WASHINGTON — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has responded cautiously to President Donald Trump’s proposal to extend protections for those eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, commonly referred to as “Dreamers.”
The president proposed an extension, along with other measures, in exchange for funding for a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The president made the proposals Jan. 19 as part of the ongoing efforts to end the partial government shutdown that has now lasted a month.
“We are encouraged by the president’s openness to providing legislative relief for TPS holders and existing DACA recipients,” the bishops wrote in a Jan. 20 statement signed by USCCB president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration.
“However, we understand that the president’s proposal would only provide temporary relief, leaving many in a continued vulnerable state. We believe that a permanent legislative solution for TPS holders and for all Dreamers is vital.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., dismissed the president’s proposals, with Shumer calling them “not a compromise but more hostage-taking.”
The statement from DiNardo and Vásquez said that temporary measures would do little to reassure the families of children currently without a permanent resolution to their status.
“Throughout our parishes, there are many DACA youth and TPS holders, who have lived substantial parts of their lives in the U.S. contributing to this country. We listen [to] and understand the fear and uncertainty they and their families face and the anguish that they are currently experiencing as their existing immigration protections hang in the balance and come to an end,” the statement said.
“Temporary relief will not ease those fears or quell that anxiety. It is for this reason that we have long advocated for comprehensive immigration reform; reform that will provide permanent solutions: including border security, protection for vulnerable unaccompanied children and asylum seekers, and a defined path to citizenship to enable our immigrant brothers and sisters to fully contribute to our society.”
In a 13-minute address from the White House on Saturday, President Trump laid out what has been widely interpreted as a compromise offer on immigration and border security aimed at breaking the impasse between the administration and congressional Democrats.
The president has been at loggerheads with Pelosi and Schumer over support for his so-called border wall. The impasse over federal funding has led to a partial shutdown that has left hundreds of thousands of federal workers on furlough and without pay.
Trump said his offer to extend the existing status of TPS and DACA claimants was accompanied by other measures aimed at “protecting migrant children from exploitation and abuse,” including a proposal to allow minors to apply for asylum in the U.S. from their country of origin.
The plan also includes $5.7 billion for what Trump called “a strategic deployment of physical barriers, or a wall” along the southern border.
On these proposals, the USCCB statement expressed serious reservations, saying the president’s plan could make the current situation for unaccompanied minors worse, not better.
“The proposal calls for the construction of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, a proposal that our brother bishops on both sides of the U.S. border with Mexico oppose, and it suggests changes in current law that would make it more difficult for unaccompanied children and asylum seekers to access protection.”
Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Vásquez urged leaders from both parties to reach a solution to the shutdown quickly and to recognize “the economic struggle that many families are facing, including those dependent on federal workers and those assisted by critical nutrition and housing programs.”
“We look forward to reviewing the president’s proposal in detail and hope to work with the White House and Congress to advance legislation that shows compassion, keeps us safe and protects the vulnerable.”