8/23/12 | 456 views
A Step Out of the Shadows
It’s taken a long time and a lot of debate, but as many as a million young people who are in the United States illegally because they were brought here as minors will now have the opportunity to work, study and plan for their future—at least temporarily—without fear of being deported.
President Barack Obama, who changed the deportation policy in an administrative act, called it “the right thing to do.”
Modeled on the DREAM Act, popular legislation with bipartisan support that’s long been stalled in Congress, the administration’s new approach allows certain eligible young people between the ages of 15 and 30 with no criminal history to apply for work permits and a Social Security number and to receive certain educational benefits for two-year renewable periods.
This is good news for these young people, who in most cases were brought to this country by their parents and had no say or choice in the matter—but who have been living in an uncomfortable “gray area” for much of their lives.
It’s also good news for the Church. While immigration status was never an obstacle to ministry or service to those in need, Church agencies will now be able to guide many of the same undocumented people they’ve already been helping as they apply for a new status and begin to build a new life.
In the archdiocese, Catholic Charities Community Services has already begun an outreach to potential applicants, encouraging them to call its New Americans Hotline for information and is planning an in-depth presentation in September.
Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Migration Committee and a longtime supporter of the DREAM Act, welcomed the move, calling the young people “a vulnerable group of immigrants who deserve to remain in our country and contribute their talents to our communities.”
“These youth are bright, energetic, and eager to pursue their education and reach their full potential,” the archbishop said. “They did not enter our nation on their own volition, but rather came to the United States with their parents as children, something all of us would do.”
But as welcome as the president’s action is, it is as notable for what it is not as for what it is. As Obama himself said repeatedly when announcing the policy, “This is not amnesty, this is not immunity, this is not a path to citizenship, this is not a permanent fix.”
Indeed, it is not.
It is certainly no substitute for the comprehensive immigration reform measures that are needed in this country—reforms aimed at securing our borders, keeping families together, respecting due process and creating a path to citizenship by allowing certain foreign nationals living in the United States to earn legal status.
Members of Congress have ignored this critical issue for too long, allowing politics and ideology to interfere with their responsibility to advance the common good of this country.
There will be a new Congress in January; there may or may not be a new president. But the need for immigration reform remains.
Browse our archive of photos