The Maryland Catholic Conference is pleased to announce today the creation of an Interdiocesan Immigration Task Force, whose mission will be to educate Maryland Catholics about why the DREAM Act deserves their support, and to help them make the connection between Gospel values and the Church’s public policy positions on immigration. The DREAM Act provides tuition equity for all students who have been residing in Maryland for at least three years while attending high school. The task force will be chaired by Bishop Francisco González, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, and will include representatives from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington and Diocese of Wilmington, which each have territory in Maryland.
As a first step, the Maryland Catholic Conference has launched a Facebook page dedicated to the issue of immigration as a way to connect people to this issue and educate them (http://www.facebook.com/JusticeforMDImmigrants).
“We recognize the powerful emotions people have on immigration, which is a very complex issue,” said Conference Executive Director Mary Ellen Russell. “Like the immigrants of today, many of our grandparents came to America searching for a better life. Many did not come with documents, but all came with hope for a better future. They came for the American dream, as do the immigrants of today.
“The Church does not condone breaking the law, and fully recognizes the legitimate concerns our state and country face regarding illegal immigration. These problems cannot be solved, however, by harshly denying the needs of those who live and work among us here and now. And especially, in the case of the DREAM Act, legitimate concerns over illegal immigration cannot be solved by denying the needs of children.
“As we consider the young people who will be helped by this new law, we remember that many did not come to America on their own. They were children following their parents or aunts and uncles. As children, we would have done just the same.
“The DREAM Act is a just, practical, and humane way to allow deserving young people, many of whom know only America, to continue their education and to join their Maryland classmates in maximizing their God-given talents,” said Russell.
Under the DREAM Act, immigrant students will not take seats from other Maryland resident students who are U.S. citizens, but must apply at first to community colleges, which have open enrollments. After two years, students are then eligible – if they qualify academically – to apply to state universities at the in-state tuition rate. If they are accepted, their seats may not be counted among the seats the University of Maryland system is required to reserve for resident students who are US citizens. Immigrant students are not eligible to receive scholarship assistance. They must provide documentation that they or their parents have and will continue to pay state income taxes.
Our faith calls us to embrace all, even the ‘stranger,’ because Christ dwells in us all. “To welcome him and to show him solidarity is a duty of hospitality and fidelity to Christian identity itself,” said Blessed John Paul II in Undocumented Immigrants. Our starting point in deciding how society should treat an individual is not their legal status, but rather their human dignity.
Maryland Catholic Conference advocates for the Church's public policy positions before the Maryland General Assembly and other civil officials. The Conference represents all three dioceses with territory in the state – the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.