Over the weekend, I joined more than a dozen Catholic healthcare system leaders in urging President Donald Trump to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Now that the decision has been made to end the program, it is imperative that Congress develop and pass a permanent solution that extends the protections for these Dreamers.
As healthcare leaders, we are called to promote and advance the dignity of every human person. Ascension's mission specifically calls us to be "advocates for a compassionate and just society through our actions and our words." The rescission of DACA fails to model a generosity of spirit, especially for those most in need.
As our letter to President Trump noted, we are convinced that this moment provides us with a real opportunity to reaffirm the meaning of the American Dream in our lives.
With our presence in 22 states and the District of Columbia–numbering 2,500 care sites in communities large and small, rural and urban–Ascension is in many ways a microcosm of the U.S. healthcare system. Across the country, caregivers within our emergency departments, urgent-care centers and other settings see firsthand the challenges of those who are most vulnerable–including immigrants and their children. They work alongside and provide assistance to scores of people who are simply trying, each and every day, to live the American Dream.
As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has noted, more than 780,000 youth have received DACA protection since its inception by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2012. We stand in solidarity with the bishops, who have called for the administration "to continue administering the DACA program and to publicly ensure that DACA youth are not priorities for deportation."
Now, with the administration's announced plan for the cancellation of the DACA program, Ascension shares the frustration articulated well by the bishops: "These youth entered the U.S. as minors and often know America as their only home. … Now, after months of anxiety and fear about their futures, these brave young people face deportation. This decision is unacceptable and does not reflect who we are as Americans."
Ascension's concern about the cancellation of DACA is consistent with our ongoing passionate advocacy for a transformed healthcare system. We reiterate that now is the time for Republicans and Democrats to reach across the aisle and work together on our nation's complex challenges–whether it's finding an expeditious means of protection for DACA youth or fixing the very real problems that plague the American healthcare system and those who rely on it for their care. Both issues need to be immediately addressed by Congress, and neither issue will be resolved on a partisan basis.
I call on Congress to take immediate action to reinstate DACA and demonstrate to all that America is still the land of welcoming opportunity.
Anthony R. Tersigni is president and CEO of Ascension.
An edited version of this story can also be found in Modern Healthcare's Sept. 11 print edition.