Church asks local Catholics to support immigration reform

Jana Benscoter
York Dispatch

A high school student-athlete trying to become a pediatrician should not be deported from the United States because Washington is dragging its feet on fixing immigration laws.

That's according to the Rev. Johnathan Sawicki of York City’s St. Mary’s Church. His parish, which offers a Spanish-speaking Mass, stands with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The conference is supporting both the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival and the proposed Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.

DACA and the DREAM Act are two different issues.

Dreamers can be protected by DACA, which provided work access for undocumented immigrants ages 15 to 36 who were brought to the United States by their parents. It also alleviated fears of deportation over two-year periods that could be renewed. 

More:Trump says GOP leaders ‘on board’ in immigration talks

More:Trump denies ‘deal’ with Democrats on young immigrants, DACA

More:Trump’s DACA ‘wind down’ draws swift rebuke locally, nationwide

A young supporter of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA holds a sign during rally in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, Sept. 4, 2017. President Donald Trump is expected to announce this week that he will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, but with a six-month delay, according to two people familiar with the decision-making. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

The DREAM Act would provide amnesty to nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants. They mostly hail from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, according to the White House.

News from the White House that Congress has six months to create new DACA rules, or it could be rescinded in its entirety, spurred Catholics to action. 

Sawicki said he will be contacting his lawmakers. 

Speaking about the high school DACA student, he explained, "His dad was just picked up by (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents at a construction site.”

"That doesn't make practical or economic sense," he said.

The common sense aspect, Sawicki continued, is lacking in Washington. 

Pastor Very Rev Jonathan Sawicki VF. Submitted/photo

"Washington decides it is not in the best interest to work with people who are without documented papers, but they pay taxes," he said. "Isn’t that in our best interest, to keep (undocumented immigrants) on the path they are on?”

In a statement, the Diocese of Harrisburg also criticized Trump's DACA directive.

It supports the conference's perspective that whether Republican or Democrat, "the Catholic faithful and all people of good will" should contact their congressional representative to "urge the passage of the DREAM Act, or similar legislation as a prompt, humane and durable solution."

Young, undocumented Americans have contributed to Pennsylvania's economy, Gov. Tom Wolf wrote in a letter to the commonwealth's congressional lawmakers. He cited the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Gov. Tom Wolf

DACA beneficiaries contributed more than $20 million to Pennsylvania in state and local taxes in 2016, Wolf wrote.  

"Ending DACA would cost Pennsylvania $13.2 million in state and local taxes and, according to the Center for American Progress, nearly $357.1 million in annual GDP losses," he noted. 

"They are our family members, our neighbors and our co-workers," Wolf wrote of DACA beneficiaries. "They are athletes, artists, professionals and public servants. They are not and should not be a priority for deportation.”