Parents will do just about anything for their children. Sacrifice is a quality that seems built into being a parent, and protecting your children from danger, suffering, or threats to their life and well-being is both natural and expected.
Is it any wonder, then, why parents who were escaping dangerous conditions in their own land would bring their children with them? Or is it beyond belief that things could be so bad in some places that parents would send their children away - even alone - to find safety or a better life in another land?
Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to travel to places like El Salvador and Guatemala, and I have witnessed the poverty, crime and gang culture that pervades those places, and many of their neighboring countries as well. As beautiful as those countries are, and as genuine as their people are, the conditions under which they live can sometimes be so extremely dangerous or unlivable that they choose to flee their country in hopes for a better life in ours.
Put aside for the moment the actions of the parents who entered the U.S. without going through the proper procedures, and think about the children that they brought with them. For their children, brought into our country sometimes at a very young age, the U.S. is the only country they have really known. They have attended school, played with their classmates and neighbors, and as they have grown up they have worked and paid taxes, served in the military, or become leaders in their parishes or communities. These children have been called DREAMERS.
In 2012, the Obama administration began a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which gave protection to these undocumented immigrants who came here as children, have lived here since 2007 and met other requirements. There are nearly 800,000 young people who have registered for this program, and it has allowed them to work and study in the U.S.
For various political reasons, that program is now in jeopardy, and the DREAMERS now may face deportation - even if they have committed no crime and have been contributing members of our society.
In order to protect them, a bipartisan bill has been introduced in both houses of Congress. It is called The Dream Act of 2017 (S.1615 in the Senate and H.R.3440 in the House of Representatives). The bill would provide young undocumented immigrants, who were brought to the United States as children and have lived in the U.S. at least four years, protection from deportation and an opportunity to obtain legal status if they meet certain requirements.
The U.S. bishops support this bill, and have always supported the DREAMERS, because as Catholics we believe in protecting the dignity of every human being, especially that of our children.
You can lend your support to the effort to pass this bill by going to www.justiceforimmigrants.org, the bishops' site for immigration issues, and tell your senator and representative to sponsor and support this bill that will ensure the dignity and security of DREAMERS.
Deacon Don Weigel is the associate public policy coordinator at Catholic Charities of Buffalo and is a Global Fellow with Catholic Relief Services.