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Archbishop Wester calls on Congress to restore DACA

Archbishop John Wester

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — President Donald Trump’s announcement that the U.S. will end a program that protects young immigrants “is nothing less than cruel” and amounts to a betrayal of national values of fairness, opportunity and freedom, Archbishop of Santa Fe John C. Wester said Tuesday.

Wester called on Congress and New Mexico’s congressional delegation to pass legislation that would restore the program.

“Sadly, with this decision we are betraying these values, dimming the hopes of these young people, and, because of it, are less as a nation,” Wester said in a written statement. “To deport them to countries they do not know would be nothing less than cruel.”

In a phone interview Tuesday, Wester called a bipartisan DREAM Act “low hanging fruit” that Congress can approve, even if it can’t agree on comprehensive immigration reform.

“It seems this is somethings we can wrap our mindsĀ  around and get done,” Wester said.

Wester also said he senses anxiety among young people registered through the DACA program in New Mexico.

“There’s tremendous worry,” he said. The youths trusted the government enough to register and provide personal information, only to learn that the U.S. now may violate that trust, he said.

“Now they are very vulnerable because we know where they are, who they are,” he said.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions today declared the Obama administration’s program “an unconstitutional exercise of authority” that must be revoked. The administration is giving Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix before the government stops renewing permits for people already covered by the program.

Wester called for New Mexicans to urge their elected leaders to pass a bipartisan DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform.

“I am deeply troubled by the president’s decision today to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects more than 800,000 young immigrants from deportation,” Wester said in his statement. “In my judgment, DACA has stood as a counterpoint to the voices of exclusion and now, without the action of Congress, this crucial support for these young immigrants has been taken away.

“DACA recipients are talented, hard working, and full of potential and promise,” Wester said. “Many live here in New Mexico. Having arrived here as minors through no fault of their own, they want to contribute their skills and allegiance to the only country they have ever known.”