by Ethan Starr
The Trump administration’s decision early this month to end the DACA program has faced widespread criticism from University administration, as well as the broader Catholic community. Announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the planned rollback of protections from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program endangers the immigration status of around 690,000 residents, some 240,000 of whom are currently enrolled in college. The program, signed as an executive order by President Obama in 2012, aims to secure work permits and education for young adults who came to the nation as children without documents.
The Boston College administration swiftly issued condemnation of the surprise shift in immigration policy. “The decision to rescind DACA is such a mistake, and so conflicts with our values and heritage as a nation of immigrants,” wrote Father Leahy, adding, “It is essential that Congress resolve this unfortunate situation as soon as possible.”
The University President went on to state that the BC community would continue to support students protected by DACA. For privacy reasons, the University administration has opted not to disclose the number of DACA recipients enrolled. Leahy had previously signed two statements in support of retaining the DACA program. The academic deans released a similar statement several days later, calling the decision to rescind DACA a “cruel and unjustified action,” and promising to “stand firmly by the sides of all members of the University community affected by this decision.”
Debate surrounding the controversial decision has extended much farther than college campuses. Catholics all over the nation have identified the decision to rescind DACA protections as antithetical to the Church’s values, with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issuing a statement decrying that “our nation has done the opposite of how Scripture calls us to respond. It is a step back from the progress that we need to make as a country.”
While it is not unusual for the Church to comment on American immigration controversies, Pope Francis has only rarely commented on the underlying political issues of US immigration. The Pope recognized that while he was not familiar with the political nature of the DACA program, he hoped its protections could remain in place: “I believe that this law comes, I think, not from Congress but from the executive branch of the government,” he said. “If it is so, I have the hope that it’s re-thought, because I heard the president of the United States introduce himself as a ‘pro-life’ man.” The Pope responded to a question about Trump’s plan to build a border wall and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants by saying, “If a man says these things, he is not a Christian.”
Pope Francis calls upon each of us to more closely examine the morality of the question behind the decision to retain or rescind DACA protections. As Pope Francis says, “[one] understands that family is the cradle of life, and that its unity must be defended.” Removal of DACA protections from hundreds of thousands of US residents imperils the status of families within the US. Recipients are disproportionately composed of a young adult demographic, affecting the lives and futures of individuals unknown and families yet to exist. Catholic Americans must consider the potential of these individuals and families who find themselves in a murky status when striving for the pro-life solution. Must these extraordinary measures of protection be dismantled, or is there yet more room in the great American family?