By Isabella Daley
On Sept. 5, 2017, the Trump Administration announced its plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in March 2018. Unless the Dream Act of 2017 or similar legislation is passed, thousands of undocumented immigrants in the US will lose the protection from deportation that DACA currently provides them.
In response to this social justice issue, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati called upon local Catholic parishes and schools to write 10,000 letters to their Ohio Senators and Representatives, urging them to support and co-sponsor the Dream Act of 2017. The Archbishop McNicholas High School Theology Department accepted the challenge after receiving approval from Principal Patty Beckert. They plan to have students and faculty members sign 400 letters to hand deliver to the Archdiocese during the week of Dec. 5.
“Letter signing is a small, easy, but impactful way to fulfill my obligation to take action on my beliefs,” senior Lexi Gauger said.
“[We are] responding to the Catholic Social Teaching of Call to Family, Community, and Participation, Solidarity, [and] life and dignity of the human person,” theology teacher Teresa Davis said.
While many people chose whether or not to support a piece of legislation based on its alignment with their political ideology, supporting the renewal of DACA is not a matter of supporting Democrat ideals over Republican ideals or vice versa; it is an obligation for those who strive to recognize the dignity of every human being. Party loyalty should become insignificant when people are faced with a moral responsibility to help their neighbors in need.
“If we truly love our neighbors, we have to extend this love to them through action and policy, regardless of who they are,” Gauger said. She considered supporting DACA to be a “humanitarian obligation” to help immigrants in the U.S., who may have been fleeing violence and poverty in their origin countries.
If the Congressmen across the United States comply with the wishes of those who hope to renew DACA, people who have come to the U.S. illegally will not suddenly become legal U.S. citizens. Instead, those who meet the specific qualifications of DACA will continue to be protected from deportation, can legally work in the U.S., and may obtain a driver’s license. DACA protections will not be granted haphazardly. Those wishing to receive them must have arrived in the U.S. as children, have met certain educational qualifications or currently attend school, and must have not developed a criminal record.
To end DACA without making provisions for those who have been protected by it since President Obama’s executive order in 2012 would risk uprooting 800,000 undocumented immigrants who know the U.S. better than their countries of origin. Since those protected by DACA must have arrived in the US as children, their deportations would be punishments for decisions their parents made for them. They have grown up in the U.S. and have worked to call this country their home. “It’s our responsibility, as a prosperous though imperfect nation, to provide refuge to those who are suffering and create a pathway for a better life for anyone willing to work for it,” Gauger said.
Some people may not see renewing DACA as a religious, moral, political, or societal obligation, but it is important for those who work for justice however they are able. Signing letters for Congressmen is a peaceful yet effective way to push for the renewal of DACA, and that is why many McNicholas students and faculty members have joined the cause. Davis wanted students to know that they are welcome to participate both by signing the letters and by helping deliver them to the Archdiocese.