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Alaska bishops condemn decision to end DACA program

Alaska’s Catholic bishops condemned a decision by President Donald Trump’s administration to phase out the Obama era policy called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The program, which Obama instituted by executive order in 2012, allowed children who were brought to the United States illegally as minors to receive renewable short-term work permits and thereby avoid deportation and receive certain benefits.

“We, the Catholic bishops of Alaska, remain united in heart and mind with our brother bishops across this nation in condemning the Administration’s decision to suspend DACA,” the Alaska bishops said in a Sept. 4 statement signed by Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne, Fairbanks Bishop Chad Zielinski, Bishop-elect of Juneau Andrew Bellisario and Anchorage Archbishop Emeritus Roger Schwietz.

Alaska’s bishops said they “stand in strong solidarity with the 800,000 people and their families who have been protected under this provision, and who have called this their country for the primary part of their lives. We as a nation are better than this, and Congress must now act to correct this inhuman disrespect of our brothers and sisters in the one family of God.”

Alaska’s bishops said those affected by the DACA program are “not strangers living among us. They are students in our schools, people we see in the grocery store. They are the friends we have in our lives. America is their home.”

In phasing out the DACA program, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Sept. 4 that it was an unconstitutional overreach of executive power, noting that Congress had refused several times to grant such benefits to undocumented immigrants. In ending the DACA executive order, Trump has called on Congress to pass a program similar to DACA, but through the legislative process.

On a national level, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the cancellation of DACA “reprehensible.”

“It causes unnecessary fear for DACA youth and their families,” the USCCB stated. “These youth entered the U.S. as minors and often know America as their only home. The Catholic Church has long watched with pride and admiration as DACA youth live out their daily lives with hope and a determination to flourish and contribute to society: continuing to work and provide for their families, continuing to serve in the military, and continuing to receive an education. Now, after months of anxiety and fear about their futures, these brave young people face deportation. This decision is unacceptable and does not reflect who we are as Americans.”

The U.S. bishops said the cancellation of DACA “shows the absence of mercy and good will, and a short-sighted vision for the future.” They urged Congress to immediately work towards a legislative solution.

Speaking to those affected by the DACA decision, the U.S. bishops pledged the support of the Catholic Church in advocating for them.

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