Representatives Valadao, Costa, McCarthy, Denham, McClintock, McNerney and Nunes:
As the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and a DACA recipient who lives, works and worships in Fresno, respectively, we write to you because we believe that protecting the dignity of every human being, especially that of our children, is central to our national interests and the common good of all our people. We write you in this urgent time, as thousands of families in your districts live in fear and uncertainty due to the lack of progress towards a permanent path toward resident status for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients, TPS (Temporary Protected Status) families and other immigrant families.
The looming expiration of DACA and TPS, and the lack of concerted effort to respond with legislative solutions, suggests that you are indifferent to the trauma and pain that is affecting families across the Valley. The sacredness of the human family should be cause enough for you to make this your priority. Add to this the millions of dollars lost as our economy suffers because our farmers and industries struggle to find employees.
These past few months have seen an unprecedented wave of ICE operations in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and other parts of the state. According to ICE, half of those detained in a recent week-long sweep through the Valley had no criminal history nor prior immigration violation. We implore each of you to actively help pass a clean Dream Act – without any harmful and unneeded “trades” for more border funding or ICE agents. We know that increased funding for immigration enforcement will only result in more families being torn asunder, as we have witnessed here at home just recently.
In addition to the urgent need to pass a solution to DACA, thousands of families in the Central Valley are being affected by the termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadoran and Honduran families, in addition to displaced families from Nicaragua, Nepal, Sudan and Haiti who also face mandatory deportations. TPS is a temporary humanitarian migration program that allows individuals to remain and work lawfully in the U.S. during a time in which it is deemed unsafe for nationals of that country to return home. The Central Valley is home to thousands of families whose TPS will be phased out, forcing our families to return to countries struggling with violence, environmental and humanitarian crises and putting children at risk of losing their parents.
We ask our congressmen, what are you doing to protect those families who pray, work and contribute to their community? We echo other Episcopal bishops in saying we believe that God has called us to care for the foreigner and the marginalized: “So you too should love the immigrant, for that is what you were in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:19). Our nation must not turn its back on TPS recipients and their families; they too are children of God.
Neither Dreamers, nor their parents, are political pawns. Nor are they “chains” in the “chain migration” debate. They are human beings, children of God, and a bedrock of our community. We must stand with and for both Dreamers, TPS recipients and their families during this time of immense vulnerability.
It is not enough to support or sponsor this Dream Act legislation. We ask that you move your respective political parties, and the Trump administration, to advance legislation that protects DACA and TPS families – without criminalizing and jeopardizing other immigrants.
We join bishops from across the country, alongside faith leaders and people of good will, to urge our Congress to protect Dreamers, TPS families, and all undocumented families. And urge all others reading this, the constituents, to call upon your representatives to do what is right. Let our congress members remember the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Truly I tell you whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
The Right Rev. David C. Rice, Bishop, the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin
Karla Arana, leader with Saint Anthony Claret Catholic Church and Faith in the Valley Fresno