For South Jersey ‘Dreamers,’ a ‘feeling of fear’

Father Vince Guest, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Lindenwold, blesses petitions at the parish’s monthly bilingual Mass in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Sept. 12. The Mass included prayers for families that could be affected by President’s Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Photo by James A. McBride

After President Donald Trump announced his decision on Sept. 5 to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and urged Congress to come up with a legislative solution, the futures of almost 800,000 of America’s youth became uncertain.

Trump’s decision was quickly and strongly criticized by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Pope Francis said he had heard of Trump’s decision, but had not had time to study the details of the issue. However, he said, “uprooting young people from their families is not something that will bear fruit.”

In South Jersey, “there is a feeling of fear” among Catholic Hispanics about what is to come, noted Andres Arango, the Bishop’s Delegate for Hispanic Ministry in the Diocese of Camden.

“These ‘Dreamers’ are students, are in the armed forces, are priests and are seminarians,” he said.

As many of them were very young when they immigrated to America with their families, seeking a better life, “it would be difficult for them to go back to a country they don’t know, a language they don’t know,” he added.

“We hope Congress can move and provide a more permanent solution. We need to pray, let our voices be known, and hope and trust in the Lord,” Arango said.

His office is currently promoting an evening for DACA recipients to ask questions and renew their applications at Rutgers Law School, Camden, on Saturday, Sept. 23 from 2-4 p.m. (see sidebar).

Michael Jordan Laskey, director of Life and Social Justice and Vice Chancellor for the City of Camden, noted that the new diocesan Immigrant and Refugee Coalition, comprising individuals from parishes and local organizations, is ready to fight for immigrants and their families.

“The coalition will share experiences and wisdom from working with and organize events,” he said.

Diocesan priests as well, are seeing the impact of President’s Trump decision and what it means.

In Bridgeton, Father David Rivera, parochial vicar of Holy Cross, will lead his faithful in meeting with local City Council next week, and senses hopeful optimism among his community.

“They’re not happy, but in the (long run), they know a good can come out of this — permanent law,” he said “They want to rally for this. Congress has to do the right thing,” he said.

Father Vince Guest, pastor of Lindenwold’s Our Lady of Guadalupe, noted “a lot of fear” in his young parishioners, but is hopeful “for a permanent state of resolution. We’re praying for a change.”

As the grandson of Irish immigrants who stepped onto America’s soil to find liberty, security and roots, Father Guest sees that same “dream and work ethic” in the eyes of Lindenwold’s “Dreamers,” now uneasy, but hopeful, about what’s to come in the months ahead.

“They work and are in school, contributing to this country, and want to make it a better place. They have faith in the church, love for God and have a desire to share the Gospel in their lives.”

******************************************************************************************************DACA presentation and assistance at Rutgers Law School Sept. 23

Rutgers Immigrant Justice Clinic is sponsoring a presentation to answer questions about DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), followed by free assistance with DACA renewal applications for eligible DACA recipients, on Saturday, Sept. 23 from 2-4 p.m. at Rutgers Law School, 217 North 5th Street, Camden.

Only current DACA recipients whose DACA and Work Permit are scheduled to expire on or before March 5, 2018 are eligible to renew; they must renew before Oct. 5.

For those preparing for an application to renew, it is essential to bring: employment authorization card; Social Security Card; NJ License, Permit or ID (if applicable); Approval Notices for Prior DACA and Employment Authorization; passport (even if expired; two passport photos; Certificate of Disposition of any arrest; Advance Parole Letter if you have traveled abroad under DACA; and USCIS fee: $495 money order or check.