In early September, the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City held a prayer service at St. Catherine of Siena Newman Center at the University of Utah to pray for those impacted by the repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly referred to as DACA.
At the time, many of us were concerned about the effect this decision would have on our communities here in Salt Lake City and across the country. I had the opportunity to pray with many of the young people from our parish communities affected by this decision. I have continued to pray and advocate for a more comprehensive and humane immigration reform that will protect our family institutions and permit our young people to remain safely in the country that they call home.
However, the past few months also have been marked by our failure as a nation to unite around the one cause that should bring us together, that is, the fate of Dreamers, or the young people who qualify for the DREAM Act. They are a diverse group and come from various countries and cultures — students, workers and members of our community who form the foundation of our society. Moreover, they are daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. They are part of our American family, as they have grown up in this country and consider themselves to be American, although lacking the documents to fully engage in society.
To encounter these young people is to understand that they are an integral part of the fabric of our nation. Their status as members of our community can never be repealed but rather should be welcomed and embraced according to the ideals and aspirations of our nation.
The Catholic Church in America is an immigrant church, comprised of people who come from all over the world in search of a better life, to escape from poverty, oppressive regimes, religious persecution, political turmoil and environmental calamities. They bring with them a faith that called them toward something greater. Today, the church continues to call all of us toward the greater good and the stewardship of our communities.
We are called to protect all families and to defend life in all its stages and forms. This conviction in particular challenges us as a nation to nourish and safeguard the life and dignity of every person, to ensure the unity of families and to recognize their contribution to our country that strengthens our society. They deserve consistency and hope. It is our responsibility to offer them safety and stability; we must provide them with a law that defends their dignity.
We have found ourselves waiting for the perfect bill on immigration to support our own goals instead of taking action to defend the vulnerable in our society. Now I must urge all of us to take steps to exercise compassion and defend Dreamers in our communities and across the United States. We need an effective and humane immigration system that promotes the unity of families and provides young people with a path to citizenship.
To foster a culture of life, we must begin with the values that we, as Americans, hold dear. If we believe in freedom, let all Americans, whether they were born here or brought here as young children, be free to live, work and study in this country that they made their home. If we believe in justice, then we must recognize what we owe to the young students and workers who have contributed so much to our society. If we believe in the value of family, then we must offer their parents a protected status to preserve unity in our communities. If we want to build a vibrant future for our country, we must defend the Dreamers who bring diversity and hope to our nation.
I still believe in the goodness of humanity and the greatness of this nation when she opened her doors to welcome refugees and immigrants, especially the poor, tired, battered and huddled masses longing for freedom. The Statue of Liberty still stands majestically today, reminding us of our identity as a beacon of hope to the downtrodden who come to our shores. I pray that we recapture the true and noble identity of this great country, the land of plenty, of opportunity and of the free. Help and support the Dreamers!
The Most Reverend Oscar Solis is the Tenth Bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.