Monthly Archives: June 2017


U.S. Bishops Conference Chairman Responds to Supreme Court Action on Travel Ban

WASHINGTON— Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the Administration’s Executive Order 13870 announcing an emergency stay partially overturning preliminary injunctions that were put in place by federal courts in Maryland and Hawaii and upheld by the Fourth Circuit and the Ninth Circuit. The Supreme Court decision narrows refugee resettlement and travel from six Muslim-majority countries to individuals who can prove a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States,” until the Supreme Court can rule on the legality of the ban.

Bishop Vasquez, Bishop of Austin and Chair of the of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration issued the following statement:

“Today’s decision will have human consequences. While my brother bishops and I appreciate the Court’s ruling to allow individuals who have a ‘bona fide relationship’ with a person or entity in the United States to continue arriving, we are deeply concerned about the welfare of the many other vulnerable populations who will now not be allowed to arrive and seek protection during the proscribed pause, most notably certain individuals fleeing religious persecution and unaccompanied refugee children.”

Going forward, as the Administration begins its review of the refugee program, we urge a transparent, efficient and timely review. We ask that such review include civil society and refugee service providers as well as national security and immigration experts. We believe it is vital to utilize the full expertise of the existing resettlement program when conducting such an important evaluation.”


USCCB/Catholic Charities USA Letter to Congress In Opposition of H.R 3003 and 3004

Dear Representative:

We write on behalf of the Committee on Migration of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB/COM), and Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) to express our opposition to H.R. 3003 and H.R. 3004.

The Catholic Church holds a strong interest in the welfare of migrants and how our nation welcomes and treats them. Our parishes include those with and without immigration status, unfortunately some who have witnessed or been victims of crime in the United States, including domestic violence, armed robbery, and assault. We understand the importance of fostering cooperation and information-sharing between immigrant communities and local law enforcement.

We oppose H.R. 3003 because it would impose obligations on local governments that we fear – and that many of them have warned–would undermine authority and discretion of local law enforcement. This, in turn, would hamper the ability of local law enforcement officials to apprehend criminals and ensure public safety in all communities.

Furthermore, Section 2 of H.R. 3003 would deny to jurisdictions vital federal funding related to law enforcement, terrorism, national security, immigration, and naturalization if those jurisdictions are deemed to be non-compliant with H.R. 3003.  The Catholic service network, including Catholic Charities, works in partnership with the federal government on a number of Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security initiatives, including disaster response and recovery, naturalization and citizenship services, and services for the immigrant, including victims of human trafficking, and domestic violence. These services are incredibly valuable to the protection and promotion of the human person and in some instances life-saving. Cutting grants related to these important national objectives, or threat of such cuts, is not humane or just, nor is it in our national interest.

Also, we oppose H.R. 3004 as it would lead to an expansion of incarceration and does not include adequate protections for people who re-enter the U.S. for humanitarian reasons or seek protection at the border. While H.R. 3004 makes notable efforts to protect us from those convicted of violent criminal offenses, the legislation goes far beyond this goal by expanding the government’s ability to prosecute illegal re-entry cases and heightening the criminal penalties in these cases. In an era of fiscal austerity, it is vital that important judicial resources are efficiently utilized to prosecute and convict the most violent offenders of violent crimes. Expanding who is eligible to be prosecuted for entry or re-entry as well as enhancing sentencing requirements does not advance the common good nor will it ensure that communities are safer.  Furthermore, we are concerned that, as introduced, H.R. 3004 would also prevent vulnerable asylum seekers and unaccompanied children, (who have presented themselves repeatedly at the U.S. border in the flight from violence), from being able to access protection, and instead face fines, imprisonment or both.

We respectfully urge you to reject these bills in favor of a more comprehensive and humane approach to immigration reform; an approach that upholds human dignity and family unity and places a greater emphasis on balancing the needs and rights of immigrants with our nation’s best interests and security.

The United States has a long and proud history of leadership in welcoming newcomers regardless of their circumstances and promoting the common good.  We stand ready to work with you on legislation that more closely adheres to this tradition and appreciate your serious consideration of our views in this regard.



Most Rev. Joe Vásquez, Bishop of Austin, Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

Sr. Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President & CEO, Catholic Charities USA


Letter to Secretary Kelly on Deportations

Dear Secretary Kelly,

On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration and Committee on International Justice and Peace, we write with grave concern about certain Christians, Chaldean Catholics, and others from Michigan and Tennessee who are reported to be scheduled for deportation from the United States tomorrow. Returning religious minorities to Iraq at this time, without specific plans for protection, does not appear consistent with our concerns about genocide and persecution of Christians in Iraq. We strongly encourage you to exercise the discretion available to you under law to defer the deportation of persons to Iraq, particularly Christians and Chaldean Catholics, who pose no threat to U.S. public safety, until such time as the situation in Iraq stabilizes and its government proves willing and capable of protecting the rights of religious minorities.

The United States government, our Holy Father Pope Francis, and the Christian Churches in Iraq all recognize that Christians and other religious minorities are the victims of genocide in Iraq. Despite this recognition, the Administration is reportedly working to remove dozens of individuals who come from such persecuted religious minority groups back to Iraq. The persecution that the Christian and Chaldean Catholic community has faced in Iraq is well- documented. Congress has expressed profound concern for the situation of Christians and other minorities in Iraq. Various pieces of legislation under consideration or being developed would provide greater support to remaining Christians and other minorities who are internally displaced and would seek to provide a special designation for Christians and other minorities targeted for genocide to enter the refugee resettlement program. The deportations to this same country, under such scrutiny for abuse and genocide of Christian and other minorities, seems to run counter to what is happening in other parts of our government.

For decades, many of these Christians sought legal refuge in the United States. Like other refugees from various countries of origins, they have become integrated into American communities, and in this instance, they are contributing members of communities in Michigan and Tennessee.

While we urge review of these Christian and Chaldean Catholic cases in light of the situation in Iraq, we note that some these individuals have orders of deportation because they have committed serious criminal offenses in the past. We do not minimize the serious criminal offenses of which some of these individuals have been convicted; it is entirely appropriate that they be punished for their offenses. After serving their sentences, however, we believe it would not be just or humane to deport a person who has integrated into American life and poses no evident risk to the local community. The fact that they have a significant risk of experiencing persecution and even possible bodily harm because of their faith is, from our moral perspective, an important factor to be weighed in the calculation to deport.

Our country has been an international leader in providing refuge to those who have escaped religious persecution. It is an admirable part of our history as a nation. To that end, we request that you exercise the discretion available to you under law to defer the deportation of the Christians and Chaldean Catholics, and other persons who pose no threat to U.S. public safety to Iraq until the situation in Iraq stabilizes and its government proves capable of protecting the rights of religious minorities.

Similarly, we urge that all individuals who do not pose a threat to the safety of Americans, and for whom deportation would either separate the family or be dangerous to their person, be shown mercy going forward. We must continue to protect those seeking refuge for those at risk due to the practice of their faith, and those for whom deportation would break up the cornerstone of our society, the family.

Sincerely yours,

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, President
United States Conference of Catholic Bishop

Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin, Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

Most Reverend Oscar Cantú, Bishop of Las Cruces, Chairman, USCCB Committee on
International Justice and Peace

Read the Letter to Secretary Kelly here


World Refugee Day 2017, International Day Celebrating Refugees to be held June 20

WASHINGTON—World Refugee Day 2017 will take place June 20th with celebrations noting the contributions of refugees occurring locally, nationally and globally. The international day provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the global refugee situation and the success of resettled refugees.  The world is experiencing the largest forced migration crisis since World War II with more than 65 million people forcibly displaced from their homes, including 21 million refugees worldwide.

“World Refugee Day is a day where we highlight the achievements of refugees.  Refugees are like all people, unique children of God,” said Bill Canny, Executive Director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Migration and Refugee Services. “We hope to see this year’s celebration of World Refugee Day create greater awareness and appreciation on both the community and national level.”

As part of the 2017 World Refugee Day celebration, the USCCB will be hosting a World Refugee Day Kick – Off event at the National Press Club on Monday, June 19th, featuring Bishop Mario Dorsonville of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC and Admiral Garry Hall, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for International Organizations and Alliances, ‎National Security Council. Additionally there will be two panels, one which focuses on the domestic aspects of refugee resettlement and the other which highlights the international protection needs of refugees.

This year will be the 17th year that the United Nations has officially recognized June 20th as World Refugee Day.  Many nations around the globe celebrated World Refugee Day prior to 2001, with one of the most widespread events being Africa Refugee Day, which had been celebrated on June 20.

Educational materials and other resources for World Refugee Day are available for download at For more information on events in your area or to submit an event, email USCCB/MRS Communications Manager Mark Priceman (


USCCB Letter to House Judiciary Committee on Unaccompanied Children and Refugees

House Committee on the Judiciary

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515


Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers:

I write on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM) to express our strong opposition to H.R. 2826, the “Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act of 2017,” and H.R. 495, the “Protection of Children Act of 2017,” which are scheduled for markup in your committee this Wednesday, June 14, 2017.

A core teaching of the Catholic faith is that every person is created in the image of God and is therefore entitled to dignity and respect. The Catholic Church views assisting those in need as a fundamental Christian duty that is derived directly from the life of Christ, who himself was a migrant and a child of refugees. While the Catholic Church recognizes governments’ right to control their borders and enforce immigration laws, we hold a strong and pervasive pastoral interest in the welfare and humane treatment of refugees and immigrants. USCCB works to fulfill the teachings of the Church on migration, in part through our work providing resettlement services to refugees, as well as providing community-based shelter care and family reunification services to unaccompanied immigrant children in the United States.

H.R. 2826 would seriously undermine our nation’s longstanding leadership in the area of refugee protection. H.R. 2826 seeks to seriously curtail the protections we as a nation provide vulnerable people fleeing persecution. The bill would reduce and cap refugee admissions to 50,000 individuals, marking a dramatic reduction in U.S. resettlement. It would also implement new requirements and procedures that would significantly delay and potentially bar resettlement for many refugees whose lives are in danger. The bill further would revoke refugee status of any individual who returns to their country of origin, even if only briefly for a funeral or family emergency. H.R. 2826 would also allow state and local governments to halt all resettlement into their communities should they so choose. Given the danger, persecution, and suffering faced by the 65 million people around the world who have been forcibly displaced from their homes, we cannot afford to turn our back on those seeking protection.

Furthermore, H.R. 2826 would hamper refugees’ integration by tripling the period in current law before a refugee can become a lawful permanent resident. The Catholic Church has worked for years, in many instances in partnership with the federal government, to facilitate and promote refugee integration. This measure would undermine those efforts and is contrary to who we are as a nation – a country built on the contributions of immigrants and refugees.

In sum, H.R. 2826 would essentially cripple the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, which has been a life-saving humanitarian program for nearly four decades. The United States must not reject its tradition of welcome and record of humanitarian leadership. Recognizing that all are children of God, we should continue to protect refugees of all nationalities, ethnicities, and religions based on their vulnerability. My brother bishops and I firmly believe we, as a nation, can continue to offer welcome to newcomers with love and compassion while still ensuring the security of our nation. H.R. 2826 does not achieve our security goals in a humane or just manner.

We further write to express our opposition to H.R. 495 which would rescind essential protections for unaccompanied immigrant children. Among its provisions, H.R. 495 undermines the existing framework for referring unaccompanied children to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). ORR was determined by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to be the agency most appropriately suited to care for these children, in large part due to their demonstrated child welfare expertise. Instead, HR 495 would require the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to screen all unaccompanied children and limit referral only of children whom CBP finds to have fear of persecution or be subject to trafficking risks. This presents protection concerns with the adequacy of screening and is not the best use of our governmental resources. We greatly respect the work of CBP officers and recognize their contributions to defending our country, but they are law enforcement officers – not trained asylum officers or child welfare experts.

H.R. 495 further limits unaccompanied children’s ability to access justice. It prohibits government funds from being used to provide legal counsel to the children and would revise certain legal thresholds for protection, making it more difficult for children to obtain legal relief. The bill also requires ORR to share information with DHS, including immigration status, regarding family members (sponsors) to whom unaccompanied children are released pending their immigration proceedings. If the sponsor is undocumented, H.R. 495 would require DHS to initiate removal proceedings.

Our faith calls on us to oppose such proposals which would lead to the inhumane and unjust treatment of these children. As Pope Francis has said: “Among migrants, children constitute the most vulnerable group, because as they face the life ahead of them, they are invisible and voiceless.” We must recognize this vulnerability and remember when forming our laws and policies that many unaccompanied children are fleeing for their lives. Our committee is concerned that the changes proposed in H.R. 495 would result in children being returned to situations of persecution and trafficking due to improper screening, lack of counsel, and unjust legal thresholds to relief. Moreover, we fear that the bill would create a chilling effect on sponsors’ willingness to come forward to care for children pending their removal proceedings. This would lead to unnecessary family separation and increase costs on the government for children’s prolonged care. The bill is contrary to our moral obligation to ensure that unaccompanied immigrant children receive proper care, are reunited with their families when possible, and have a fair opportunity to seek protection.

In conclusion, our committee finds these two bills deeply troubling and does not believe they advance the goal of humane and just immigration reform. We call on you to ensure that refugees continue to be welcomed and that unaccompanied immigrant children continue to be viewed as children first and foremost. In doing so, we ask you to oppose H.R. 2826 and H.R. 495.


Most Rev. Joe Vásquez

Bishop of Austin

Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration


To See a PDF of this Letter click here


USCCB Chairman Welcomes Ninth Circuit Decision Upholding Preliminary Injunction on Refugee Resettlement Pause and Travel Ban

June 13, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS—On June 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit largely affirmed a nationwide preliminary injunction against implementation of sections of the Administration’s executive order that attempted to suspend and limit the U.S. refugee resettlement program and also attempted to ban the entry of people from six Muslim-majority countries.

A statement from Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chair of the Committee on Migration regarding the Ninth Circuit ruling follows:

“I am heartened by the decision of the 9th Circuit to maintain the temporary halt implementing certain provisions of the March 6th Executive Order. Upholding the injunction will allow us to continue welcoming and serving refugees fleeing persecution.  Together with my brother bishops, we believe it is possible to simultaneously provide for the security of our country and have a humane refugee policy that upholds our national heritage and moral responsibility. We remain dedicated to accompanying and supporting our brothers and sisters who for various reasons have been forced to leave their homeland. We follow the example of Pope Francis and pledge to them “a duty of justice, civility and solidarity.”