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Iowa City Catholic Church Wants Permanent Fix For DACA

Kate Payne

An Iowa City priest wants Congress to support young undocumented immigrants. Iowa's conference of Catholic Bishops is defending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program at a time when its future is unclear.

DACA, was supposed to expire this Monday. But a recent ruling by a California appeals court prevented that, at least until the issue works its way through the courts.

Under the program, unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the country as children are protected from deportation. Father Rudy Juárez at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Iowa City says DACA recipients and Iowans have a lot in common.

“I think most of us would take measures to do something to improve our lot in life. That was the impulse for the Europeans to come to the Americas, some of them legally, some of them not," Juárez said.

He compares DACA holders, who are also referred to as Dreamers, to earlier generations of Iowans who came to the state to raise their families and to farm or mine coal and lead.

"To contribute to the fabric of our society...that's what Iowa is about. We're about hard work, we're about good values, we're about creating stability, we're about being good neighbors," he said. "The vast, vast majority of immigrants, the DACA people, that's what they want to do."

Juárez says he has church members who are in the program and he thinks they deserve to be welcomed. One of the first things visitors to St. Patrick's see is a table covered with political postcards meant for lawmakers, notes about the Catholic church's teachings on accepting migrants and instructions on how to contact Iowans' representatives in Washington. There are envelopes filling up with notes addressed to "Congress" and "ICE", or Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Juárez says faith is a motivating factor.

“We do so not because people are Catholic. We do so because we’re Catholic. We listen to the words of Jesus, ‘I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me,’” Juárez.

Federal numbers show there are about 2,500 DACA holders in the state.