Rt. Reverend Douglas Fisher: Support US. Dreamers, for them and nation

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Rt. Reverend Douglas Fisher

SPRINGFIELD — I am the great-grandson of immigrants. America is my home because my family crossed the sea in the late 19th century. Many immigrants came as children — with no say in the matter.

Not much has changed. The children of immigrants are part of the fabric of our communities. They have attended our schools, worshiped in our churches, and grown into contributing members of society. Since 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has offered a legal pathway to nearly 800,000 young people for whom America is the only home they can remember. In our great Commonwealth, more than 7,900 young people have come forward, passed background checks and now live and work legally among us, contributing their gifts and efforts to the common good. DACA has made this possible, but DACA is in danger.

Two opposing forces are in motion. Ten attorneys general have asked the Trump administration to repeal DACA before Sept. 5 and end the hopes of young Dreamers. In late July, Sen. Graham (R-S.C.), with Senators Flake (R-AZ), Durbin (D-IL) and Schumer (D-N.Y.-) and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Roybal-Allard (D-CA) introduced the Dream Act — a legal pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth who pay a fee and pass a rigorous background check. DACA, as it stands, or the proposed Dream Act, create the possibility of attaining the legal right to call this place home.

If DACA is repealed, lives will be irrevocably changed and we will be the lesser for it. Economically, we will lose over 650,000 workers currently contributing to our workforce and paying taxes. Experts in these matters suggest that the national GDP will lose close to $460 billion over the next 10 years. It's a lose-lose proposition for immigrant youth and for the U.S. economy.

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I advocated for DACA between 2002-2012 when I worked with Rural and Migrant Ministry, a statewide, non-profit organization in N.Y. Richard Witt, executive director of RMM, tells of two children who are grown now and because of DACA, they are making a difference here.

"Laura, arrived when she was eight years old not speaking any English. Through the years she not only learned English, but graduated from high school, went to college and today is a prominent member of her community where she works as a program director for the YWCA. Laura also serves on the board of several non-profit organizations and is active in her town's affairs as well as the local school board. Each summer she takes a week of her vacation time to volunteer as a counselor in the overnight camp that first welcomed her as an eight-year-old.

"Kimberly is a senior in college, where she works at three jobs throughout the school year to afford the tuition. She has received numerous awards from the college for her leadership in responding to community needs. She also tutors younger children. Presently she is advising the college on how to take advantage of the gifts and wisdom that immigrant students bring from their experiences."

As a priest and now as a bishop, I see DACA as more than a means to an end. Extending this hope to immigrant youth is an acknowledgement of the innocence and powerlessness of children everywhere. Our faith requires that we protect the most vulnerable among us. Giving these Dreamers a chance to live in the light and work toward citizenship is good for us. It is good for the soul of this great nation. I urge you to speak up now for these Dreamers.

The Episcopal Church stands firmly in support of a legal pathway for immigrant youth. If you'd like to contact your representatives in Congress to express your support for the Dream Act, visit: http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/action.

The Rt. Reverend Douglas J. Fisher is Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts.


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