Bishops from the US-based Episcopal Church placed a full-page advert in yesterday’s New York Times urging President Trump and the Congress to retain protections for undocumented child migrants. Earlier this month, President Trump announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) would come to an end in March next year. Introduced by President Obama in 2012, DACA provided temporary protection from deportation and the right to live, study and work in the US for people taken to the country as children.
Young people seeking protection under DACA had to meet a number of qualifying conditions. Currently, around 800,000 people aged between 15 and 36, and mostly from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, are protected by the programme. It is not clear what will happen to the “Dreamers”, as they have been dubbed, if the Congress doesn’t find a new legislative solution by the time DACA comes to an end in March 2018.
“It is unfair to threaten the well-being of young people who arrived in our country as children through no choice of their own,” the bishops said. “Ending DACA without a similar replacement program will force these young people to face the future in this country with little access to education and employment, and ultimately, could very well lead to sending them to countries where they did not grow up, have few support structures, may not even speak the language and may be vulnerable to violence and persecution.
“Any of these scenarios, we believe, is cruel.”
The advert was signed by 125 bishops from the Episcopal Church, including past and present Presiding Bishops Michael Curry, Katharine Jefferts Schori and Frank Griswold.
The Bishop of Long Island, Lawrence Provenzano, helped to collate bishops signatures for the advert. His diocese contains the New York county of Queens – the most diverse in the US. “The prayer book is in 13 different languages in our diocese,” the bishop told the Episcopal News Service. “This is in defence of the people in our pews and in our neighbourhoods.”
In their advert, the bishops said that the alternative to scrapping DACA was “to move forward, to celebrate and benefit from the presence of these ‘Dreamers’ and to provide a pathway to citizenship that enables them to remain and strengthen our country.”
They continued: “The Episcopal Church has long advocated for bipartisan comprehensive immigration reforms that prioritize family unity and humanitarian concerns. It is time for Congress to develop long-term solutions for immigrant families.
“In front of most of the Episcopal Churches across the country is a sign that says, ‘The Episcopal Church Welcomes You.’ We have this sign because we are followers of the way of Jesus of Nazareth, and our Christian tradition shares with many other faith bodies the absolute importance of welcoming the foreigner in our midst. Throughout the centuries this tradition has brought us great wisdom and strength as the foreigner among us has become a part of the fabric of our country’s life.
“In recent years, our congregations throughout the United States have witnessed firsthand the benefits that the young ‘Dreamers’ have brought to our community programs and life. We have been inspired by, and gained much from, their American spirit.”
The bishops are urging the President and Congress to “enact permanent, meaningful legislation that will protect ‘Dreamers’ and enable these young people to remain a part of our country – which is also theirs.”