Catholic Charities: Executive order is call-to-action for CCCTX

By Sara Ramirez 
Catholic Charities of Central Texas 

At Catholic Charities of Central Texas (CCCTX), we have one overarching goal: ending poverty in the 25 counties of our diocese. All of our programs — crisis pregnancy and parenting support, financial stability, and Immigration Legal Services — are designed to give Central Texans the help and hope they need to move out of poverty and create brighter futures.
That is why President Obama’s executive action on immigration presents us with a call-to-action. Many of the headlines have been focused on the politics, but little attention has been paid to what the executive action means for families.
Under the new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs, eligible individuals will benefit from protection from deportation for up to three years, a work permit, a Social Security Number and a Texas driver’s license or ID card.
However, the executive action means so much more in terms of Catholic social teaching. As Catholics, we believe in the essential human dignity of every person, as well as the strengthening of the family as our central social institution. This executive action means many families who have long lived in Central Texas can stay together in safety, without fear of deportation.
With the rights inherent in human dignity come responsibilities to one another, to our families and to society at large. This executive action will also give immigrants the opportunity to more fully participate in our society and in the continuance of God’s work. No longer must they live in the shadows.
The link to poverty
This administrative relief also has the potential to increase many families’ financial resources. Many immigrant families have only one legally authorized worker. DAPA and DACA will make it possible for such families to have dual incomes and move out of poverty.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, of the estimated 1.5 million undocumented immigrants living in Texas, 37 percent live below the federal poverty level, a line set at less than $24,000 for a family of four. Can you imagine trying to take care of a family on that amount of money? 
Of the 194 dioceses in the U.S., the Diocese of Austin has the 13th largest immigrant population. For many Central Texas families, this executive action is a game-changer.
How we are responding
An estimated 5 million people nationwide will be eligible for DAPA and the expanded DACA. Right now, we provide high-quality, affordably priced immigration legal services at our offices in Austin and Bryan to individuals living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. In order to serve the thousands of people potentially eligible for executive action, we are taking our normal services on the road. We will hold daylong workshops throughout the diocese to help DACA- and DAPA-eligible individuals file their applications. 
It’s critical for the community to know help from Catholic Charities is available; at times like these, profit-seeking and unqualified individuals pop up, calling themselves “notaries” (exploiting the Latin American meaning of “notario,” where it indicates legal credentials) and charging exorbitant amounts to file immigration paperwork (often incorrectly and fraudulently). Immigrants need to know how to protect themselves from such fraud and to seek assistance from a trustworthy organization such as CCCTX. 
This is an exciting time in our mission to strengthen families and end poverty. Every person we assist has a different story, but they all share a common goal: achieving a brighter future. Please pray for Catholic Charities of Central Texas as we serve our immigrant brothers and sisters.

Sara Ramirez is the executive director of Catholic Charities of Central Texas. She can be reached at (512) 651-6100 or sara-ramirez@ccctx.org.

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