Friars Join National Catholic Call-in Day for Dreamers

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

A photo of ICE deportation officers and special agents during a five-day operation that resulted in the arrest of 212 individuals, 88 percent of whom were convicted criminals, according to the government. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

Like thousands of people across the United States, friars and partners-in-ministry contacted their Congressional representatives in recent weeks to advocate for fair treatment of Dreamers, immigrants who came to this country as children and have, in the past, been protected from deportation.

Franciscans and Franciscan-hearted people called legislators in the days leading up to March 5 to encourage the Trump administration to provide Dreamers with a path to citizenship, to maintain existing protections for families and unaccompanied minors, and to preserve the DACA program. March 5 had been set as the potential end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The Province’s Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation provided HNP friaries and ministries with immigration-related resources, including tools to assist those in need.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops set Monday, Feb. 26, as a national Catholic call-in day to protect Dreamers, those who came to this country as children. Many contacted Congress to advocate for legislation that will enable Dreamers to remain in the only country that most of them have ever known.

“The phone lines were very busy,” said Russ Testa, director of the Province’s JPIC Office. “About 48,000 calls came in that day. Like many, however, we were disappointed that the Senate did not pass legislation to protect the Dreamers and move forward a possible solution for their limbo status.”

A Call for Justice
“Immigration is not just one of the Province’s mandates for action – it’s one of the Order’s JPIC priorities,” said Jud Weiksnar, OFM, chair of the Province’s JPIC Directorate. He encourages friars and partners-in-ministries to utilize the resources of The Migrant Center of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in New York City, which was founded nearly five years ago.

“We must do all we can to support those in our communities who do not have documentation, particularly DACA recipients and persons with Temporary Protected Status (TPS),” said Testa.

The assortment of suggested resources and action steps provided by the JPIC Office included information from Justice for Immigrants and The Migrant Center, which has developed a process for assisting vulnerable immigrants.

“The voices of Dreamers call for justice and for remembering our own histories,” said Thomas Gallagher, OFM, pastor of St. Patrick-St Anthony Parish in Hartford, Conn., adding, “We are a nation of immigrants.”

Other JPIC Priorities
In addition to advocating for immigrants, the JPIC Directorate is focusing on three other priorities — climate care, racism and white privilege, and nonviolent peacemaking.

The directorate encourages friaries and ministries to join efforts sponsored by Climate Mobilization and Food and Water Watch to seek city, county and state legislation that would make their jurisdictions net carbon neutral by 2035. The goal of this effort, said Jud, “is to help take meaningful state and local action on climate while there is limited action on a national level.”

The JPIC Directorate’s working group on race and privilege is collaborating with the HNP Fraternal Life in Mission Directorate and the HNP African Ancestry, Hispanic Ministry and Asian Ancestry committees and is looking to outside experts to help guide its process.

During the JPIC Directorate’s January meeting, interest developed around Francis’s role as peacemaker. “While not an official mandate of the 2017 Provincial Chapter, the groundswell of support among members of the JPIC Directorate led to the formation of a working group on nonviolent peacemaking, said Jud. Among the laypersons working on the initiative is Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International.

Information about social justice issues – including videos and links to resources – can be found in the Justice and Peace section of News and resources are also shared in the Facebook group Holy Name Province JPIC.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

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