August 30, 2017 — In advance of an anticipated Trump administration reversal of a critical program protecting young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from deportation, Catholic educators have mobilized forcefully. More than 1,400 educators at Catholic institutions are calling for the protection of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a policy that has protected approximately 750,000 young people known as “Dreamers” since its 2012 inception by the Department of Homeland Security. While DACA does not provide legal status, it offers recipients with a temporary reprieve from deportation and a work permit.
In a letter sent this week to General John Kelly, current Trump administration Chief of Staff and former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the educators said, “We stand with our students who are DACA beneficiaries. Their perseverance, hard work and hopefulness is an example to us as teachers. We witness the obstacles they overcome each day as they pursue their dream of a better life for themselves and their families. In facing adversity and uncertainty with grace and hope, they embody the best of our schools, our country and the Catholic tradition.”
Among the letter’s signatories are more than 1,200 educators from Jesuit institutions. On a conference call for media yesterday, Fr. Timothy Kesicki, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference, the organization that represents U.S. and Canadian Jesuits, said, “There is no greater witness we can give as Jesuits, particularly in the United States, than in defending the Dreamers and the DACA program."
“The Dreamers are woven into our schools, and we've seen firsthand the challenges and the adversity they have faced. But we've also witnessed their great faith and courage, which propels us to act at this time …We call upon the Trump administration to maintain DACA until a longer-term solution is achieved by Congress. We ask Congressional leaders to respond to the urgent call to work together toward real and lasting solutions that protect Dreamers and their families.”
DACA’s cancellation could come as early as this week. Pressure has been building since late June when 10 state attorneys general filed a lawsuit calling for the Trump administration to end the DACA program.
DACA students are part of the fabric of Jesuit schools across the country — from kindergarten through graduate school. Nearly half of the DACA students enrolled in medical school in the U.S. are students at the Jesuits’ Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago. Mark G. Kuczewski, PhD, a professor of medical ethics there said, “It would be devastating to our communities and to us as a society to not make use of the incredible gifts that these students bring us …We urge our legislators and the Trump administration to think about what we would be throwing away if we didn't enable these students to go on and serve our communities. These are people who want to contribute and who have worked hard to contribute.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has also expressed its strong support for maintaining DACA. Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Chair of the Migration Committee and Bishop of Austin, Texas, recently said, “DACA youth are contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities and leaders in our parishes. These young people entered the U.S. as children and know America as their only home. The dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children and youth, must be protected."
Advocating on behalf of Dreamers — and their families — has been part of the Jesuits’ and the U.S. Catholic bishops' long-term vision of comprehensive immigration reform that recognizes the dignity of all immigrants. To join in voicing your concern, please click here.