Yesterday, Senator Dick Durbin spoke on the Senate floor to tell another story about DREAMers and DACA. He shared the story of Father Rey Piñeda, a Catholic priest at Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta, Georgia. The full story is below the video. Father Rey has DACA.
From Senator Durbin’s office:
DACA Story: Father Rey Pineda
In 1990, when Rey Pineda was just two years old, his family came to the United States from Mexico. Rey grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. He worked hard and was an honor-roll student in high school. Rey became the first member of his family to attend college. In 2010, he graduated with a major in philosophy from Southern Catholic College in Dawsonville Georgia.
Rey, a devout Catholic, decided to attend Mundelin Seminary in my home state of Illinois. Rey felt that God was calling him to be a priest, but his spiritual path was blocked by his immigration status. Then, in 2012, everything changed when President Obama established DACA. In March 2013, Rey received DACA, which allowed him to become a Deacon two months later, in May 2013.
In 2014, Rey entered the priesthood after graduating from Mundelin Seminary magna cum laude with a Masters in Divinity. Today, Rey is a priest at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta Georgia. In a letter to Senator Durbin, Father Rey wrote this about DACA: “Like many Dreamers, the U.S. is really the only country I know. DACA was an answer to many years of prayers. Without DACA I would not have been able to serve as a priest in my community. I believe my faith in God has brought me to this point in life; but my faith in America’s promise has pushed me to keep fighting for peace, justice, and opportunity in this great country I proudly call my home.”
If DACA is eliminated, Father Rey Pineda will lose his legal status and he could be deported back to Mexico, a country where he hasn’t lived since he was 2 years old. This would be a tragedy for Father Rey and his congregation.
There is a chronic shortage of Catholic priests in the United States. The number of priests in this country declined by 33 percent from 1981 to 2012 and 16 percent of parishes do not have a priest. This shortage of ministers is not limited to the Catholic Church. The problem is so serious that Congress has established a religious worker visa that allows us to import ministers from foreign countries. When the United States has a chronic shortage of priests and other ministers, why on earth would we deport a homegrown talent like Father Rey Pineda?
Here is what Father Rey told Senator Durbin about his role as a priest who is also an undocumented immigrant: “I believe my entire journey has prepared me to be compassionate with the sufferings of many people I encounter. I look at my ministry as a calling to build bridges between people from all walks of life. Diversity sometimes brings challenges between people and I want to help heal those differences.”
In the aftermath of the most divisive election in recent memory, Father Rey Pineda and other Dreamers have an important role to play in healing the differences that divide us.