Boston Community Advocates for DREAM Act

Hugh Macsherry, OFM Around the Province

The article below was submitted by a Boston friar less than a week before the DREAM Act failed to be passed by the Senate on Dec. 18. The DREAM Act would have created a path to citizenship for certain young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, completed two years of college or military service and met other requirements, including passing a criminal background check, according to The New York Times.

BOSTON — On Nov. 29, Daniel Murray, OFM, and I attended Student Immigrant Movement’s speak-out in favor the DREAM Act at the Episcopal Cathedral of St Paul.

As young people spoke from their experience as immigrants trying to contribute to the country that they consider their home, they highlighted the challenges of making that contribution. Despite the support of higher education institutions, labor unions, and religious communities, some members of congress consider this piece of legislation to be controversial. Student speakers addressed their stories to the audience of several hundred.

At the end of this event, Ed Marakovitz, a worshipper at St. Anthony Shrine, approached us and offered to facilitate connection with SIM. Through Mr. Marakovitz’s contacts, SIM was able to arrange for four young people to work with Daniel at an information table after the 10, 11 and 12 o’clock Masses on Dec. 5, through the support of David Convertino, OFM, guardian of the Shrine. Many of the members from the worshiping community expressed their positive impressions of these eloquent young people and their support for their “dream.”

Since the early fall, some of the friars have preached on immigration concerns and called their representatives in Massachusetts. Currently, Senator Scott Brown is the only member of the MA delegation to the Federal Legislature not to support the DREAM Act. His staff has most recently cited in a phone call the senator’s concern for “setting a precedent.” He worries that the DREAM Act would encourage people from other countries to break the law in order to seek social support or citizenship in the United States.

The reality that many “Dreamers” were responsible for marginal immigration status in this country and did not even realize that they were undocumented until recently has not swayed the senator, nor does he recognize the benefit of the act for the country or that a precedent of compassion and justice is right, even if it is difficult.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been a consistent supporter of this initiative since it was reintroduced in Congress in March 2009. Holy Name Province and the Franciscan Action Network have lent their support to this legislation because it represents the most likely chance for any movement on federal immigration reform.

Since the Dec. 5 information sessions at St Anthony Shrine, the friars have tried to develop their collaboration on action for the DREAM Act. I have been in discussion with Lily Huang from SIM about ways the friars and the “Dreamers” can continue to collaborate on this particular issue.

— Fr. Hugh, ordained in 2008, is a member of the Province’s Justice, Peace Integrity of Creation Directorate. 

Editor’s note: On Dec. 20, FAN distributed information about Immigration Reform Dialogues to be held in January 2011 in Raleigh, N.C., and Providence, R.I. 

In the e-letter, Russell Testa, director of the HNP’s JPIC Office, wrote: “Beyond the loss this (the blocking of the DREAM Act) is to lives of these young people, it witnesses to the difficulty our nation continues to have when looking at the issue of immigration reform.

Two of FAN’s partner organizations, Catholic Relief Services and the Holy Name Province Franciscans are sponsoring a workshop to train people in effective ways to host civil discussions on immigration. This level of discussion will be imperative over the next few years if we have any hope of seeing just, comprehensive and fair immigration reform.” Information about the workshops is available on FAN’s website.