Don't blame the children - Senate should OK plan for kids of illegals
By Bishop Thomas Wenski

.- Comprehensive immigration reform midwifed by Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez was stillborn earlier this summer. The consequences of this failure are real.

Agriculture and business leaders in Florida and elsewhere contemplate the economic loss if willing workers are not available to do work that otherwise won't get done.

But, more tragically, the consequences are reflected more than just in economic indices.
They have human faces.

The faces of millions of men, women and children who because of the lack of legal remedies to address their immigration status live in a fearful limbo with their lives and the futures put indefinitely on hold.

However, the Senate can yet partially redeem itself -- at least by providing a small measure of relief to a rather discrete population:

The kids.

These children are in "undocumented" status through no fault of their own. They came to this country with their parents -- in many cases as infants -- and many of them have excelled in school and would have bright futures if only they had legal status.

Sen. Dick Durban, D-Ill., has revived his Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM, as an amendment to a Defense Authorization Bill that will soon come to a vote in the Senate.

Immigrant students who have grown up in the U.S., graduated from high school here, and can demonstrate good moral character would initially qualify for "conditional lawful permanent resident" status, which would normally last for six years.

During the conditional period, the immigrant would be required to go to college, join the military, or work a significant number of hours of community service.

At the end of the conditional period, those who meet at least one of these requirements would be eligible for regular lawful permanent resident status.

The DREAM Act would give these young people an opportunity to meet their potential and to fully contribute to our society. This is not only good for them, but good for our country.

While some in the Senate are reluctant to attach such amendments to a defense bill, it is hard not to recognize that our armed forces would welcome some of these bright young men and women eager to prove their loyalty to the only country that they really know.

To be accepted as an amendment, the DREAM Act requires the affirmative vote of 60 senators.

If enacted, it would have a life-changing impact on the students who qualify -- and not only on the qualifying students but all of American society will benefit as the success stories of earlier generations of child immigrants -- like the Cuban children of the 1960's Operation "Pedro Pan" -- have amply demonstrated.

In the few past months, here in Central Florida I have met scores of similarly situated young people from Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Haiti and elsewhere. To deny our young neighbors a future is a tremendous waste of human talent and potential.

These children talk like Americans in perfect U.S. accents, think like Americans and certainly eat like Americans.

Will there be 60 senators willing to be "profiles in courage" so that these young people can dream like Americans?

Wenski is the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Orlando diocese, which includes Brevard County. He is also chairman of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops International Policy Committee.

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April 20, 2014


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Gospel of the Day

Lk 24:13-35


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First Reading:: Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Second Reading:: Col 3:1-4
Gospel:: Jn 20:1-9

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Lk 24:13-35


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