By Archbishop Jose H. Gomez
Archbishop of Los Angeles

January 12, 2018

Once again, a new year began with uncertainty and fear about immigration, and this year our leaders in Congress face a difficult deadline.

On March 5 will expire on program deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), which means that about 690 thousand young people lose their permission to work in this country and face deportation.

Here in Los Angeles, it would lead to a humanitarian crisis.

More than a quarter of the young beneficiaries of DACA program in the nation live in California, according to most estimates, there are about 125 thousand who live within the boundaries of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, more than anywhere else in the country.

The story of these young people, called “Dreamers” is well known.

Brought to this country undocumented children by parents or family members, they are not to blame for being “illegal”.

The “Dreamers” have lived all their life in this country, and many are now around 30 years. And throughout his life, leaders in Washington have failed to reach an agreement to remedy the flawed immigration system first was the one that allowed them to enter this country.

Currently, the “Dreamers” are “clear example” of how flawed our system and how unhealthy and unproductive has become our political discourse.

Wherever you look, this is the kind of youth that our country should be encouraged. Almost all of them-97 percent – are either in school or performing a job. About 5 percent since they started their own business and 15 percent have already bought their first home.

These are good guys and we should help them develop the potential that God has given them to hold together their families and make their own contribution to the “American dream”.

Moreover, according to business leaders, they are essential to our economic future.

In a letter in September to congressional leaders, more than 800 executives, representatives of all sectors of the economy, they agreed that the young beneficiaries of the DACA program contribute more than $ 460 billion to our economy and other $ 24 billion in taxes.

Pottering in the DACA program should then be a simple matter .

Everyone seems to realize that it would be cruel to punish them for the mistakes of their parents, deporting them to countries they have never seen, whose language might not even know.

And yet, there we are. A few weeks before the deadline expires and these young people are caught in the middle of a much wider debate about border fences, national security and internal functioning of our visa system.

This debate is passionate and partisan, as might be expected. Systematic reform of our immigration policy is absolutely essential for the future of our nation. And we need to have this dialogue.

But Congress needs to separate the discussion of the topic of DACA of these broader issues program.

Our system has been lacking for a long time and there are too many things that are wrong. Congress should take the time to discuss issues properly and truly develop an immigration system that reflects the global realities of the economy of the XXI Century.

We need a serious debate about border security. Nobody opposes the fact that we must secure our borders and protect us from those who would harm us.

Some say that building a wall along the southwestern border of the country is the solution. Others say that we can use electronic surveillance technologies to create a “virtual” wall that would be much more effective and less costly.

The point is that we must study the problem and not try to force a “solution” only to solve short – term political issues.

We must also consider how our country grants visas, our priorities and criteria we use for it. And, again, we have to analyze problems and examine our premises.

For example, there are a lot of passionate discussions about how immigrants take jobs from Americans and make wages are reduced. But is it really so?

In agricultural centers and in the Central Valley of California, again this year farmers were unable to find enough workers to harvest their crops.

Although minimum wages and profits have increased across the country, employers say there are not enough workers born in the United States who want to make the low – skilled and low – wage work needed in our fields and in the area construction, hotels and other sectors.

This suggests that Congress and states must find new ways to offer guest worker programs that allow foreigners to enter and leave the country as required by business. It also suggests that we need to consider more clearly our labor needs to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The important point is that we need a total reform of our immigration system, and this should not be linked to the current debate on the DACA program or the “Dreamers”.

As a nation, we have a moral and humanitarian obligation to the “Dreamers”. These young people have not done anything wrong. And its future depends on the outcome of these discussions.

So I hope you join me to demand our leaders in Congress to help them with a spirit of generosity and justice. And we have to tell our leaders to fix the DACA program should be the first step in the systematic immigration reform that is required for a long time.

Pray for me this week, and I’ll be praying for you. And our Blessed Mother Mary intercede for us and guide us. VN

The Archbishop Gomez encourages people to visit and share their new website: TheNextAmerica.org, a resource for information on immigration reform and participate.
Writings, homilies and speeches of Archbishop can be found in ArchbishopGomez.com
To receive a free copy of the new Pastoral Letter from Archbishop Gómez, “You were born for greater things”, write tovaleman@vida-nueva.com
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The new book by Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, ‘Immigration and the future of the United States of America’, is available in the store of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. ( www.olacathedralgifts.com ).