"Ten years after DACA Dreamers wait in hope": MA bishops urge legislative action

The bishops of the Episcopal dioceses of Massachusetts and Western Massachusetts have issued the following commendation urging legislative action in support of DACA dreamers.

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"Continued legislative activity will determine the future of those in our nation who have been protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. As we approach the 10th anniversary of DACA, we, the Episcopal bishops of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, support the following statement from the Episcopal Public Policy Network.  We believe that Americans across the political spectrum support providing Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship. We urge you to read the statement and take action to support our neighbors who dream of citizenship.

The Rt. Rev. Douglas J. Fisher, Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts
The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts
The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

From the Office of Government Relations' Episcopal Public Policy Network:

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On July 16, 2021, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued a ruling stating that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was unlawful. The Department of Justice has since filed an appeal to the Texas court ruling, but Congress still needs to create a pathway for full legal status.

The program, which the Obama Administration created through executive action in 2012, provided certain undocumented individuals who arrived to the country as children with a renewable temporary status that protected them from deportation and allowed them to work in the United States. Although litigation contesting the Trump Administration's decision to terminate the program in September 2017 successfully kept the program alive, a May 2018 lawsuit filed by several attorneys general challenging the program's legality resulted in last year's decision. Given that efforts to pass protections for DACA recipients and Dreamers have stalled in the Senate, we have drafted a sample message for you and urge you to contact your senators to pass one of these options to protect DACA recipients and Dreamers.

The court's decision leaves DACA recipients and applicants in a vulnerable position. Although the ruling allows the more than 600,000 individuals with DACA status to keep and renew their status, the decision keeps them in limbo. As it stands, DACA recipients cannot access a green card nor apply for citizenship. Furthermore, the decision prohibits the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from issuing this status to new applicants, including at least 50,000 individuals whose submitted applications are under review by DHS. Finally, the decision abruptly prevents eligible individuals who have not applied from seeking protection through the program.

The Biden Administration will appeal the ruling, but Congress should take action to provide permanent protection. In March 2021, the House of Representatives passed the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 (H.R. 6) to provide a pathway to legal status for DACA recipients and Dreamers. The Dream Act of 2021 (S.264) was introduced in the Senate early last year.

Passing these bills aligns with The Episcopal Church's longstanding commitment to protecting Dreamers. The church has advocated for passing the Dream Act since 2012 when it called on Congress to pass "federal legislation that presents a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth and young adults." Polls also consistently show that Americans across the political spectrum support providing Dreamers like DACA recipients with a pathway to citizenship, showing that passing one of these bills would garner public support across the country. We call on our community to contact their members of Congress to rise to the urgency of the moment and protect individuals who have called this country their home their whole lives.