Leadership Statement Regarding DACA
We are writing to you as the leadership team of the Sisters of Providence, a congregation of approximately 300 women religious whose motherhouse is located in central Indiana. As thousands of young Hoosiers await certainty about their protected status as upheld through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, we urge you to continue to support these essential protections for 800,000 beloved members of our community.
When our foundress, the first Hoosier Saint, Mother Theodore Guerin, arrived in this country with her five companions, she knew what it was to be an outcast. She did not speak English and had few resources for the journey; yet, her choice to embark into unknown territory led to the establishment of schools for vulnerable children at a time when Catholic immigrant communities across Indiana were just being established. She initially refused the invitation to make this journey, but when insisted that the mission would not go forward without her, chose to say “yes” to this call.
Similarly, many young people protected from deportation by DACA have been faced with the traumatic journey to an unknown land. The difference for many DACA recipients is that they have not had a choice but were brought to the U.S. by their parents fleeing violence or seeking to feed their families. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), one third of DACA applicants were age five or younger at arrival.
Despite these traumatic beginnings, DACA recipients have made significant contributions to their communities. DACA recipients are students, parents, architects, lawyers, veterans, artists and leaders in our parishes and cities. Sixty-five percent are currently enrolled in school, and of that group, 70 percent work jobs in addition to attending school. In Indiana, according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, DACA has allowed more than 9,800 young people to come forward, pass background checks, and live and work legally in the country.
Our motherhouse is located in a region with over 30,000 college students enrolled in half a dozen post-secondary institutions. We have seen the positive impact and life these young people, including many DACA recipients, bring to a region that has suffered economically over the past century. Like St. Mother Theodore Guerin, their courage to leave the familiar against all odds has left an indelible mark on our region.
The Sisters of Providence minister with immigrant families and are committed to a nonviolence that makes outdated immigration policy a significant concern and a compelling call to action. In the words of Rev. Joe Vásquez, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, “Your decision to continue this program would ensure that young people can continue to work, study, and be protected from deportation while Congress debates broader legislative fixes to our broken immigration system. A decision to end this program would turn our nation’s back on immigrant youth who are seeking to reach their full God-given potential and fulfill the promise of gratefully giving back to the only country most have ever known.”
We have seen the contributions of immigrants in the early years of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, and we continue to see how new waves of immigrants in our churches bring renewed life, energy, and diverse gifts to our faith communities. This is an opportunity to affirm those contributions.
We encourage you, with St. Mother Theodore, to “Reflect seriously on what you desire to do; above all pray much that our dear Lord may make known to you what he wishes you to do.”
Know that you have our prayerful support in making the right decision to continue the DACA program for the benefit of DACA recipients, our communities, and our country which has always enjoyed renewed strength and innovation in the immigrants who grace our shores.
The Leadership Team of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, IN
Dawn Tomaszewski, S.P.
Lisa Stallings, S.P.
Jeanne Hagelskamp, S.P.
Mary Beth Klingel, S.P.
Jenny Howard, S.P.