SEATTLE – Four Catholic young adults who came to the U.S. as children recently shared stories of the difficulties and anxieties they face as “Dreamers” living under temporary immigration status.
The quartet was featured in a panel discussion during the archdiocese-sponsored “An Encounter with Dreamers,” held Jan. 9 in Seattle to mark National Migration Week, Jan. 8-14. “Dreamers” describes undocumented people who came to this country as children and as adults have been granted temporary status to live and work here through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“I was blown away by the depth of sharing and courage of people in a vulnerable situation,” said Joe Cotton, the archdiocese’s assistant director for pastoral care and outreach. “I was impressed by how articulate they were in expressing the nuances of their situation and how their uncertain status affects family relationships.”
Understanding the anxiety of local Dreamers (the future of DACA is uncertain under the incoming administration) was an important element in planning the event, explained Edwin Ferrera, the archdiocese’s director of multicultural youth and young adult ministry. (Ferrera, who was 15 when he came to the U.S. from El Salvador as an unaccompanied minor, just became a permanent U.S. resident in September, after 26 years.)
About 70 people attended the event, which was sponsored by the archdiocesan offices of Pastoral Care, Missions, and Youth and Young Adult Evangelization, plus the St. James Immigrant Assistance program.
The evening opened with remarks by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, who recently completed a term as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ committee on migration. Humans created borders, the bishop noted, and people migrate across those borders because “every single human being is looking for the same things … for happiness, for life.”
After the bishop’s remarks, a panel discussion was moderated by Michael Ramos, executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle. The panel included Ferrera and the four Dreamers — one who is a college student and the others who hold bachelor’s degrees and are working.
Their stories included the difficulties of getting a college education without being able to apply for financial aid because of their status, said Kelly Hickman, assistant director of the Missions Office. They talked about the uncertainty of living with temporary immigration status and not knowing if their work visas would be renewed. The fact that they have succeeded, Ferrera said, speaks to their “resilience and resourcefulness.”
Cotton described the gathering as “very hopeful, profound and moving. The only thing we forgot was tissue boxes on the tables,” he said. “They were needed.”
Ferrera said he would like to plan more events with Dreamers, for a chance to “sit down with those who oppose programs like DACA and have a conversation, where everyone could listen and see immigrants not as numbers, but as people.”
Immigration summit planned
The archdiocese, St. James Immigrant Assistance and Seattle University are sponsoring “Catholics Called to Accompaniment: An Immigration Summit” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Seattle University Student Center.
The day of “reflection, information and connection” will conclude with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo in the university’s Chapel of St. Ignatius.