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USCCB Statement on the DREAM Act

 

Committee on Migration
c/o Migration and Refugee Services
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth Street NE • Washington DC 20017-1194
202-541-3227 • fax 202-722-8805 • email mrs@usccb.org • www.usccb.org/mrs

STATEMENT ON THE DREAM ACT

Archbishop Jose Gomez

Archbishop of Los Angeles
Chairman, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration

SUBMITTED TO:
The Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security
June 28, 2011

 I am José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles and Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB or the Conference) Committee on Migration. I submit this statement to you on behalf of the USCCB Committee on Migration.

I am pleased to express the U.S. Catholic bishops’ support for S. 952, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, as introduced in the U.S. Senate on May 11, 2011 by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-IL), Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-NV), Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and 30 of their colleagues. Our nation continues to grapple with the all-too-often polarizing issue of unauthorized immigration. In the face of the many challenges unauthorized immigration creates for our nation, our elected officials have not yet reached a humane compromise, one which not only protects the integrity of our nation’s borders and security but also provides a viable solution for the millions of men, women, and children who remain in the shadows.

In the meantime, however, Congress can provide a remedy for some of the most vulnerable of these: DREAM-Act eligible youth. These migrant youth were brought into the United States by their parents when they were only children and, at no fault of their own, are currently unauthorized. Indeed, these youth lacked both the will and intention to come to the United States by unlawful means. Despite this, and their dream to dedicate their substantial gifts and talents to the only country they know, these youth cannot do so because of their legal status.

As introduced in the Senate, S.952 is very narrowly tailored to provide a hard-earned path to lawful status for those who meet its strict eligibility requirements, including being 15 years old or younger at the time of entry into the United States; living in the United States for five years; demonstrating evidence of good moral character; and graduating from high school or obtaining a GED. On top of these requirements, applicants then must complete in good standing at least two years of college or military service in the United States.

By introducing S.952, the Act’s co-sponsors understand that these youth are Americans without an America who officially calls them her own. They want to work hard and pay their way through college or serve in our military and defend American ideals. Some argue that the Act "rewards" illegal behavior. To the contrary, if the Act rewards anything, it rewards hard work, good moral character, education, and service to this country – all American ideals which these youth embody.

The United States is a great country because it is a land of opportunity, family values, and compassion. Throughout our history, we have given newcomers the opportunity to work hard and be successful, to our country’s substantial benefit. We have also placed a high premium on the integrity of the family unit. And, we have refused to punish the innocent among us.

The U.S. Catholic bishops applaud Senators Durbin, Reid, and Menendez, and their dozens of co-sponsors, for calling upon their Congressional colleagues to uphold American values by protecting these vulnerable youth and preventing the unnecessary and devastating separation of families. S.952 will ensure that children in the United States without legal status, who did not come here by choice, are not punished for their parents’ actions. Instead, it will enable them to give back to the country they call home. And, since most DREAM Act-eligible children have parents or siblings in the United States, it will protect them from eventual deportation and thus the separation of thousands of families.

In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, DREAM Act-eligible children are among the most vulnerable of the unauthorized population in the United States today. We have a choice as a nation – either to ensure that these capable and patriotic long-term members of U.S. society fulfill their promise and serve our country or to separate them from their families and communities and return them to nations they do not know. It is morally incumbent upon us as a nation to choose the former, not the latter.

The U.S. Catholic bishops ask Congress to put aside partisan politics and advance this important piece of legislation to its eventual passage. We stand ready to support Congress in doing so.

Thank you.



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