Archdiocese of Denver bishops lend support to DACA

Put people before politics, the bishops urge

Karna Lozoya

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Auxiliary Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez released a statement Friday urging the Catholics of northern Colorado to support through action and prayer the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and the 17,000 Colorado youth who would be directly affected if President Donald Trump were to eliminate it.

Read the letter here

“As the bishops of the Archdiocese of Denver, we are writing to ask your help and prayers on behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters,” the statement begins.

The bishops noted that DACA has allowed “approximately 800,000 undocumented youth to live, go to school and work in the United States without fear of deportation,” and that despite its success, the program could be eliminated by President Trump this week.

“Brothers and Sisters, know that the beneficiaries of DACA are children who were brought to the United States as minors. For many, the United States is the only country they know,” the bishops stated. “They have been educated here and serve in many of our parishes.

“In fact, several DACA beneficiaries work for the Archdiocese of Denver. It would be devastating for our parishes and our Catholic community if we were to lose these young people.”

The bishops urged the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Denver to “support our youth with your voice” by calling the White House in support of DACA, of supporting the bipartisan DREAM Act, and to pray.

“Lord Jesus, help us by your grace,” the prayer reads, “To banish fear from our hearts, That we may embrace each of your children as our own brother and sister.”

The full text of the letter follows:

To all Catholics of Northern Colorado:

As the bishops of the Archdiocese of Denver, we are writing to ask your help and prayers on behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters, particularly the 17,000 youth of the state of Colorado, who will be directly affected by any changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which President Donald Trump is considering to eliminate as early as next week.

Since its inception, DACA has allowed approximately 800,000 undocumented youth to live, go to school and work in the United States without fear of deportation. Despite the success and popularity of the program, 10 state Attorneys General have recently threatened to sue the U.S. Federal Government if President Trump doesn’t put an end to DACA, citing concerns that the program is unconstitutional. The president has until Sept. 5 to make a decision.

Brothers and Sisters, know that the beneficiaries of DACA are children who were brought to the United States as minors. For many, the United States is the only country they know. They have been educated here and serve in many of our parishes. In fact, several DACA beneficiaries work for the Archdiocese of Denver. It would be devastating for our parishes and our Catholic community if we were to lose these young people.

As Pope Francis said in his 2017 Message for the Day of Prayer for Refugees and Migrants, “Do not tire of courageously living the Gospel, which calls you to recognize and welcome the Lord Jesus among the smallest and most vulnerable.”

It is important to uphold the constitution, but we must always put people first in our politics. We ask that you call now, before the Sept. 5 deadline, to ask the President to remove any threat of deportation from the 800,000 beneficiaries of DACA.

And we want to encourage you to join us in supporting a bi-partisan legislative alternative to the DACA program, called the DREAM Act, which would alleviate the constitutional concerns cited by the Attorneys General.

Please, support our youth with your voice!

1. Call the White House today at 1-855-589-5698 and relay this message:

“I am calling as a concerned Catholic to strongly urge the President to maintain the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The approximately 800,000 young immigrants who have received DACA are vital members of our parishes, communities, and nation; they should not have to live their lives in fear of deportation.”

2. Support the DREAM Act today by sending a message to your elected representative. Visit JusticeforImmigrants.org

3. Pray: Please join us in praying the following prayer, released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Lord Jesus, help us by your grace,
To banish fear from our hearts,
That we may embrace each of your children as our own brother and sister;
To welcome migrants and refugees with joy and generosity,
While responding to their many needs;
To realize that you call all people to your holy mountain
To learn the ways of peace and justice;
To share of our abundance as you spread a banquet before us,
To give witness to your love for all people, as we celebrate the many gifts they bring.

Sincerely in Jesus Christ,

Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila, S.T.L.
Archbishop of Denver

Most Rev. Jorge H. Rodriguez, Ph.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Denver

COMING UP: Punishing the poor and needy

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

Every afternoon in downtown Denver, homeless men, women and children are given shelter, food and a place to wash themselves. Not far away, hundreds of people are receiving high quality medical care at one of our Catholic hospitals or Marisol Health. Some local parishes also distribute food, clothing, or help with rent. Whether you are on the Eastern Plains, the Western Slope or along the Front Range, people of faith are contributing their skills and resources to your community and making it a better place to live, and especially for the less fortunate.

Since we celebrated our nation’s independence about a week ago, the ability of people of faith to make a positive contribution to our society has been on my mind. People of faith make our society a better place as they seek the good and the true, and the right to live our faith in the public square is guaranteed by the Constitution. Unfortunately, there are forces at work trying to change that, and if they succeed it will be the vulnerable who are hurt the most.

Many people are familiar with Jack Phillips’ case because he recently received a favorable verdict from the U.S. Supreme Court. In brief, Jack was sued by a gay couple for refusing to make them a wedding cake, since doing so would contradict his belief that God created marriage to be between a man and a woman. His case – and others around the country – clearly show that there are people who want to silence Christian people and use the force of law to make them act against their faith or be punished.

Tim Gill, the multimillionaire who is funding and directing many of these efforts, plainly stated his intentions in a June 2017 Rolling Stone interview. “We’re going into the hardest states in the country,” he said. “We’re going to punish the wicked.” According to Gill, people of faith are “wicked” when their views do not agree with his. In this worldview, there is no room for differences on matters of prudence or conscience.

What you won’t hear from activists like Tim Gill is that the people who will suffer the most from his campaign against faith and the freedom of conscience are the homeless, children waiting to be adopted, or those needing hospital care. In short, the people who will be hurt are those who rely on the charitable activity of people of faith.

Take, for example, the Catholic Charities adoption programs in Boston, Illinois, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. that have been forced to shut down because they believe it’s not in children’s best interest to be placed with a same-sex couple. In Illinois, Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Springfield estimates that about 3,000 children were impacted by their closure. As was predicted, the state is now experiencing a shortage of quality foster families. Surely, this does not benefit society.

It is unexpected, but homeless men and women are also being impacted by changes to regulations. In Sept. 2016 the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development finalized rules that require homeless shelters to accommodate transgender people by placing them according to whatever gender they present themselves as, rather than their biological sex. Most often, it is men identifying themselves as women who approach the shelters, and this frightens the women, especially since many of them have been victimized by men on the streets.

Religious freedom can seem like an abstract concept, but when you look at the fruits of this basic liberty, its importance becomes clear. Moved by their faith, Catholics and others in the Archdiocese of Denver spent 2017 providing over 212,000 nights of shelter, emergency assistance to 28,000 households, 714 job placements, and almost 73,000 volunteer hours through Catholic Charities.

Further, hundreds of immigrants are assisted with English as a Second Language classes, business training, and faith formation through Centro San Juan Diego. In the name of Jesus, tens of thousands of sick people receive medical care at Catholic hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. This list doesn’t include other Christian, Jewish, or Muslim charitable endeavors, nor does it include individuals whose faith guides the way they run their small business or their work for their employer.

It is a convenient and worn-out argument to accuse people of discrimination to pressure them into giving up their beliefs, but this tactic ignores the people who suffer the most from the intolerance of those insisting people of faith give up their beliefs. Our country has long recognized and benefited from the gifts of faithful people, and restricting this spirit of generosity will make our society poorer.

I am grateful that the Supreme Court recognized that Jack Phillips’ right to religious freedom was infringed, but his case will certainly not be the last. As Christians, we must respond to this pressure with the joy that is born from faith, with loving, persistent resistance and forgiveness. Let us respond to Pope Francis’ appeal that he made as he spoke in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. “Let us preserve freedom. Let us cherish freedom. Freedom of conscience, religious freedom, the freedom of each person, each family, each people, which is what gives rise to rights.”