During Lent 2018 our renewal of this practice, to accompany suffering others, has become urgent. The DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program faces a fast-approaching deadline on March 5 unless Congress passes a bill on behalf of the DACA recipients. Respected poll after poll indicates that between 65% and 87% of all Americans support legal, long-term protections for those brought to the United States as children.
These young immigrants, also called Dreamers, have played honestly with the cards and rules they were dealt. Many have matured to hold respectable jobs, pay taxes, or start their own small businesses. Their steadfast pursuit of education is an index of their work ethic and hopes. Some are employed in entry-level service jobs for which others would never consider applying.
The Dreamers’ contributions to our society — and to the church — are well documented. Pope Francis and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops continue to speak unequivocally for justice during their plight.
Yet we are witnessing too many of our elected officials’ tacit contempt for DACA youth. Even worse, the xenophobia of other elected officials is often voiced in hate speech, reaching the level of scandal. The desire to pass a complex and contentious wholesale immigration reform bill has entangled — indeed obstructed and eclipsed — the Dreamers’ promised path to citizenship. Broader immigration reform now deserves expert, careful analysis and dialogue before earning a nationwide consensus.
Each day more Dreamers are intimidated by I.C.E. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials. Too many Dreamers have already been arrested and swiftly deported; they were denied the legal counsel to which they have a right. Last week a group of supporters and Dreamers gathered in one of our parishes. Their anguish and fear are palpable. They tremble, terrorized. Most remember no country other than the U.S.A., their home.
May the DACA recipients’ Way of the Cross invite you to a deeper experience of finding Christ during Lent. The many Catholic Dreamers share our faith to strengthen them on their tortured journey.
I implore all to practice reflection, prayer, and action during these Lenten days as we show how we are more concerned with the suffering of others than our own suffering.
Inquire of your parish about how to participate in the vigils or other upcoming gatherings to support Dreamers around the archdiocese.
Father George Kilcourse is a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville and teaches theology at Bellarmine University.