The Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC) is asking people to contact their U.S. senators and congressional representatives to pass the DREAM Act.
The DREAM Act is a proposal brought up in the past in Congress — the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act — which would provide a path to citizenship for people brought to the United States as minors without documentation.
"It is not the fault of these young people that they were brought to this country by their parents when they were small children," the public policy agency of the state's Catholic bishops said in a statement in its recent Good News publication. "Most have known no other country but the United States. These young people are now contributing to the vibrancy of life here in Missouri and throughout the United States in their professional pursuits and involvement in local communities and churches."
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced a "National Catholic Call-In Day to Protect Dreamers" Feb. 26. The Missouri Catholic Conference provides congressional contact information in an action alert on its website, mocatholic.org.
The MCC statement noted that the DREAM Act would put the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on firm legal footing. President Barack Obama established DACA to allow young people to get work permits and attend college legally. It is set to expire March 5.
"This isn't complicated," the statement explained. "These young people should be allowed to stay here. Congress needs to put aside their partisan bickering and pass the DREAM Act."
The "Dreamers" aren't to blame for their immigration status, the MCC stated, adding that they have lived in the U.S. for most of their young lives. "They live in our communities and attend our Catholic parishes and Catholic schools. This is their home," the MCC statement noted.
Late last year, the Missouri Catholic Conference also urged action to solidify the DACA protections, which include work authorization and protection from deportations.
Earlier this month, a group called the MO Dreamers gathered in front of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill's office to seek support for legislation. Rigo, a student at a college in Illinois who asked to withhold his last name, told his story 0f being brought to the U.S. from Mexico at age 5. He attended St. Cecilia School and St. John Vianney High School and grew up as any American child, he said. His dream, he said, is to give back to the community as a volunteer in his chosen field of psychiatry/psychology.
In September, when the Trump administration announced plans to phase out DACA, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson wrote of his support of the estimated 800,000 young people who have benefited from the DACA program. "The Archdiocese of St. Louis will continue to be a place of welcome, service, and mutual hospitality, especially to the suffering and most vulnerable among us," he wrote in a statement.
Welcoming the stranger, the immigrant, and the refugee have been long-standing hallmarks of our American way of life and religious convictions, he wrote, citing Matthew 25: 34-35. "Throughout our Catholic tradition, we have learned to be attentive to the needs of the poor, the marginalized, and the vulnerable. In faith, we have come to recognize and know the face of Christ in the migrant and refugee," Archbishop Carlson stated.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Justice for Immigrants campaign says its five principles are rooted in the Gospel and Catholic social teaching:
• Persons have the right to find opportunities in their homeland;
• Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families;
• Sovereign nations have the right to control their borders, with wealthier nations obliged to accommodate migration flows;
• Refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection;
• The human dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected.
To contact legislators about immigration issues and the DREAM Act, visit www.stlouisreview.com/jmh.