One works as an EMT; another served in the U.S. Army; others attend colleges, universities or are employed in various fields. All contribute to the communities in which they live and work in the Diocese of Davenport. They are “Dreamers,” young adults who have qualified as recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. They also need our prayers.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration asks for our prayers as the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Nov. 12 on the legality of the DACA program, with a decision anticipated in June 2020. The USCCB also asks bishops to instruct the Catholic faithful on this issue and to encourage advocacy with elected officials.
DACA began seven years ago as a presidential executive order that allowed qualifying individuals who came to this country as children to request consideration for deferred action from deportation. Successful DACA recipients had to meet requirements pertaining to age, education, work and/or military service, and not have been convicted of a felony or certain, significant misdemeanors. DACA status allows them to further their education, obtain and maintain employment and contribute to the economy legally.
In Iowa, nearly 2,800 young adults became DACA recipients, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported in 2017. Ending DACA would cost Iowa nearly $190 million in annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the Center for American Progress (2017).
The Diocese of Davenport’s Immigration Office has helped 85 individuals qualify for DACA. Additional individuals may have filed paperwork with the Diversity Service Center of Iowa in Muscatine, or through private attorneys. Some individuals may have self-registered.
Many others who met the requirements did not apply, perhaps fearing future cancellation of the executive order, which did happen. In September 2017, President Donald Trump rescinded DACA and told Congress to take responsibility for the Dreamers, whose numbers total nearly 800,000 across the U.S.
Ironically, the failure of Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration bill led to DACA’s creation. Now the issue is before the U.S. Supreme Court after three separate appellate court rulings blocked President Trump’s order. On Nov. 12, the justices will consider the cases, which claim violation of federal law (Catholic News Service, Nov. 1).
We have placed the lives of nearly 800,000 DACA recipients and their families in limbo, which flies in the face of our Catholic beliefs about the sacredness of families and each individual person. We may not realize it, but we interact with Dreamers in our schools, on the job, in the store or may have received their care in hospitals or ambulances. In the U.S., 87 percent of Dreamers have jobs and 6 percent have started their own businesses. Without DACA, our country stands to lose $9.9 million in tax revenue over the next four years, according to Migration and Refugee Services.
Financial benefits aside, immigrants contribute significantly to the growth in our Catholic Church, now and in the future. We all benefit from that diversity as we embrace a loving God who breathed life into us. Dreamers and their families need us to step up to the plate of compassion, mercy and acceptance:
• Call, send an email or write to Senators Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst to support and co-sponsor the Dream Act of 2019 (S.874). The House has already passed H.R. 6, which includes a path to citizenship for Dreamers.
• Learn more about DACA. Visit websites created by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: Migration & Refugee Services (www.usccb.org/mrs) and Justice for Immigrants (www.justiceforimmigrants.org).
• Follow updates on DACA and immigration in The Catholic Messenger.
• Reach out in friendship to someone different from yourself, in the parish, workplace, schools, businesses and civic and religious groups.
• Reflect on the courage necessary to bring about change, as individuals and as a nation.
Most importantly, keep the Dreamers in your prayers.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor