Congressional members Mimi Walters and Ed Royce have received a unique letter – it was signed by every Catholic pastor in their districts, and it asks for more action and less talk on DACA.
Parishioners across Orange County also will hear more about the so-called Dreamers from their church pews this Sunday and throughout Advent, which leads up to Christmas.
The bishops of the Diocese of Orange are calling on their clergy and parishioners to pray for the young undocumented immigrants, and to advocate for them with their elected leaders.
Catholic leaders see an urgency in finding a permanent solution to the plight of young people brought to the country illegally as children. Their temporary legal status through President Obama’s DACA program is being phased out under the Trump administration.
Bishop Kevin W. Vann speaks to the crowd at Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove to promote compassionate immigration reform on Nov. 16, 2013. (Photo by KEVIN SULLIVAN, O.C. Register/SCNG.)A predominantly Hispanic crowd gathered at Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove on Nov. 16, 2013 to listen to Bishop Kevin W. Vann promote compassionate immigration reform . (Photo by KEVIN SULLIVAN, O.C. Register/SCNG.)A predominantly Hispanic crowd gathered at Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove Nov. 16, 2013 to listen to Bishop Kevin W. Vann promote compassionate immigration reform . (Photo by KEVIN SULLIVAN, O.C. Register/SCNG.)Bishop Kevin W. Vann, top right, calls on church leaders to support compassionate immigration reform at Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove on Nov. 16, 2013. (Photo by KEVIN SULLIVAN, O.C. Register/SCNG.)Elvira Marquez raises her hands in prayer as Bishop Kevin W. Vann calls on the congregation to press for compassionate immigration reform at Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove on Nov. 16, 2013. (Photo by KEVIN SULLIVAN, O.C. Register/SCNG.)Show Caption of Expand
Led by bishops in Orange County, San Bernardino and the San Gabriel region, 26 pastors urged Walters (R-Laguna Beach) and Royce (R-Fullerton) – both Catholics – “to actively support” passage of legislation that would allow the children to have a path to citizenship.
“It is essential to move beyond general statements of support,” read the Dec. 1 open letter, signed by the pastors and Rev. Kevin Vann, bishop of Orange, Gerald Barnes, bishop of San Bernardino, and David O’Connell, auxiliary bishop in the San Gabriel region of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
The letter requests a meeting with the Republican leaders. It is the first time in recent memory that bishops and all pastors of an Orange County congressional district have called on legislators for action.
“It’s a somewhat unique letter,” said Greg Walgenbach, director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace for the Diocese of Orange.
Walters, who has expressed sympathy toward DACA recipients, has seen an uptick in rallies calling for her to support one of the bills floating in Congress on the issue. Her vote is considered by some a key Republican swing vote.
Earlier this week, Walters signed a letter calling on Congress to pass legislation before the end of the year to protect those under DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
“I appreciate the passion that some members of the church have shown on this issue, and I share their urgency,” Walters said in an e-mail Friday to the Southern California News Group. “Caring for all of God’s children is at the core of our Catholic faith.
“DACA recipients enrich our community and are building their American dream,” she said. “That is why I signed a letter this week calling on Congress to pass bipartisan legislation that would allow DACA recipients to remain the United States, and continue their great contributions to Orange County.”
Royce could not be reached for comment Friday. He has previously said he supports legal residency but opposes including a path to citizenship.
Royce has been a target for years of immigrant-rights advocates, who regularly rally outside his Brea office. In 2013, some 1,500 Catholics prayed outside his closed office for the congressman to “have a change of heart” and support undocumented immigrants seeking citizenship.
As Catholics gather this month to celebrate the Christmas season, Orange County’s top bishops are calling on their pastors and congregants to pray for DACA youth and other immigrants.
A second letter, sent to parishes Friday, includes an Advent prayer which in part says: “Grant, O Lord, unto the leaders of the United States the wisdom and teachable spirit to recognize the good gifts that we receive from DACA youth and other immigrant Dreamers, the conviction to respect their life and dignity, and the courage to pass legislation to protect their stay here and offer a path to eventual citizenship.”
The same letter asks Catholics to contact their representatives, and includes a sample message. That letter was shared on the website of a national Catholic nonprofit that advocates for low-income immigrants and is headed by Bishop Vann.
Not all Catholics have agreed with their spiritual leaders’ stance. Some have argued that immigration is a divisive issue and the church should not be enmeshed in it.
Walgenbach, of the Diocese of Orange, disagreed.
“It’s hard for me to imagine a faith that would not speak to the reality of Dreamers threatened by deportation,” he said. “Our faith speaks to every aspect of the human condition.”
Source: Oc Register