Archdiocese of Denver bishops lend support to DACA

Put people before politics, the bishops urge

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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: Working to make our schools safer

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By Carol Nesbitt

The issue of school safety is always on the minds of parents. Parents want to know that schools have a plan in place for all types of emergencies, from fires to intruders to staff or students feeling unsafe for various reasons.
The Archdiocese of Denver is excited to share that they now have someone directly supporting the safety preparedness and plans of the 37 Catholic schools under its watch and care.

Matt Montgomery is a former police officer and award-winning school resource officer (SRO). He’s also a chemistry and forensic science teacher as well as Director of Security and Safety at Holy Family High School. And, as of Nov. 13, he is the new Interim Director of Schools Security and Safety for the Archdiocese of Denver Catholic Schools. The position is new and the first of its kind for the Archdiocese of Denver, but important.

“As a Catholic school community we believe the safety and wellbeing of our students comes first. Time and again we hear our parents rate school safety as one of the top reasons why they entrust the care and formation of their children to our schools. As such, we believe we have a duty and moral obligation in our schools to ensure we are doing everything we can to ensure our children are safe from any type of harm,” said Elias Moo, Superintendent of Catholic Schools. “Historically, each of our schools has had to take on the crucial task of defining and implementing their own safety and security plans and systems. While our schools have certainly gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure the safety of their school community, we believe it is critical in our current reality that we provide our schools with the expertise and qualifications of someone like Matt to support them in really analyzing their plans and assisting them in ensuring best practices are being implemented. It’s the least we can do for our school communities.”

“My role is really to lead a task force with the intention of identifying needs around school safety,” said Montgomery. He says there are a number of great models for school safety around the area, so it’s more about bringing it all together. “All public schools have someone overseeing safety and security, usually with staff members doing threat assessments, suicide assessments and emergency drills, building security, fire drills, and those kinds of things, but there really isn’t a position like this in other dioceses that we are aware of.”

Montgomery says that his job will be taking the variety of practices at schools and helping to bring consistency in efforts across the Archdiocese of Denver Catholic School community. He also says that the term ‘school safety’ is more broad than people realize. “When people think about school safety, they always gravitate to school shootings, but I think we really have to step away from that and realize that school safety and security is an umbrella. It encompasses everything from events prior to an incident all the way through recovery (post-incident).”

The five areas Montgomery is focusing on include:

Prevention
What do we do to create a loving and responsive Catholic community where students and staff feel safe and are empowered and given resources to report any behaviors or activity that is unsafe and counter to our values?

Protection
What systems and proceses do we have to vigilantly monitor for behavior or activity that is harmful to our Catholic community?

Mitigation
What procedures and policies are in place to mitigate issues?

Response
If an incident occurs, how do we respond to that incident? How do we support that school from an archdiocesan perspective? What tools are we able to provide to that school? What relationships do we have with law enforcement and first responders in that community?

Recovery
Recovery begins the second an incident occurs. How do we reunite students with families, provide counseling support and address staff issues in the case of a crisis?

Montgomery says his work will also help establish a plan for the archdiocese in the case of a larger emergency.

“What is our incident command structure going to look like so that we can respond to an incident, while also keeping in mind the unique structure of the various schools beneath the Office of Catholic Schools?”

He’d like to see the Standard Response Protocol — created by the I Love You Guys Foundation — used throughout the school system.

“One of the issues I noticed is that there are a lot of different agencies who respond to various incidents and they don’t know what the other ones are doing,” Montgomery said. “The crisis plan needs to be uniform, created for a specific age group. We need to standardize our crisis plans throughout the AoD and work with the schools to create private plans for each school that is specific to that school, simple plans that outline for administration on how they implement the plan at the moment of crisis.”

One of the biggest things Montgomery will be doing is identifying policies and procedures and training. “This is uniformly saying ‘This is what we’re doing, this is how we’re going to do it, and these are the amount of times we will practice it each year.’” This also includes training of staff on mandatory reporting, the importance of documenting things, and threat assessments that ask the right questions to get a non-biased, vetted approach to assessing threats. “There are a lot of things we can do to mitigate the chance of someone being hurt at a school. That’s by good training, good policies and procedures, and hardening our targets, meaning the physical security of our school buildings,” said Montgomery.

As a teacher, Montgomery says he has a unique perspective. “I’m not just some cop or just an SRO. My heart is in the classroom. I’m a Catholic educator who used to be a cop. My goal is to make sure kids can focus on being a kid and learning, not having to worry about being hurt at school or being bullied or having thoughts of suicide. I want them to feel that school is a safe place. That’s why I do it. I really love doing school safety.”