The National Association of Diocesan Directors of Hispanic Pastoral Care of the United States (NACDHM, in its English acronym) ended its National Convention last week. The main topic of the day was the active participation of Catholic Hispanic leaders in the social reality of Hispanic immigrants, at a time when politics jeopardizes with merciless force 11 million immigrants in the whole country.
The subject of migrants was reflected upon from the perspective of the Social Doctrine of the Church. The first talk was by Donald Kerwin, Jr., Executive Director of the Center for Migration Studies. He spoke on Catholic Social Teaching on Migrants and Refugees: A Call to Solidarity and to Action.
Then, in keeping with the current fostered by the Church, especially since the Convocation of Catholic Leaders that took place in Orlando, Florida in July, with the participation of more than 3,000 lay leaders and 180 Bishops, a panel discussed the subject of The Church in the Peripheries: Where We Have Been and Where We Are Now, by Ivonne Guillen and Jill Rauh, for the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development of the U.S. Episcopal Conference.
Zenit asked the President of the National Association of Diocesan Directors of Hispanic Pastoral Care, Uruguayan Estela Villagran Manancero, the reason for the stress on the social topic during the day, who said that “this Conference of 2017 is atypical. Since the celebration of the 25 years of history of the Association, we have been evaluating how we should go on, how we should continue accompanying the Directors and at the same time stretch their comfort zone. With the help of some friends, who reminded us of the power we represented, we began to dream with a day of lobbying. The idea was that Directors of Pastoral Care should visit the offices of Senators and Representatives to request that they support the cause of immigrants.” In regard to the procedure followed, Villagran Manancero commented: “We prepared our members during the year through Webinars about urgent matters that we had to defend, with practical techniques to make the visits to the lawmakers. During the Conference, we had different workshops to inform on ways to behave and expectations. We also had a presentation of the reality of the present changes and their relation to the Social Doctrine of the Church.”
In regard to the action undertaken, the President expressed that “a day of the Annual Conference was dedicated to lobbying. The Diocesan Directors of Hispanic Pastoral Care in the United States decided to visit our national Senators and Representatives to defend the rights of our dreamers, of our young people, who arrived in the country when they were small and have a whole life established here, but they lack residence documents. They are protected by DACA but they can lose the protection.”
DACA and the Dreamers
DACA, acronym for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an Executive Order of former President Barack Obama of 2012, issued to benefit an important group of immigrants that arrived in the country before they were 16 years old, who do not have legal residence in the United States, who are going ahead with their studies and have not been convicted of serious crimes. They are called dreamers. 800,000 young people presented themselves to be admitted to this program.
On September 5, President Donald Trump announced that the program was rescinded, which means that new requests are not accepted. Those benefitted by DACA, who have a work permit that expires before March 5, 2018, will be able to renew it for two years. The Executive Power is giving Congress a six-month period, beginning on September 5, to take a position before the Federal Government cancels officially the renewal of permits to those benefitted by DACA.
Addressing the topic, Lia Salinas, Directress of the Hispanic Ministry of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, said that “Today we have come to advocate for the dreamers, to be a voice before our lawmakers, to ask them to renew the Dream Act – DACA –, and also to support the management of the TPS (Temporary Protected Status), which protects Central Americans and Haitians, and also to advocate for help for the foreigners who arrived through Catholic Relief Services and Bread for the World.”
In turn, Monsignor Alberto Rojas, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, and adviser of the National Association of Directors of Hispanic Pastoral Care, clarified that “the lobbying was done because of the very great need that exists to support the many migrants who had spent so much time here, especially the dreamers, to whom the program of protection – DACA –, is suddenly cut and they have nowhere to go.”
Monsignor Jose Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles and Vice-President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) celebrated the final Mass of the Conference… Before the celebration, Archbishop Gomez gave a talk on Hispanic Leadership in our Church in the United States and our missionary option. In this connection, Bishop Rojas said that “the missionary option stems from the Christian message, which is missionary in essence: to take Jesus’ message everywhere. “We hope that all the leaders of Hispanic Pastoral Care will continue to be interested in being formed, in being more prepared to be able to serve better,” he concluded.
At the end of the Conference, Villagran Manancero said that it was “a Conference focused on action. We all felt that we contributed our grain of sand to the change of the votes of the law to protect young people under DACA. We were protagonists of our destiny and with it we intend to fulfill the mandate, which Baptism gives us, to be prophets, criticizing the injustices of our migratory system.” In regard to the future aims of the Association, Villagran mentioned that “the idea for next year is to finish the 5th Meeting of Hispanic Pastoral Care, to open our arms to our Afro-American brothers and to continue in collaboration with other organizations that fight for the same ideals.” “We also want to aim at the professionalization of our Association. We need an office and an Executive Director,” she concluded.
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester