Archbishop Hebda, Sen. Klobuchar ask Congress to help ‘Dreamers’

| September 11, 2017 | 5 Comments

David Soto of Risen Savior in Burnsville talks about his experiences of being a “Dreamer” at a news conference Sept. 9 at St. Stephen in Minneapolis to bring attention to President Donald Trump’s announcement last week to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals enacted by President Barack Obama. Also attending and delivering remarks were Archbishop Bernard Hebda, right, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

David Soto was 6 years old when he and his brother were brought from Vera Cruz, Mexico, to California to be reunited with his parents.

His family was undocumented, but they sought what Soto, 31, called “the American dream” and moved to Minnesota for new opportunities when Soto was 12.

He went to school in Farmington, earned a scholarship to study graphic design at a technical college and began to build a career. His pursuit of the American dream began to unravel, however, when his dad was detained for his undocumented status in 2009.

Fighting for his release drained the family financially, and then immigration control also detained David and his brother. His father wanted the family to focus its resources on helping his sons, so he gave up the fight and was deported to Mexico. David was among the first applicants to gain temporary protection from deportation and permission to work under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which President Barack Obama initiated via executive order in 2012. His status was again put at risk Sept. 5, when President Donald Trump rescinded the executive order, asking Congress to address the issue instead.

A parishioner of Risen Savior in Burnsville, Soto shared his story at a press conference outside St. Stephen in Minneapolis Sept. 9. Standing next to him were Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Archbishop Bernard Hebda, both of whom spoke in support of young immigrants like Soto who came to the country illegally as children.

Describing how Jesus walked with people who were in need and afraid, Archbishop Hebda encouraged people to imagine themselves in the situation of undocumented young people who have faced a lifetime of instability but who, through DACA “found a place in this country,” but who now live in fear.

“It should stir within us the necessary urgency to see that these young brothers and sisters of ours find a way to continue to live their dreams,” Archbishop Hebda said. “While we are deeply concerned and distressed by the president’s announcement earlier this week, let us use this time as an opportunity to find and embrace a long-term congressional solution that is ultimately needed to secure a future for undocumented youth and fix our broken immigration system.”

Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, said she would support legislation that would enact DACA, which gave certain undocumented young people access to a driver’s license and work permit, or a new version of the DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship for undocumented young people. She said she was hopeful that Congress could pass a new measure with bipartisan support, indicating that she supported the DREAM Act legislation introduced in July by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). A companion bill was introduced in September in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“This is something that brings people together across party lines, across geographic lines, across religious lines — this simple idea of what America stands for — if you have a dream, you can make it in America,” she said. “That’s why we call these kids ‘Dreamers.’ They have come to this country at no fault of their own, many times as babies … . And they have succeeded, and we are proud of them.”

She added: “Now to turn our backs on them would be immoral. … It’s not what we stand for as a community, it’s not what we stand for as a state.”

The rescinding of the DACA program affects 800,000 immigrants, including more than 6,000 in Minnesota, Klobuchar said. She cited the Center for American Progress, which estimates that ending the policy could cost the country $460 billion over 10 years because of the loss of economic productivity of 800,000 people.

The press conference was organized in collaboration by Klobuchar’s office and the Minnesota Catholic Conference. Also present at the press conference were several clergy members representing different Christian denominations, immigrant advocacy leaders and civic leaders, including Jonathan Weinhagen, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce; Paul Pribbenow, president of Augsburg University in Minneapolis; and Ruby Azurdia-Lee, president of Twin Cities-based Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio, or CLUES, which is also now where Soto works. All three emphasized the economic advantages DACA provided the community, as the program gave otherwise undocumented immigrants a chance to attend college and work.

“The decision now to curtail DACA … robs our country from the generation of immigrant children who, like the previous generations of immigrants before them, promise to make our country ever stronger and more vibrant,”  Pribbenow said.

“The secret of the American dream is also true of education,” he added. “The greatest benefit does not accrue to the individual who seeks it, but to the society that makes the dream attainable for them.”

Archbishop Hebda and auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens released a joint statement Sept. 6 in support of “Dreamers” after the DACA repeal.

“I’m convinced we can strengthen our communities when we strive to understand the experiences of others, to imagine what it would be like to walk a mile in their shoes,” Archbishop Hebda said at the press conference.

“My hope is that we might all do that today, or in the days ahead, imagining ourselves walking with the ‘Dreamers’ who are affected by the impending repeal of DACA.”

He continued: “We can imagine what it must have been like to arrive in this country at a very young age, with much uncertainty and lots of instability in the living situation, perhaps even wondering where they would get their next meal. But by hard work, prayer and trying to play by the rules, they found a place in this country, and with their families, tried to build a life together. … But now … they live in fear — fear of losing the life they have built in the only country they have ever known.”

Archbishop Hebda said he urges everyone “to place themselves in that reality and imagine what it would be like.”

“It should stir within us the necessary urgency to see that these young brothers and sisters of our find a way to continue to live their dreams,” he said.

“Today I join the others here in calling for Congress to come together and protect the ‘Dreamers’ from deportation and secure their future,” he added. “I will pray earnestly for this solution, and I hope you will join me in praying that our God will bless our elected officials — certainly our senator —  with the wisdom and courage they need.”



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