Monthly Archives: September 2017


USCCB Committee on Migration Letter to Senate Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee

September 5, 2017

Honorable Roy Blunt, Chair

Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies

United States Senate

Russell Office Building, Office 260

Washington, DC 20510


Honorable Patty Murray, Ranking Member

Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies

United States Senate

Russell Office Building, Office 154

Washington, DC 20510


Dear Senators Roy Blunt and Patty Murray:

As a Church at the service of all God’s people, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM) stands ready to work with the leaders of both parties to protect poor and vulnerable people, promote human life and dignity, and advance the common good. I write to request your support for appropriate federal funding of several accounts and programs that are crucial for at-risk immigrants, refugees, unaccompanied children, and trafficking victims. As you finalize funding for FY 2018, please consider the following requests. We urge you as leaders of the relevant Senate appropriations committee to exercise crucial humanitarian leadership to maintain appropriate funding for these accounts that impact the most vulnerable.

Refugee Protection

Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies:

We ask that Congress appropriate at least $1.69 billion in Fiscal Year 2018 for the Refugee Entrant and Assistance (REA) account, an amount we believe would enable the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR) to adequately serve all vulnerable populations under ORR’s care. As you know, the REA account helps state and local communities welcome and support refugees and other populations on their path to self-sufficiency. ORR also serves unaccompanied children, asylees, Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipients, Cuban and Haitian entrants, victims of human trafficking, and survivors of torture. In FY17, ORR is expected to serve an estimated 175,000 newly-arrived individuals, in addition to other recently-arrived individuals. For these services, Congress appropriated $1.69 billion in FY17 plus almost $400 million in transfer and contingency funds for a total of $2.1 billion in FY17. USCCB estimates that FY18 arrivals will be around 165,000 individuals. Given these continued large numbers, maintaining at least the $1.69 billion base funding would be prudent minimum funding. And, maintaining highly flexible transfer authority would also be reasonable planning to meet unforeseen contingencies.

Protection of Unaccompanied Children

Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies:

Within the $1.69 billion level of base funding that we suggest for the HHS REA account, we ask that Congress appropriate $948 million to serve unaccompanied children (UAC). ORR provides custody and care, shelter, and support services to UAC apprehended in the United States by Department of Homeland Security. UAC are taken into the custody of HHS/ORR pending reunification or resolution of their immigration cases. We note with approval that the Office of Management and Budget recommended this level of funding for the line item in the REA account related to these children.

Combatting Human Trafficking and Protecting Survivors

Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies:

Within the $1.69 billion level of funding that we suggest for the REA account, we ask that Congress appropriate $32 million for the Office of Trafficking in Persons (OTIP), in the form of $16 million to foreign national victims’ protection and $16 million to protection of U.S. citizen victims. We also ask Congress to appropriate $91 million for the Department of Labor International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB).

OTIP oversees the care and treatment of all U.S. citizen and foreign national trafficking victims in the United States. OTIP identifies and serves trafficking victims and provides specialized case management.

ILAB plays a critical role in efforts to eradicate child labor and address forced labor. Through its own reports, we know ILAB plays a major role in monitoring and reporting on labor practices in countries around the world. We strongly oppose the Administration’s proposal to not fund the grant program within ILAB.

Members of USCCB/COM just returned from a solidarity and assessment trip to Honduras and El Salvador, where we witnessed the life-saving “Youth Builders” program conducted by our sister agencies Catholic Relief Services and Caritas in the region. This program provides many youth from these countries with a viable alternative to dangerous migration and the risk of being victims of human trafficking. If the ILAB grant program receives no funding, as proposed by the Administration, such life-saving programs would end.

Thank you for considering our recommendations.

Yours truly,

Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin ,Chair, Committee on Migration, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


Full PDF version of the Letter


USCCB President, Vice President and Committee Chairmen Denounce Administration’s Decision to End DACA and Strongly Urge Congress to Find Legislative Solution

WASHINGTON— The President and Vice President along with Chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have issued a statement denouncing the Administration’s termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program after six months.
The following statement from USCCB President Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, along with USCCB Vice President, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, chairman, Committee on Migration, and Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, chairman of the Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees, and Travelers says the “cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible.”

Over 780,000 youth received protection from the DACA program since its inception by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2012. DACA provided no legal status or government benefits but did provide recipients with temporary employment authorization to work in the United States and reprieve from deportation.

Full statement follows:

“The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible. It causes unnecessary fear for DACA youth and their families. These youth entered the U.S. as minors and often know America as their only home. The Catholic Church has long watched with pride and admiration as DACA youth live out their daily lives with hope and a determination to flourish and contribute to society: continuing to work and provide for their families, continuing to serve in the military, and continuing to receive an education. 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.

The Church has recognized and proclaimed the need to welcome young people: ‘Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me’ (Mark 9:37). Today, our nation has done the opposite of how Scripture calls us to respond. It is a step back from the progress that we need to make as a country. Today’s actions represent a heartbreaking moment in our history that shows the absence of mercy and good will, and a short-sighted vision for the future. DACA youth are woven into the fabric of our country and of our Church, and are, by every social and human measure, American youth.

We strongly urge Congress to act and immediately resume work toward a legislative solution. We pledge our support to work on finding an expeditious means of protection for DACA youth. As people of faith, we say to DACA youth – regardless of your immigration status, you are children of God and welcome in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church supports you and will advocate for you.”


USCCB Committee On Migration Letter to Congress in Support of the Dream Act of 2017

Dear Representative:

I write on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM) to urge you to support H.R. 3440 the “Dream Act of 2017.” This bipartisan legislation, introduced on July 26, 2017, by Representatives Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40) and Ros- Lehtinen (R-FL-27), would protect numerous immigrant youth from deportation, including the approximately 780,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

The Dream Act is intended to protect immigrant youth who entered the United States as children and know America as their only home. The bill offers qualifying immigrant youth “conditional permanent resident status” and a path to full lawful permanent residency and eventual citizenship. In order to receive the conditional status, the person must, among other requirements, have entered the U.S. as a child, been continuously present in the United States for at least four years prior to enactment of the bill, meet certain admissibility and security requirements, and have obtained or be pursuing secondary education. Current DACA recipients are also deemed eligible for the conditional status. H.R. 3440 allows recipients of this conditional status to obtain non- conditional lawful permanent residency if they satisfy requirements that include: background checks; demonstrated English proficiency; and either education in a higher learning institution, honorable military service, three years of employment in the United States, or a hardship exception.

My brother bishops and I believe in protecting the dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children. The Catholic Bishops have long supported these immigrant youth and their families who are contributors to our economy, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes. These youth have grown up in our country, some even choosing to put their lives on the line to serve in our armed forces. They truly exemplify the extraordinary contributions that immigrants can provide to our nation. These youth should not be forced to live their lives in constant fear that they will be deported at any moment and separated from their families. It is both our moral duty and in our nation’s best interest to protect them and allow them to reach their God-given potential.

For these reasons, we ask you to support and co-sponsor the Dream Act of 2017. We also urge you to continue to work towards the larger legislative reform of our immigration laws that our country so desperately needs. As always, USCCB/COM stands ready to work with Congress to reform our immigration system in a humane, just, and common-sense manner.


Most Rev. Joe S. Vásquez, Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

Click here for the PDF version of the lettter