Monthly Archives: October 2017


Catholic Partners Urge DHS to Extend Temporary Protected Status for Honduras and El Salvador

WASHINGTON—On October 30, 2017, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, joined representatives of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), and Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) in sending a letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, urging an 18-month extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Honduras and El Salvador.

TPS is a temporary, renewable, and statutorily authorized immigration status that allows individuals to remain and work lawfully in the U.S. during a period in which it is deemed unsafe for nationals of that country to return home.

The current designation for both countries is set to expire shortly, but, as noted by the letter’s signatories, “[t]erminating TPS at this time would be inhumane and untenable.” In the letter, the partners shared insights from the recent USCCB/Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) delegation trip to El Salvador and Honduras, and Catholic partners’ work in the region and with affected communities in the U.S., when explaining that the countries are not currently in a position to adequately handle return of their nationals who have TPS.

As discussed in the USCCB/MRS trip report, Temporary Protected Status: A Vital Piece of the Central American Protection and Prosperity Puzzle, an extension of TPS for both countries is crucial for humanitarian, regional security, and economic stability reasons. Consequently, the partners urged Secretary Duke to extend TPS for Honduras and El Salvador until individuals can return and reintegrate into their countries safely. They also reiterated the Church’s commitment to “stand ready to support measures to protect the well-being and dignity of Honduran and Salvadoran families as the two countries are on the path to reform, addressing citizen security and building protection infrastructure.”

Read the full letter here:


Catholic Partner Letter to DHS Requesting Extension of Temporary Protected Status

The Honorable Elaine Duke

Acting Secretary

Department of Homeland Security

Washington, DC 20528


RE: Extension of TPS Designation for Honduras and El Salvador

Dear Secretary Duke,

We, the undersigned, write on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS), Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), and Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) to urge you to extend the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation of Honduras and El Salvador for 18 months. As you know, while the current TPS designation extends through January 5, 2018 for Honduras[1] and through March 9, 2018 for El Salvador,[2] pursuant to statutory requirements,[3] a decision to extend or terminate TPS for the countries must be made by November 6, 2017 and January 8, 2018, respectively. From our recent delegation trip to the region on August 13-19, 2017, our presence and work in the region and with affected communities in the U.S., we know firsthand that these countries are not currently in a position to adequately handle the return of their nationals who currently have TPS.


The Catholic Church’s deep concern for individuals from these countries is rooted in our experience as an immigrant church and in Catholic Social Teaching. Many of the dioceses in the United States have direct relationships of pastoral care and outreach with Hondurans and Salvadorans. And, we believe that God has called on us, as part of our life of faith, to care for the foreigner and the marginalized: “For the Lord, your God, is the God of gods, the Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who has no favorites, accepts no bribes, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and loves the resident alien, giving them food and clothing. So you too should love the resident alien, for that is what you were in the land of Egypt.”[4]

Bishop David O’Connell of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Bishop Vasquez of the Diocese of Austin led the USCCB’s August delegation trip to Honduras and El Salvador to express solidarity with those impacted by the imminent decisions and to assess the countries’ abilities to adequately accept and integrate individuals if TPS is terminated. As discussed in the trip report, Temporary Protected Status: A Vital Piece of the Central American Protection and Prosperity Puzzle,[5] an extension of TPS for both countries is crucial for humanitarian, regional security, and economic stability reasons.  Honduras and El Salvador lack the capacity to adequately receive, protect, and welcome TPS returnees at this time. Specifically, the delegation found that:

  • Entire families, not just children, currently face targeted violence in the countries;
  • Large numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Honduras (~174,000) and El Salvador (~220,000 – 400,000) continue to be displaced, illustrating already existing safety issues and the growing humanitarian protection challenges in both countries;
  • The Honduran government does not have the capacity at this time to adequately handle the return of nationals with TPS because it lacks knowledge of the impacted population and lacks an adequate reception, protection, and integration system for the already large numbers of IDPs and returnees (almost 70,000 in 2016); and
  • Similarly, the Salvadoran government does not currently have the capacity to adequately handle the return of its TPS population as evidenced by its failure to address citizen safety and humanitarian concerns related to its large-scale internal displacement, as well as due to its lack of an adequate reception, protection, and integration system for IDPs and annual returnees (52,560 in 2016).

Terminating TPS at this time would be inhumane and untenable. Given the current country conditions, Honduras is in no position to accommodate the return of an estimated 57,000 Hondurans who have received TPS from the United States; nor is El Salvador in any position to accommodate the return of roughly 200,000  Salvadorans. Doing so in either case would likely destabilize these key strategic, regional partners and potentially bring harm to those returned. In addition, terminating TPS would needlessly add large numbers of Hondurans and Salvadorans to the undocumented population in the U.S., lead to family separation, and unnecessarily cause the Department of Homeland Security to expend resources on individuals who are already registered with our government and whose safe return is forestalled by dire humanitarian conditions.

Based on the above facts and further analysis in our trip report, we urge you to extend the TPS designation for Honduras and El Salvador, pursuant to Section 244(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act,[6] until individuals’ return and reintegration to the two countries can be safely accomplished. This will allow Hondurans and Salvadorans to continue to legally work, contribute to U.S. communities in an authorized capacity, and maintain safe, stable lives, and human dignity for their families, many of which include U.S. citizens. We ask you to show compassion and patience as Honduras and El Salvador continue to improve their citizen security and humanitarian capacity for reception, protection, and integration.

We appreciate your consideration of this request. The Catholic Church stands ready to support measures to protect the well-being and dignity of Honduran and Salvadoran families as the two countries are on the path to reform, addressing citizen security and building protection infrastructure.

Respectfully submitted,

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

Sean Callahan, President/CEO, Catholic Relief Services

Jeanne M. Atkinson, Esq., Executive Director, Catholic Legal Immigration, Network Inc. (CLINIC)

Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO, Catholic Charities USA

Click here for a PDF Version of the letter

[1] Extension of the Designation of Honduras for Temporary Protected Status, 81 Fed. Reg. 30,331 (May 16, 2016).
[2] Extension of the Designation of El Salvador for Temporary Protected Status, 81 Fed. Reg. 44,645 (July 8, 2016).
[3] 8 U.S.C. § 1254a(b).
[4] Deut. 10:17-19, available at .
[5] USCCB/MRS, Temporary Protected Status: A Vital Piece of the Central American Protection and Prosperity Puzzle (October 2017), available at
[6] 8 U.S.C. § 1254a(b).



USCCB Migration And Refugee Services Release Report Recommending Extension Of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) For El Salvador And Honduras

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS), released its report today, entitled Temporary Protected Status: A Vital Piece of the Central American Protection and Prosperity Puzzle recommending the U.S. government extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for El Salvador and Honduras.

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, in a letter of introduction of the report states: “As this report indicates, there is ample evidence to suggest that current TPS recipients from Honduras and El Salvador cannot return safely to their home country at this time.”

A delegation from MRS/USCCB traveled to Honduras and El Salvador, from August 13 to 19, 2017, to examine conditions in both countries regarding Honduras and El Salvador’s ability to adequately receive and integrate the possible return of existing TPS recipients. USCCB/MRS Committee Member, Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell of Los Angeles, California, led the delegation and was accompanied by MRS staff from Children’s Services, Policy and Public Affairs, and the National Collections offices.

Currently, El Salvador and Honduras have Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from the U.S. government for certain nationals living in the United States, and the review of TPS is shortly to be re-evaluated by the U.S. government. It is estimated that there are approximately 200,000 current TPS recipients from El Salvador and 57,000 TPS recipients from Honduras living in the United States. TPS recipients living in the United States are parents to over 270,000 U.S. citizen children and are very integrated into American daily life.

Bishop Vásquez states in his introductory letter: “As you read this report, I urge you to keep the people of El Salvador and Honduras, including TPS recipients, in your thoughts and prayers. I encourage you to engage the Administration in requesting a TPS extension for El Salvador and Honduras . . . and to reach out to your elected Congressional leaders to request they support a legislative solution for TPS recipients who have been in the United States for many years.”

Resources and information about Temporary Protected Status and the report are available on the Justice for Immigrants website The information includes a backgrounder on the temporary protected status and a toolkit for Catholic leaders that offers ideas on how to show their support and solidarity with TPS recipients.

The full text of the report can be found here:


U.S. Bishop Chairman Statement on Immigration Principles and Need for Congressional Action to Protect Dreamers

WASHINGTON—On Sunday evening, the White House released Immigration Principles and Policies that are a proposed list of priorities to be considered when working on legislative protection for Dreamers. Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the Committee on Migration, issued the following statement urging Congress to “ensure true protection for Dreamers once and for all.”

Full statement follows:

“The Administration’s Immigration Principles and Policies do not provide the way forward for comprehensive immigration reform rooted in respect for human life and dignity, and for the security of our citizens. They are not reflective of our country’s immigrant past, and they attack the most vulnerable, notably unaccompanied children and many others who flee persecution. Most unfortunately, the principles fail to recognize that the family is the fundamental building block of our immigration system, our society, and our Church.

“Since July, Congress has introduced legislative solutions for Dreamers, including the Dream Act. The Administration should focus attention on ensuring that a legislative solution for Dreamers is found as soon as possible. Every day that passes without that solution, these youth experience growing apprehension for their futures and their families. Each passing day brings us all a step closer to March 2018, when DACA recipients will begin to lose legal work privileges, and far worse, face the threat of deportation and family separation.

“For this reason, we exhort Congress to take up legislation and move forward promptly to ensure true protection for Dreamers once and for all. Together with so many others of good will, we shall continue to offer welcome and support to these remarkable young people, and we shall not stop advocating for their permanent protection and eventual citizenship.”


Written Testimony of Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez Bishop of Austin, Texas Chair, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration on “The Rohingya Crisis: U.S. Response to the Tragedy in Burma” House Foreign Affairs Committee

Thank you Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel for this opportunity to provide this written testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee regarding the forced migration crisis in Burma. I submit it as the Chairman of the Committee on Migration of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) so that we may join our voices with those of other Catholic leaders and others deeply concerned about the fate of these forgotten people.

Our concern about these refugees fleeing from Burma, known as Rohingya, is rooted in Catholic social teaching on migration. Catholics believe that all human beings are created in God’s image, including migrants and refugees of all backgrounds. Pope Pius XII reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s commitment to care for pilgrims, aliens, exiles, refugees, and migrants of every kind, affirming that all peoples have the right to conditions worthy of human life and, if these conditions are not present, the right to migrate.1 Meanwhile, USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS) advocates to address the root causes for such poor conditions while also protecting those forced to migrate. In our joint pastoral letter, Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, A Pastoral Letter Concerning Migration,” January 23, 2003, the U.S. and Mexican Catholic bishops call for nations to work toward a “globalization of solidarity.” In that document we affirm that “Refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection. Those who flee wars and persecution should be protected by the global community” No. 99. We also state that, “because of their heightened vulnerability, unaccompanied minors require special consideration and care” No. 82.

As one of the U.S. resettlement agencies, USCCB/MRS has resettled thousands of refugees from Burma, including many Christians fleeing religious and ethnic persecution and also many Muslims fleeing the same, such as these from Rakhine State. In Appendix 1 attached to this testimony, we provide profiles of two such unaccompanied refugee minors who were resettled by us this year. The level of vulnerability experienced by these two children is similar to many others who are resettled to the United States. Refugees who need resettlement are frequently the most vulnerable, who have a difficult time surviving in neighboring host countries. They illustrate why it is so important for the U.S. to have a robust resettlement program – it saves lives. It is for the sake of children like these and other vulnerable refugees needing resettlement that we are disturbed and deeply disappointed by the recent setting of the Presidential Determination (PD) of refugee admissions for FY2018 at 45,000, the lowest PD in the history of the program. We urge this committee to advocate with a unified, bi-partisan voice to admit at least 75,000 refugees to the U.S. next year. We can and must do better.

We have been in particularly close contact with Catholic leaders and NGOs in Burma for the last several years regarding the protracted refugee situation in the region. We have made two solidarity/assessment trips and have written a report and an update about the complex dynamics in which there are the hopes of a new democracy after decades of military rule, but also where there are continued protection challenges facing several hundred thousand forcibly displaced people inside Burma and also those from Burma who are seeking refuge in neighboring countries.

We turn now to the grim situation of those forced to flee from Rakhine State, Burma. Forced out by what the Burmese military2 reportedly have referred to as a “clearance campaign,” an estimated 501,000 people

have fled from Rakhine State, Burma, to Bangladesh since August 25, 2017.3 Most are women and children, and the most vulnerable are newborns, pregnant women, and the elderly. Many have only makeshift shelters at best, are struggling to find the mere basics of life, and are trying to avoid debilitating and life-threatening water-born and air-born diseases. They are all in our thoughts and prayers as the Catholic Church joins with others to mobilize in response to the horrific situation.

One frustration for many has been that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the human rights icon and de facto democratic leader of Burma, has not been publicly very vocal about the plight of these Muslims from Rakhine State. Also, Christians and others have long been oppressed by the army of Burma in Kachin and Shan States. Despite these serious unresolved political and human rights situations, there continues to be strong efforts at positive change by the recently elected democratic government, the first after over 50 years of military rule. While the Burmese military still maintains substantial political and economic control, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has managed to lead the effort on the so-called Panglong Process, whereby Burma’s ethnic groups have an ongoing process for seeking to build a federal, democratic system in which all of Burma’s people have access to shared governance and shared resources. As we shed light on the human rights tragedies in Burma, we urge continued U.S. support to resolve these critical situations and to support the democratically elected government in addressing these situations while also supporting their broader efforts to build a new, democratic, inclusive Burma.

Before turning to recommendations, we share three sets of statements from other Catholic leaders. The first two are from Pope Francis and Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, the Archbishop of Dhaka, Bangladesh, and they are particularly tied to this recent exodus from Rakhine State. The third, by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, speaking in February 2017, concerns other atrocities in Rakhine State, and concludes with remarks that continue to resonate with what we consider sound advice.

Pope Francis Statement. “Sad news has reached us of the persecution of our Rohingya brothers and sisters, a religious minority. I would like to express my full closeness to them — and let all of us ask the Lord to save them, and to raise up men and women of good will to help them, who shall give them their full rights.”4

Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, Archbishop of Dhaka, Bangladesh. “It is very good that Bangladesh has opened its doors for the Rohingya, who have suffered all kinds of atrocities.”5

“Bangladesh has not only opened the borders but also opened their hearts with love and compassion to the children, women, old, the sick, the wounded and even the thousands who are unborn… Bangladesh out of her poverty is sharing her richness of human values…”6

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar. “Myanmar needs the world community to extend all support to the present democratic government with clear understanding that violence against any population is not acceptable. I offer my prayers and solidarity to everyone in Myanmar – and especially at this time in Rakhine State, Kachin State and northern Shan State – who is bereaved, vulnerable, fearful, homeless, hungry, sick and to all the orphans and widows, the victims of rape and torture….Let us work together to end violence and terror in our country, and to build a Myanmar where every man, woman and child of every race and religion born on Myanmar soil is recognised both as our fellow citizen and as our brother and sister in humanity.”7



We condemn the horrific violence toward the group known as the Rohingya, and strongly urge the United States government:

To work with the Burma government and the international community

  • to continue stabilizing the situation in Rakhine State and in Bangladesh,
  • to provide needed protection and humanitarian assistance for those displaced in Burma and those who have fled to Bangladesh,
  • to work toward safe, humane, and voluntary durable solutions for those who are displaced, including third country resettlement when appropriate;
  • to work for long term, communal peace and address the root causes for displacement and flight, including the widespread statelessness of the Rohingya and the lack of integral human development in Rakhine State.

To support Bangladesh and other host countries in the region and to urge other nations to also share the responsibility of protecting those fleeing from Rakhine State.


Appendix 1

Many have been forced to flee from Rakhine State, Burma, in the past. The USCCB, through its Migration and Refugee Services, works with local Catholic Charities around the country to welcome these refugees. Among them are unaccompanied refugee children such as these two described below (the names are changed to protect the children’s privacy):

Mia. Mia is a 13-year-old girl born in Malaysia, the country to which her parents had fled. After her parents divorced, her mother got married and the stepfather sexually abused Mia. Although her mother was aware of the incidents, she failed to prevent and protect the child. The mother was arrested for committing child neglect and the child lived temporarily with her biological father. Later, the child moved to a protection home as she feared being re-victimized by her mother, who was released from prison. Reunification couldn’t be pursued as the mother was found to be abusive. Resettlement was the only option to help the child live a bright life. She was referred to the U.S. refugee admissions program and was resettled through the USCCB on 7/21/2017.

Mio. Mio is a 14-year-old boy who lost both parents. The child fled to Malaysia in 2012 to escape forced labor. He had been forced by Burmese soldiers to do road construction for about six months before fleeing Myanmar. He lived for a short period of time with his uncle where he faced physical abuse. He then moved to live at a refugee organization office. While living in Malaysia, he was stopped and harassed by local police authorities several times and was told that if he remained there, he would continuously face harassment and/or arrest. Reunification with his grandmother couldn’t be pursued as the minor did not have any kind of contact information and attempts to find her had not been successful. Since he could not continue living in Malaysia due to these unfavorable conditions, the only available option was resettlement in a third country. He was accepted by the U.S refugee admissions program and was resettled through the USCCB foster care, arriving on 9/19/2017.


For a PDF Copy of this testimony, click here


1 Pope Pius XII, Exsul Familia (On the Spiritual Care of Migrants), September, 1952.
2 “Top Myanmar General defends military’s ‘clearance operations’,” South China Morning Post, 9/17/, 2017, available at
3 UNHCR, “Rohinga Emergency,” 9/28/2017, available at
4“Pope Francis: Appeal for End to Violence Against Rohingya,” Vatican Radio, August 27, 2017, available at
5 Nirmala Carvalho, “Catholic Church in Asia Responds to Rohingya Refugee Crisis,” Crux, September 15, 2017, available at
6 “Cardinal D’Rozario: The Church can be a Field Hospital,” Vatican Radio, September 28, 2017, available at’rozario_‘the_church_can_be_a_field_hospital’_/1339551
7Nirmala Carvalho, “Myanmar Cardinal Warns “Merchants of Hatred” are Stirring,” Crux, 2/19/17, available at