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Bishops urge bipartisan plan to stop shutdown

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and Congress "must come together" to reach a bipartisan solution that reopens the government and "recognizes the economic struggle" now facing federal workers and their families and all those helped by federal nutrition and housing programs, said two U.S. bishops.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Tex., chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, issued a joint statement late Jan. 20 in reaction to a plan announced a day earlier by Trump.

They said they were encouraged by the president's plan to provide protections for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, known as DACA, and those covered by Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, but said such protections must be permanent, not temporary, as Trump has proposed. "A permanent legislative solution" for TPS holders and DACA recipients "is vital," they said.

Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Vasquez reiterated the strong objection the U.S. bishops and Mexico's bishops have to construction of "a wall" across the U.S.-Mexico border, and expressed concern Trump's latest proposal will make changes "in current law that would make it more difficult for unaccompanied children and asylum seekers to access protection."

Elements of the proposal Trump announced Jan. 19 from the Diplomatic Room at the White House include $5.7 billion to fund a "steel barrier" system, including technology, in "priority areas" on the southern border as identified by the U.S. Border Patrol.

He also said he would provide three years of protection from deportation for DACA recipients and those currently protected by TPS.

"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," Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Vasquez said. "We listen 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.

They said that "temporary relief will not ease those fears or quell that anxiety," which is why the Catholic bishops "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."

Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Vasquez said they looked 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."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a tweet that "Trump has put forward a serious and reasonable offer to reform parts of our broken immigration system and reopen government. The moment now turns to Nancy Pelosi and (Sen.) Chuck Schumer. The country is watching."

An aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., told The New York Times the senator was expected to introduce legislation as early as Jan. 22 that would include Trump's proposal in a bigger package that would include billions of dollars in disaster relief "and immediately reopen the government."


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019