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Some wonder why church leaders speak out on what are often considered merely political issues. However, what are called political issues really affect people, their lives, their present and their future. These issues do not exist in a vacuum detached from human beings.
So very often what are seen as mere “political” issues touch upon moral concerns. Religious leaders have a responsibility to teach about what is just, right and moral. Such issues are not spoken of because of a particular political party affiliation but rather because they touch the lives of so many people.
One of these issues is what is called the “Dream Act.” This proposed law being considered in Congress offers the possibility for young
Why is the Dream Act needed?
Many of these young people came here with their parents at a very tender age. Yet, they are impeded from having any possibility under present law of changing their status. Immigrant students without legal status graduating high school in the U.S. have few options. They cannot legally obtain employment. They cannot join the military. In most states, they are unable to attend college. Many are vulnerable to being deported to their home countries, even in cases where, brought here as infants, they have few ties to their family homelands.
It needs to be noted that the Dream Act is not a substitute for broad immigration reform. It is a component, but there is still the need for a broader approach that is fair and equitable.
Catholic bishops support the Dream Act because as religious leaders we are committed to promoting the dignity of every human being. Immigrants do not lose their human dignity by the mere fact of coming to the United State from another country.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, recently spoke in support of the Dream Act, noting that those who would benefit “are Americans, for all practical purposes.” During a press conference recently he said that many Dream Act supporters have risked deportation to advocate for the chance to become U.S. citizens.
“Why would we not want to embrace their dedication, energy, talents and courage – characteristics that have made our nation great? It would be to our detriment to forsake them,” the cardinal said.
Along with the cardinal, the U.S. bishops see the United States as a country which has presented itself to the world as a place of opportunity, freedom, and a place where people can provide a better life for themselves and their families. How can we hope to be faithful to what we say about ourselves if we refuse to provide the opportunities of which we boast?
The poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty asks the world to "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” The statue has served as a beacon for generations of immigrants, yet we contrast that with the fences being built along our southern frontier. Do we as a nation have a split personality? Are we inviting and welcoming at one border and impeding and keeping out at another?
People have a right to a life of dignity, respect and opportunity. As Americans we have prided ourselves on the potential that exists here. As Catholics we are morally obligated to uplifting and pointing out the God-given dignity of every human being.
Supporters of the Dream Act have designated Sept. 23-25 as Dream Act Sabbath, offering an opportunity for people of faith to reflect upon the question of who is our neighbor. This kind of faith reflection is surely needed about the Dream Act, a proposal supportive of human dignity that transcends politics.