California Catholic bishops urge House Majority Leader to allow vote on DACA legislation

In an open letter to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy that was printed this morning in the Bakersfield Californian, Catholic leaders in California urged Rep. McCarthy to allow a House vote on critical legislation that would prevent the deportation of young people who were brought into this country as minors, but who lack formal permission to remain in the United States.

The letter was signed by Bishop Armando Ochoa of the Diocese of Fresno (whose territory includes Bakersfield) ; Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto, president of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops; and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, Vice President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“People’s lives are in the balance, Mr. Majority Leader, so on behalf of California’s 11 million Catholics, many of whom reside in your district, we ask you to act in good faith by allowing a debate and vote now,” the bishops say in their letter.

The letter asks McCarthy to support a House vote on legislation that would give permanent status to young people currently enrolled in the DACA (Deferred Action for Child Arrivals) program.  It specifically asks McCarthy to allow a vote prior to June 25, under the discharge petition being circulated by California Representatives Jeff Denham (R-Modesto) and David Valadao (R-Hanford).

“The time to act is now.  We have to do what we can to protect these blameless people who were brought into our country when they were only small children,” says the letter.

A program, known as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), was created by executive order to provide temporary protection to these young people, but that executive order was withdrawn by President Donald Trump, who challenged Congress to enact a permanent, statutory solution to the problem.

The DACA program has been temporarily extended by court order.  Nevertheless, DACA recipients remain subject to deportation and legal limbo.

Participation in DACA is not automatic.   Participants must be between 15 and 37 years old, and have arrived in the US before the age of 16.  They must have continuously lived in the US since 2007.  They must have a clean criminal record, free of felonies or serious misdemeanors.  They must be currently in school or have graduated or graduated with a diploma or GED and/or have received an honorable discharge from the US Armed Forces.  They must prove they are not a threat to the national security or public safety of the United States.

“These young people are Americans, pure and simple.  They’ve lived here virtually all their lives and have no other country to claim as their own,” said Edward “Ned” Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference.   “They are among our best and brightest and we should be proud that they call the USA home.”  Read the letter to Mr. McCarthy.