Last month I spent more time in the US Capitol Building than I had in the previous 12 years I’ve lived in the Washington DC metro area. Why? Because changes in federal immigration policy threaten to suddenly uproot hundreds of thousands, splitting husbands from wives and parents from children – and because my Church and my union are leading the fight to prevent this by preserving DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and TPS (Temporary Protected Status).
At the beginning of February, the USCCB hosted its annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, a conference that brings together Catholic activists from across the nation. After a couple of days of workshops and prayer, participants headed out to Congress to meet with their elected representatives and witness for social justice. Extending DACA and TPS protections was a top issue this year. DACA protects undocumented immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the US as children, through no fault of their own; many of these children remember nothing of their nation of origin, having grown up entirely in the United States. TPS permits those whose homeland has been torn by war or natural disaster to remain in the US until it is safe to return. The president has moved to end both programs, so we urged our House and Senate members to take legislative action to protect their participants from deportation.
A week later, I was back. Working Families United, a coalition of labor unions with immigrant members was taking a stand. Although TPS was begun as a “temporary” program, many of these nations took a long time to recover; TPS holders have built careers, married, and raised US-born children here. The unions brought members holding TPS from across the country to Washington DC and accompanied them to the Capitol to tell their stories.
In Exodus 23:9 we read how God told the Israelites, “You shall not oppress a resident alien; you well know how it feels to be an alien, since you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.” One of the key goals of the Church-Labor Partnership Project (CLPP) is to bring Church and labor together to advocate for immigrants in a time of increasing nativism. We will continue to bring you news as Congress debates how to move forward.