In the countdown to March 5, Congress has still taken no action on the fate of the thousands of these DACA “dreamers,” whose resident status and permission to remain in this country is about to expire. Many of these at-risk young people live and work in Alexandria and the surrounding suburbs of Northern Virginia.
These young people are our neighbors, our friends, our classmates and office mates. and members of our churches and our religious worship sites. They watch our children, work in our businesses, pay taxes, buy houses, raise children who were born in this country and contribute to the betterment of our community. It is estimated that of the 800,000 young people under the DACA threat, 97 percent are either working, going to school, serving in the military or a combination of these options.
This is our labor pool. This is our future. This is a moral choice, not a political choice.
As a lifelong Catholic, I have lamented the overwhelming silence by the Catholic Bishops since Sept. 5, 2017, when President Trump first announced he would eliminate the DACA program for immigrants who came to this country as children.
Finally, on Feb. 24, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a pastoral letter, to be read in all Catholic churches this week. It encourages all parishioners to call their members of Congress and “urge them to support a bipartisan, common-sense, and humane solution” for the 1.8 million Dreamers.
“Protect Dreamers from deportation and provided them with a path to citizenship,” the Bishops counsel, telling the laity that “your advocacy is critical.” But what happened to the need for Bishops to also advocate for this?
Where have the Bishops been since Sept. 5, 2017 — when their letters should have come out immediately as a rebuttal to President Trump, and been printed in our U.S. newspapers?
Of the 92 percent of the congressional members who declare themselves as “Christian,” a large majority (31 percent) are Catholic. Why haven’t the Bishops, in a loud, strong and unified voice, written to every Catholic member in Congress and demanded they take action as a moral imperative? Why haven’t the Bishops made DACA a priority in their lobbying, and public statements? Why have they been so slow to energetically support social justice for our DACA members in our churches, our schools, our workplaces and our schools?
This current pastoral letter seems like “too little too late.” Bishops need to join us in making those phone calls and sending those letters, right now. Call your Congress members at 202-224-3121 and demand action on DACA.
Kathleen M. Burns