The bishop of Des Moines, Iowa, is urging congress to pass the DREAM Act, insisting that the U.S. immigration system is “unjust.”
Some forty percent of the Des Moines diocese is of Hispanic origin, according to local Bishop Richard Pates, who recently visited ICE detainees in Iowa’s Polk County Jail before holding a press conference in which he called for passage of the DREAM Act.
“These Dreamers really are, in the best sense of the word, Americans,” Bishop Pates said in an interview with Crux, an online Catholic website.
Pates told Crux that he had recently met with 20 incarcerated immigrants with the intent of providing “support, encouragement, and understanding” to the ICE detainees.
“These young people have so much talent to share,” Pates said, and he wanted to meet them and hear their stories.
“These are our neighbors, our friends and our family. They are facing deportation,” he said. “Many are being torn from their families during the Christmas season because of an unjust immigration system.”
The DREAM Act would allow certain young immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally to stay in the country for employment or to continue their education.
Pates said that immigration is currently the “number one policy priority of the bishops,” adding that protecting DACA beneficiaries is “morally imperative.”
“And you know, we believe in miracles,” Pates said in the press conference. “I think in a very special way we have to keep our attention to it. It is a moral issue for us and we will not relent.”
In an official statement last January, Bishop Pates said he was “very disheartened” by President Trump’s priority of building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.
“I have been personally informed, in the present immigration context, of many people in our community living in fear, families who are struggling to maintain stability and family life, and children being traumatized in our schools,” he said. “As the shepherd of all of our people of Catholic faith, I assure those under present threat that they will not be abandoned by me or the Diocese of Des Moines. They can be assured of my loyalty and support.”
In late September the Vatican announced a two-year campaign called “Share the Journey” to educate people about the plight of migrants, and to encourage a more welcoming attitude toward.
“Brothers, we mustn’t be afraid to share the journey! We mustn’t be afraid to share the hope!” Francis said in his weekly General Audience in which he inaugurated the project.
The global Catholic charities network Caritas Internationalis is spearheading the campaign, looking to promote awareness and action on behalf of migrants and refugees and assist them in building connections with local communities.
According to Caritas, the project was launched as a response to Pope Francis’ frequent summons for a “culture of encounter.”
Our world “faces not a migration crisis, but a crisis of global solidarity,” Caritas said on its website. “Be part of a worldwide campaign to reach out to migrants, change perceptions, open hearts and minds, and strengthen the bonds that unite us all.”