Nearly three months ago, I joined other Catholic healthcare leaders in urging Congress to protect the 780,000 "Dreamers" who live and work in this country. As stated so well by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, we need to protect "these young people (who) were brought to the United States by their parents, whose desire was to provide their children with hope, opportunity and safety that they could never hope to find in their countries of birth."
Unfortunately, Dreamers are no more certain of their future now than when the decision was made to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. This uncertainty has left an American dream riddled with anxiety and fear for thousands at risk of deportation.
I am confident that members of both parties want to resolve this issue in favor of keeping families together. In negotiations over the GOP tax bill, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) received assurances from Vice President Mike Pence that the administration will work to resolve the insecurity of thousands of those facing deportation. His colleagues across the aisle repeatedly advocate for reinstating DACA.
Because there is great opportunity for consensus, I once again urge Congress to provide clarity and protection for every Dreamer. By working to find common ground, the government's omnibus spending bill offers a viable, bipartisan vehicle for Congress to protect those most in need and enact a spirit of generosity for a group of young adults simply trying to live the American dream.
As I wrote back in September, Ascension is fortunate to have experienced the many ways that Dreamers have benefited our national healthcare system. They are our clinicians and administrative staff; they serve the most vulnerable within our communities—including immigrants and children.
Importantly, Dreamers can often be those our patients have direct contact with when they walk into our hospitals. Of Ascension's 150,000 associates, we have approximately 500 DACA-eligible associates; 74% of those associates are clinicians interacting with Americans every day to provide quality healthcare. They are the healthcare providers that our patients and communities have come to know and trust.
It is in their service that Dreamers reflect the best of Ascension. Our healthcare system upholds its moral obligation to protect the life and dignity of every human being. Despite the constant uncertainty of their own future, Dreamers across our system come to work prepared to serve those most in need. This moral obligation that we ask our associates to uphold is the same moral obligation that should be guiding congressional action.
As Ascension continues to support a transformed healthcare system, Dreamers play a pivotal role in that transformation. We know that establishing a culture that embraces diversity and inclusivity makes us stronger. We know the same can also be true about our country.
Now is the time for Democrats and Republicans to reach across the aisle and work together to solve our country's very real and human challenges. Before leaving for the holidays, I call on Congress to reach agreement on reinstating DACA as they negotiate the omnibus spending bill and ensure that we are protecting the dignity of every Dreamer.
Anthony R. Tersigni is president and CEO of Ascension, the nation's largest Catholic and not-for-profit health system.