By Vatican News staff writer
Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington has called on the US Congress to show courage and compassion and to seize the opportunity to improve the rights of undocumented migrants.
He was addressing a rally alongside US senators and Church leaders on Wednesday, in support of congressional immigration reform.
The Cardinal was speaking at the Immigration Reform Rally, called for immigration reform “whether through the enactment of stand alone legislation or a broader legislative package”, with regards to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was recently struck down by a district court.
In his speech, on behalf of the US Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Gregory said that the 117th Congress has the opportunity to be “courageous,” after years of delay, to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
The DACA program was created in 2012 by then President Obama, 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.
Then, in 2017, shortly after the election of Donald Trump as US President, the Trump administration sought to wind down the program, accepting no new DACA applications. It 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.
Supreme court intervention
In June 2020, the US Supreme Court said 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 speakers at the July 21 event included heads of activist organizations, Senators, and DACA recipients.
Cardinal Gregory’s call for reform of the immigration system noted that “our opportunity is found in our shared humanity and our shared dignity and respect for our neighbours.”
The cardinal spoke for the Catholic Bishops’ conference by saying that the Church has “repeatedly expressed tremendous concern for families divided by our current broken immigration system.”
He noted that a strong society must provide opportunities for families to flourish.
“This includes immigrants, and mixed status families, who deserve to be treated with justice and charity,” he noted.
On behalf of Church and bishops
Cardinal Gregory on Catholics and on all Americans to welcome migrants and refugees, “who are greatly contributing to our society through work and service,” with kindness. He also praised the migrants and refugees who were deemed “essential workers” during the pandemic.
He highlighted Catholic social teaching, which “upholds the teaching that every person has the right to live in his or her own homeland in security and dignity, with opportunities for work.”
“However,” he said, “‘when the loss of these rights forces individuals to migrate to other lands, we must welcome them, protect them, and generously share our abundance with them.”