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Catholic bishops urge US Senate to pass a delayed immigration reform bill

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CNA Staff, Jun 5, 2020 / 02:19 pm MT (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ migration chairman called on Congress to advance a bill that would help “Dreamers” and other immigrants gain a pathway to citizenship.

Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington, issued a statement June 4 challenging the Senate to reconsider the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R.6).

“One year ago, today the House of Representatives passed H.R.6, a bill offering a pathway to citizenship to Dreamers, TPS and DED holders. Today, sadly, Dreamers and TPS holders remain vulnerable and without permanent legal status,” he said.

“As we await a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on the legality of ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, we again call on the Senate to push forward with legislation that provides a path to citizenship for these individuals, who are essential to our communities, our Church and our country.”

The bill had passed the House by a 237-187 vote June 4, 2019. It seeks to make citizenship an easier option for “Dreamers,” children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents; immigrants with Temporary Protected Status; and Deferred Enforced Departure holders.

Dorsonville said the lack of certainty that such migrants face is a particular stress during the coronavirus pandemic, as many of them work in health care or other sectors that may expose them to the virus.

“This continued uncertainty for Dreamers and TPS holders comes at a time during the COVID-19 pandemic when many Dreamers and TPS holders are, alongside U.S. citizens, on the frontlines providing essential work for our country in health care, food supply, and transportation. For example, currently, more than 62,000 workers. . . who are DACA-eligible are working in healthcare,” he said.

If it became law, the bill would immediately grant qualifying childhood arrivals 10 years of legal residence. With two years of higher education or military service, or three years of employment, they could then receive permanent legal residence.

In the cases of armed conflict, natural disasters, or other extraordinary conditions, TPS allows people who are unable to return safely to their home countries to remain in the United States until the disaster is resolved. It protects them from deportation and grants them permission to work. TPS is available to qualified individuals from 10 foreign countries, including El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti.

Similarly, DED protects from deportation people from countries or regions facing political violence or natural disaster, and allows them to work. The status is currently given only to Liberians.

Under the bill, those with TPS or DED could apply for lawful permanent residence if they have been in the country for at least three years and have passed background checks. After five years of lawful permanent residence, they would apply for citizenship.

Over a year ago, Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston decried an alternative immigration plan from the Trump Administration. The plan prioritizes immigration status based on skills rather than family ties. It would not provide legal status for “Dreamers” nor does it provide a clear path to citizenship for TPS holders.

“We oppose proposals that seek to curtail family-based immigration and create a largely ‘merit-based’ immigration system,” they said. “Families are the foundation of our faith, our society, our history, and our immigration system.”

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