Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2021 / 10:20 am (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference applauded President Joe Biden for halting some deportations and preserving the DACA program on his first day in office.
“We applaud President Biden’s restoration of the DACA program, and we also strongly encourage him and the U.S. Congress to immediately enact legislation that provides a path to citizenship for Dreamers,” Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C., stated on Thursday.
Archbishop Gomez is the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB), and Bishop Dorsonville is the chair of the conference’s migration committee.
President Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012, to delay deportations of and allow a legal work permit for eligible undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Around 800,000 people have benefited from the program.
The Trump administration in 2017 sought to wind the program down, accepting no new DACA applications, and gave Congress a six-month time frame to enact parts of the program in law. After Congress failed to pass such legislation in six months, the administration moved to end DACA but courts ruled against the administration’s deadline.
In June, 2020, the Supreme Court said t the administration’s procedure by which it sought to end the program was unlawful.
The court sent the case back to the administration, which announced it would continue not accepting any new DACA applications during a review of the program. The administration also only granted one-year renewals of DACA status for existing recipients.
On Thursday, Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Dorsonville called for a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers,” or those eligible for the DACA program.
Biden’s transition team has promised he would send an immigration bill to Congress that would, among other acts, offer a path to citizenship for “Dreamers” and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders.
In addition, Bishop Dorsonville on Thursday applauded other immigration actions by Biden, including a reversal of a 2017 Trump executive order that expanded and intensified immigration enforcement and deportations of undocumented immigrants.
In addition, the acting director of the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday declared a 100-day halt to deportations of certain undocumented immigrants.
“Wednesday’s actions by the new Administration are important first steps toward ensuring that immigration enforcement in our country is balanced and humane,” Bishop Dorsonville said. “Too many people have experienced harsh and heavy-handed enforcement at the U.S.-Mexico border and within the U.S. interior, causing families to be needlessly torn apart.”
“Our Catholic faith recognizes the right of nations to control their borders, but we can still uphold the rule of law without denying refuge to the vulnerable, all while recognizing the importance and necessity of family unity,” he said.
Among his first actions as president on Wednesday, Biden also took executive action to end the travel ban from certain Muslim-majority and African countries, and halt border wall construction on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Catholic Relief Services hailed Biden’s proposed pathway to citizenship for TPS holders, saying that the policy would protect “vulnerable people and families” from countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti.
“Based on our presence in Latin America and our Church partners there, we know these countries are not prepared to reintegrate their citizens and are overwhelmed from the consequences of natural disasters, insecurity, and COVID-19,” CRS executive vice president for mission, mobilization and advocacy Bill O’Keefe told CNA.