An archdiocesan-sponsored prayerful celebration of hope following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision June 18 on the DACA program also was a pledge to continue to seek permanent residency for the young adults in the program.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was created by then-President Barack Obama to prevent deportation of young people who came to the United States as children. It does not provide permanent legal status or a pathway to citizenship, but it does allow them to apply for driver’s licenses and work permits.
The 5-4 court decision stated that the administration violated the law by failing to provide adequate justification for ending the program. Chief Justice John Roberts emphasized that ending the program itself is not necessarily unconstitutional, but the way the administration went about it broke federal law. The Department of Homeland Security could “reconsider the problem anew” and take a different legal approach if it decides to try to end DACA in the future, he wrote.
The online celebration June 19 was hosted by four entities of the archdiocese — the Immigration Task Force, Office of Hispanic Ministry, Peace and Justice Commission and St. Francis Community Services.
Amy Diemer, director and managing attorney for Catholic Legal Assistance Ministry and a member of the task force, said DACA recipients “are my neighbors, and there are many ways they have shaped my life. They are doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, pastors, students, custodians, restaurant workers, carpenters and therapists. They are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends and family. They are our community. They are beloved children of God.”
It’s important that their stories are heard and “the ways that they transform our lives” are made known, Diemer said. “As people of faith we are reminded that we were created to live in community and that we are called love our neighbors even when others in the world tell us not to. Let us move beyond shallow hospitality and work toward deepening our relationships with our neighbors and advocating for justice for all.”
She asked people to fight for the passage of the Dream Act — a bill passed in the House and stalled in the Senate which would give DACA recipients permanent legal status.
Diemer included a prayer for peace to Our Lady of Guadalupe in her recorded presentation. The program also included recitation of the Rosary in English and Spanish, the Litany of the Sacred Heart led by the Apostles of the Sacred Heart and Benediction.
Others providing remarks included:
• Father Mitch Doyen, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in St. Louis, who cited Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself” and his prayer “that all may be one.” He asked people to pledge to fervently seek justice for DACA recipients, standing with them in love and faith.
• Jessica Trout, advocacy coordinator at Saint Louis University, who said she wants the DACA recipients to know that “there’s a community of support” behind them. Though “this is a time of celebration,” she said, “the work is far from done.”
• Ángel Flores Fontánez, a Jesuit scholastic studying at Saint Louis University, who said that the struggle continues. But, he said, every crisis is an opportunity to make a better world.
• Bryan Sokol, director of the Center for Service and Community Engagement and a professor of child development at Saint Louis University, who called the decision a “ray of hope.” Every person is valued and loved by God, he said, and migrants must be treated with respect and dignity.