Dreamer wants Congress to save DACA so she can minister at her parish

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jessica Able, The Record

By Ruby Thomas and Jessica Able

SPRINGFIELD, Ky. (CNS) — Holding
the Lectionary high, Mirna Lozano processed into St. Dominic Church in late October
during the parish’s first young adult Mass, which she organized with the help
of her father, Rodrigo.

The father-daughter duo recently
earned certification in youth ministry through the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Youth and Young Adults.
They are looking forward to seeing youth ministry grow at the parish.

But Mirna’s future in
Springfield is uncertain. The 19-year-old native of Mexico was brought to the
United States without proper documentation when she was 4 years old. The U.S.
is the only home she knows.

For now, she’s protected by the
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. President Donald
Trump’s decision to cancel the program — which protects 800,000 young people
from deportation — leaves an uncertain future though.

What’s more certain for Mirna and
other young Hispanics is fear.

Trump called on lawmakers in Washington to pass a measure to preserve DACA. To that end, advocates around the country have rallied to
urge passage of the DREAM Act — the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act — to
provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA beneficiaries, but Congress has yet to

young people who would benefit from the act’s passage, known as
“Dreamers,” are afraid they will have to give up their lives in the U.S. and be
forced to return to countries they barely remember.

Mirna, who hopes to be a teacher
and youth minister, said she feels her future lies in the hands of the federal
government. She has voluntarily registered under DACA.

“This is our country. This is
all we know,” she told The Record,
newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville.

Mirna, her father and a group of
six other young people, including her younger sister Dora, shared their journeys
after the Mass at St. Dominic.

Rodrigo Lozano said his family
moved to the U.S. 15 years ago, trading the suffocating violence of Mexico City
for the sleepy rural community of Springfield, 59 miles southeast of Louisville.
Mirna was 4 and Dora only 3.

He said he came looking for a
“better … more peaceful life” for his family. “It’s every parents’ dream,” he

Despite a tough economy in
Mexico, he had managed to hold a decent job, but Mexico City had become
inundated with violence, he said. After being assaulted at gunpoint several
times, he felt he had no choice but to leave his homeland. Traveling to the U.S.
without documents is a major decision because it’s dangerous, he admitted.

The elder Lozano said he
initially traveled north alone to prepare a life for his family. His wife and
two daughters joined him about a year later.

When Rodrigo arrived, he did not
speak English, had nowhere to live and no clothes to wear. But he found work on
farms and sometimes cleaned streets.

“You don’t care how much you’re
paid, you just want to work,” he said.

for regrets, Rodrigo has none.

Since moving to Springfield the
family, including a son born in the U.S., have found a home in St. Dominic
Church, where they are active parishioners.

Despite the looming threat of deportation,
Mirna continues to look ahead. She and her father are proud of their youth
ministry certificates and are forming a multi-ethnic youth group at the parish.

Mirna also is active in the
community, helping other young people understand their options for higher
education despite their legal status. Undocumented young people, even those
protected by DACA, do not qualify for federal student aid.

She said he hopes to foster
unity and a better understanding between Hispanics and the larger community in

DACA is not just a political
issue, she noted. It’s about people “striving for a better life.” She wants to
help others understand that.

Mirna hopes that Congress will
pass the DREAM Act and that there will be a path to legalization for the
parents of Dreamers.

Since the president’s decision in
September to cancel DACA — he gave Congress six months to act before formally ending
the program — Mirna has felt the Catholic Church’s presence and support
because it has helped her feel safe.

Father Pepper Elliott, pastor, who
celebrates Mass in Spanish for the Hispanic community at St. Dominic Church, said
it would be a tragedy to lose the Dreamers.

“They’re just as much our young
people as any other in our parish and they’re just as close to our hearts,” Father
Elliott said.

He held up Mirna’s leadership in
organizing the young adult Mass. She graduated from Bethlehem High School in
Bardstown, Kentucky., where she was elected president of her senior class, he

Young Latinos such as Mirna have
grown up in the community and some attended St. Dominic School, he explained,
noting that many now are of college and working age, contributing to the community
by holding jobs, paying taxes, rent and utilities, buying necessities, such as
clothing and cars, and even helping create jobs.

On top of that, Father Elliott added,
they add to the community through their family life and values.

– –

Thomas and Able are on the staff of The
Record, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville.

– – –

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Original Article