue.

On April 23, 2020, three bishops — Abp. José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Bp. Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Migration, and Bp. Jaime Soto of Sacramento, chair of the Board of Directors of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) — issued a statement condemning President Trump's announcement of a temporary, reviewable immigration halt due to the spread of the Wuhan virus.

"In this moment, our common humanity is apparent more now than ever," they said in their "Call to Unity" statement. "The virus is merciless in its preying upon human life; it knows no borders or nationality."

"Pope Francis teaches us that to live through these times we need to employ and embody the 'creativity of love'. The President's action threatens instead to fuel polarization and animosity," they continued.

"There is little evidence that immigrants take away jobs from citizens. Immigrants and citizens together are partners in reviving the nation's economy," they added. "We must always remember that we are all sons and daughters of God joined together as one human family." The bishops went on to express their concern about unifying immigrant families.

In August 2013, the Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops put out a statement calling for "immigration reform" because "In large part, these immigrants feel compelled to enter by either the explicit or implicit promise of employment in the U.S. agriculture, construction and service industries, among others."

These illegal immigrants, says the statement, come out of complete desperation: "Survival has thus become the primary impetus for unauthorized immigration flows into the United States. Today's unauthorized immigrants are largely low‐skilled workers who come to the United States for work to support their families."

President Trump is open to making a deal on immigration that would allow Dreamers to seek citizenship. This could include, among other things, more congressional funding for the wall to be built around the country's southern border.

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