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Nebraska Catholic Conference calls for swift action to help DACA youth

The Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC) Sept. 5 called for swift, thoughtful action from Congress after President Donald Trump’s administration said it would rescind in six months and phase out a program protecting many young, undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Often referred to as DREAMers, the youth brought to the United States by their parents should be allowed to stay and continue contributing to parishes, schools and other institutions, said Tom Venzor, NCC’s executive director, on behalf of Archbishop George J. Lucas and Bishops James D. Conley of Lincoln and Joseph G. Hanefeldt of Grand Island.

“Congress now has an opportunity to face the difficult challenge of finding a legislative solution to support DREAMers, who have only known the United States as their home,” Venzor said. “We implore our federal officials representing Nebraska to find the best possible solution.”

The bishops Aug. 29 issued a statement declaring solidarity with youth protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was instituted in 2012 through executive action by then-President Barack Obama.

DACA is not a permanent solution, the bishops said, but such a solution must be found.

More than 3,000 youth in Nebraska and about 800,000 nationwide have received DACA’s temporary protections. President Trump had wavered on the DACA program, at times calling for its end, but at other moments saying it was a hard decision.

Attorneys general in several states called for President Trump to rescind the program by Sept. 5 or they would challenge it in court. Some critics of the policy accused President Obama of executive overreach. Nebraska’s bishops said in the Aug. 29 statement that “reasonable people may disagree about the nature and scope” of the executive action that established DACA, but the need remains for federal lawmakers to seek permanent solutions.

“We call upon our elected officials at the federal level to move forward and find permanent legislative solutions to ensure that DACA youth may remain in the United States, where they may continue to reach their God-given potential,” the bishops said. “We promise to work with lawmakers from all parties to ensure that DACA youth are able to stay in this country and live in peace.”

“Lastly,” the bishops wrote, “to DACA youth here in Nebraska: please know that the Catholic Church stands in solidarity with you. As pastors, it is our desire to accompany you in the anxieties and fears you face through this journey. Thank you for the daily contributions you make to your families, to local communities and parishes, and to our country.”

Full text from the bishops' Aug. 29 statement is below.