For nearly two years, the Office of Cultural Diversity and Outreach at the Archdiocese of Washington has taken steps to demonstrate the Church’s desire to accompany our young immigrants, particularly those commonly known as Dreamers. Many of these young people have been affected by the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. With their lives being thrown into uncertainty, the presence of the Church has been a source of strength for these promising young people. 

The Office of Cultural Diversity and Outreach has provided opportunities for young people to pray together, to find strength in one another, and to lay their burdens at the foot of the cross. Their voices have been elevated through advocacy and through efforts by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as by other local initiatives. The office has created resources to invite all Catholics to pray for the needs of all migrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking. 

Recently, His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl met with more than a dozen of these young people to hear their stories and to express his closeness and preoccupation for their precarious situation.  

A participant in this gathering shared the story of her mother spending her first paycheck to purchase a mattress that provided relief from days of sleeping on the hard floor. Another talked about the swirling emotions experienced after encountering his mother after a long separation. Another spoke of his experience of crossing many borders, risking danger and violence to be able to reunite with loved ones on this side of the border. Violence, persecution, extreme poverty and natural disasters were quoted as some of the reasons for their families to make the difficult decision to abandon everything they knew in search of a better life. 

Hearing one story after another, it was difficult not to draw parallels to the experiences of past generations of immigrants who came to this country. The factors that once pushed previous waves of immigrants still exist today, and the drama continues to play out. 

In sharing with Cardinal Wuerl, many of the participants said the DACA program has been life altering. Many found an opportunity to pursue their dreams, attend college or find good jobs that would allow them to support their families. Now, they contemplated a scenario where they would loose everything. What weighed most in their hearts was not being able to support their families. 

Each story also expressed hope, resiliency and trust in the will of God. Echoing those words, Cardinal Wuerl encouraged our young immigrants to continue to persevere in their faith and in their witness. He praised them for their work, their dedication to family and their faith. He asked them not to despair and to be certain that the Church speaks to protect and defend them. And while the voice of the Church might sometimes fall on deaf ears, the Church will not tire in protecting her children. 

(Javier Bustamante is the Executive Director of Cultural Diversity and Outreach for the Archdiocese of Washington.)