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September 01, 2017

Philadelphia archbishop: Ending DACA would be 'drastic mistake'

White House officials say Trump will announce the program's fate next week

As a White House decision nears on whether to keep a program that protects immigrant children from deportation, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput strongly asserted his support for the program on Friday.

Chaput said in a statement that eliminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would be a "drastic mistake."

"It can only make our complicated immigration issues worse," the archbishop said. "It will poison our national debates and damage the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people who pose no threat to anyone."

Named the "Dream Act," DACA covers nearly 800,000 people who came to the United States illegally as children, allowing them to work legally in the country and avoid being deported.

The White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump would decide the fate of the Obama-era policy on Tuesday.

Trump pledged to end the program on the campaign trail, calling it an illegal "amnesty." But after a group of Republican state officials sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in June announcing a Sept. 5 deadline to eliminate the program, the president has spent the last week mulling over the decision.

"I think that this isn't a decision that the president takes lightly and he's taking time and diligent effort to make sure that he goes through every bit of the process," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday. "I think the decision itself is weighing on him, certainly."

Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan and a number of other legislators are urging the president to refrain from scrapping the program to allow them time to come up with a way to protect those who are now covered.

But Chaput wants the program to stay altogether, calling it a humane, just and sensible recognition of the facts.

"Most of these young people have nowhere else to go, and no other home than the United States."

He urged archdiocese members to press their federal lawmakers to find a legislative solution.

"Part of being prolife and pro-religious freedom – both of them vital issues that need our strong support – is a willingness to look past these specific struggles to the dignity of the whole person," Chaput said. "It's one thing to tighten the security of our borders and to deport violent criminals here illegally. It's a different and much uglier thing to punish young people who've grown up in the United States as their home, but whose parents entered the country with them illegally."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.