~ an opinion by Ana Gonzalez for Global Sisters Report
VATICAN – Growing up on the southern border of the United States – surrounded by friends and family and fed by love and tamales – we celebrated February 2nd – el Dia de la Candelaria (the feast of the Presentation, or Candlemas) to conclude a season meditating on the infancy of Jesus.
From the first day of the season of Advent, I thought of how vulnerable the baby Jesus is – having to flee because of threats to his family’s safety.
My heart breaks when I meet hardworking, studious, and focused [young people], who – even as they make every effort to build a better future, to earn an education and an opportunity to work with dignity – face defeat.
There are approximately 1 million undocumented children under the age of 18 living in the United States – children who, through no fault of their own, are automatically marginalized, discriminated against, and who daily fear deportation. Their uncertain immigration status is a black cloud over what could have been a bright future. For many high school students, access to college is limited and they have few avenues for financial assistance.
The lack of response to the plight of undocumented minors is a failing that has plagued this country for many years. In 2012, the issue of a presidential executive action provided temporary protection from deportation and the opportunity to work legally. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was intended to provide a temporary and humanitarian solution, granting children the opportunity to work for the American dream.
Ten years later, Congress has yet to address this temporary program, now at risk for
Since 2012, more than 800,000 people have benefitted from the program.
If DACA is ended, thousands will be without protection. Congress has the power to provide our vulnerable immigrant children and young people with permanent protections from deportation, the opportunity to pursue an education and to work in a dignified manner.
Time is of the essence.
Perhaps, during the season of Lent, we can make our almsgiving – our gift – the personal task of writing to our legislative leaders to demand legislation that protects our Dreamers, and invite our friends, families, and communities to stand with the children and young people.
Let us put our prayer into action to protect those children. We can all do something to make a difference: reaching out to our elected leaders, volunteering at shelters, offering prayers, raising awareness and – most important – demanding action for our Dreamers, our vulnerable immigrant children and young people.
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