Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles has articulated the U.S. bishops' support for the DREAM Act, a proposal that would grant citizenship to many children whose parents brought them into the U.S. illegally.
The Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, Archbishop Gomez advocated the act's passage in a Dec. 2 letter to the U.S. Congress. He described the DREAM act as “a practical, fair, and compassionate solution for thousands of young persons” who had not voluntarily broken the law.
“It is important to note that these young people entered the United States with their parents at a young age,” he wrote, “and therefore did not enter without inspection on their own volition. We would all do the same thing in a similar situation.” Many of them, he said, have never known any country other than the U.S.
The act's full title is the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. It would allow young people who entered the United States before the age of 16 to apply for legal permanent residence and eventual citizenship, as long as they completed two years of higher education or military service.
The act's main support in Congress comes from Democrats, many of whom consider it an effective and fair solution to a problem that young people did not bring on themselves. However, some Republicans have warned that the bill would create more incentive for others to enter the country illegally in the future.
A spokesperson for Senator John McCain (R – Ariz.) has said the 2008 presidential candidate, a former sponsor of the bill, now “opposes the DREAM Act and believes we must secure our borders first.” Most Republicans currently oppose the act, and some have threatened to block its passage with a filibuster. President Barack Obama strongly supports its passage.
Archbishop Gomez called attention to a number of qualifications in the bill, which differentiate it from the blanket immigration amnesty some Republicans fear.
He explained that it allows “deserving immigrant youth” to become permanent residents, provided they meet certain age and circumstance requirements, have “demonstrated good moral character, have no criminal record and … have earned their high school diploma.” The further step of citizenship would require two years of college or military service.
Given these requirements, the archbishop said, the act's passage was not only a matter of fairness, but an opportunity for the U.S. to reward hardworking and motivated young people who could otherwise be forced to leave.
“Those who would benefit,” he offered, “are talented, intelligent, and dedicated young persons … They can become some of the future leaders of our country, provided we are wise enough to provide them the opportunity to pursue their dreams.”