Archbishop Chaput to Trump: Don't kill DACA

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput during the dedication of a “homeless Jesus” statue earlier this year.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput declared his strong support on Friday for a program that blocks the deportation of immigrants illegally brought to this country as children, speaking out as tensions escalate around a pending presidential decision on its future.

“It’s one thing to tighten the security of our borders and to deport violent criminals,” the archbishop said in a statement. “It’s a different and much uglier thing to punish young people who’ve grown up in the United States as their home.”

Across the country, proponents and opponents of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) awaited action from President Trump. The White House faces pressure from 10 states that have threatened to sue the government if the initiative is not revoked by Tuesday.

Local supporters plan to rally outside the Philadelphia offices of the Justice Department at 10 a.m. Tuesday, saying they intend to “stand up against white supremacy, against the criminalization of our communities,” and defend “our rights to be in the place we call home.”

Since going into effect in 2012, DACA has allowed undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors to gain renewable, two-year deferments from deportation and be eligible for work permits.

Commonly called “Dreamers” — for Dream Act legislation that has failed to pass — recipients may live, work, and seek education in the United States, though they do not receive citizenship or legal status. Nearly 790,000 recipients have been able to contribute to their communities, pay taxes, hold jobs, and support families without fear of being deported.

“We love the dreamers, we love everybody,” Trump told reporters on Friday.  Asked what he would say to young immigrants who are awaiting his decision and worried about their futures, he replied, “I think the dreamers are terrific.”

Trump said he would announce the fate of the Obama-era program late Friday or over the weekend, though a White House spokesman later said that the decision would be made public on Tuesday.

On Friday, Chaput joined a chorus of religious leaders, university officials and business executives imploring Trump not to rescind DACA.

“The White House has the power to end DACA. It has threatened to do so as early as today. This would be a drastic mistake,” the archbishop said. “It can only make our complicated immigration issues worse. It will poison our national debates and damage the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people who pose no threat to anyone.

“I ask the people of the archdiocese to press their federal lawmakers to find a positive legislative replacement for DACA, and to prevent the deportation of these young people.”

As a candidate, Trump pledged to end the program, calling it an abuse of presidential authority. Yet he also has spoken highly of DACA recipients who have gone to college and launched careers, saying only four months ago that undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children should “rest easy.”

Diane Randall, executive secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, said Quakers seek a nation “where everyone’s potential may be fulfilled,” and that rescinding DACA “denies young immigrants a genuine chance to thrive in the only place that they call home.”

About 350 business leaders and entrepreneurs from firms including Apple, General Motors, eBay, Facebook, Netflix, Google and Marriott International called on the president to preserve the program, arguing that DACA recipients are vital to their companies and to the nation’s economy.

Without them, the leaders wrote in an open letter, the economy would lose $460.3 billion in gross domestic product and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions. With them, the letter said, new jobs are created, and the U.S. enhances a competitive advantage in business.

DACA opponents say the federal government must enforce its immigration laws fairly and equally, without special provisions and exceptions based on age. The blame for this situation, they say, rests with immigrant parents who knowingly broke the law. They say DACA makes the U.S. an “amnesty magnet” that will attract more and more undocumented people.

“When you reward bad behavior, you get more of it,” wrote Dale Wilcox, executive director for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, in a column for the Hill, a newspaper covering politics.

On Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan urged the president not to terminate the program, to instead allow Congress to develop a legislative solution. Other Republicans have done the same.

“All the rumors on DACA would give anyone whiplash,” said Cristina Jimenez, executive director of United We Dream, the nation’s largest youth-led immigrant organization. “Clearly, there are divisions between White House advisers who know DACA works and between the white supremacists who want to intimidate, detain and deport immigrants. We are escalating our fight to defend DACA.”