Yearly Archives: 2018

/2018

Letter of Support for the Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act

April 25, 2018

Dear Representative,

I write on on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM) to urge you to support and co-sponsor H.R. 4796, the “Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act of 2018,” as it is written. This legislation, which in part provides critical protections from deportation for “Dreamers” qualifying immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, was introduced by Representatives Hurd (R-TX) and Aguilar (D-CA) and is currently cosponsored by an equal bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats.

The U.S. Catholic Bishops have long supported Dreamers, recognizing that they are contributors to our economy, academic standouts in our universities, veterans of our military, and leaders in our parishes. These youths have grown up in our country and know America as their only home. They truly exemplify the extraordinary contributions that immigrants can provide to our nation when they are permitted to reach their God-given potential.

The USA Act would provide qualifying Dreamers with protection from deportation, as well as a path to citizenship. Additionally, the USA Act of 2018: (1) augments border security at the U.S./Mexico border, in part through deployment of new technology and development of a strategic plan; (2) increases the number of immigration judges and Board of Immigration Appeals staff attorneys; and (3) seeks to address root causes and prevent future irregular migration by conditioning aid to Central America to prevent corruption.

While a larger solution is still needed to fix our broken immigration system, we urge Congress to first focus on passing H.R. 4796, as written, or similar bipartisan and narrowly-tailored legislation. Any legislation passed should provide Dreamers with a path to citizenship, not undermine our family-based immigration system or terminate existing protections for vulnerable migrants, and ensure that border security measures are just, proportionate, and humane.

It is both our moral duty and in our nation’s best interest to protect Dreamers. We hope that you will stand with us in supporting these valuable members of our communities and co-sponsor the USA Act.

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

Click here for a PDF version of the Letter

2018-04-25T09:49:10+00:00 Statements|

USCCB Letter to DHS on Termination of the Central American Minor (CAM) Program

Dear Secretary Nielsen and Acting Secretary Sullivan:

On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops/Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS), I write to express our deep concern over the manner in which the Central American Minors (CAM) Program is being terminated. Through our work with our Catholic Charities network, we are seeing that many children and their families have not be able to receive services, such as refugee interviews by Department of Homeland Security (DHS), that were stated by DHS to be part of the wind down. We encourage you to review the wind-down process and ensure that the program is ended in an orderly, just, and humane manner that is consistent with past practice for refugee pipeline closures. Specifically, we request that you resume interviewing cases until review is complete for all individuals who timely submitted CAM applications. At a minimum, we urge you to consider additional stakeholder engagement on the termination and alternative protection programming in the region.

The Catholic Church has a significant pastoral interest in the welfare and humane treatment of migrant children. The Church views assisting those in need as a fundamental Christian duty that is derived from the life of Christ, who himself was a migrant and a child of refugees. USCCB/MRS works to support vulnerable youth and their families in part through the CAM program. Through our network, we are proud to have supported more than 3,300 families in applying for the program.

We know from our many years serving refugees the importance of closing a refugee pipeline in a responsible and humane manner. It is our understanding that past refugee pipeline closures have typically occurred due to changed country conditions. Recent reports demonstrate that, unfortunately, such improvements in conditions have not occurred in the Northern Triangle of Central America (El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala)1. Even in instances of changed circumstances, however, the best and typical practice is to complete processing on all individuals in the pipeline and to align closure deadlines with when such work can be completed. The CAM program closure has departed from this practice.

With the announcement of the CAM program wind down on November 8, 2017, the Department of State (DOS) stated that CAM cases would be considered timely submitted if filed by 11:59pm EST on November 9, 2017. We and our affiliates worked to diligently comply with this very tight turnaround date. We learned on February 9, 2018, however, that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had stopped interviewing CAM applicants as of January 31st, even though at least 500 cases served by USCCB/MRS and most likely thousands of applicants throughout the program had yet to receive a refugee interview. Many of these children and their families had already submitted to blood and identification testing, paid related fees, and expended extensive time and resources to proceed with the application. As a result of the failure to be interviewed, many now face deep disappointment, fear, and heightened protection concerns.

Mario* and his two young daughters are just one of the impacted families. Mario feared daily for his daughters’ safety in Honduras after his older son was brutally killed. It was this fear that spurred him to apply for his daughters to join him in the U.S. through the CAM program. After over a year of navigating the complex application process, he was devastated to learn of the program’s cancellation. Without this vital legal avenue to seek protection for his girls, he is losing hope.

In addition to Mario’s own anxiety and sadness, our program has had to spend countless staff hours performing education, outreach, and counseling to impacted families as little government-generated information and educational material has been created or shared with providers by your offices. In particular, we were disappointed to see that the DOS case closure letters were only provided in English and that they lacked information on: (1) when applicants could expect to receive DNA reimbursements; (2) where those who continue to face serious safety and protection concerns can find information on the governmental and non-profit services referenced in the letter; and (3) what the process and requirements are for applying for humanitarian parole outside of the CAM program.
In light of these concerns, we urge you to reconsider the way in which the pipeline is closed and to resume processing cases until all timely filed applicants are interviewed. To do otherwise is unjust, arbitrary, and inconsistent with years of past practice. At a minimum, additional stakeholder engagement is needed.

Additionally, we urge you to consider alternative protection programming in the Northern Triangle. Given the pervasive and persistent violence and persecution in the region, terminating the CAM program without alternatives in place may contribute to increased forced and irregular migration. In-state child protection institutions and other refugee programming remain insufficient to accommodate displacement in the region. Without alternative programming, we fear children will be forced to make the dangerous journey north alone, putting them at risk for exploitation and human trafficking. We are happy to engage our Catholic service network in the region to meet with you and suggest ways to partner on this very important issue.

We thank you for your consideration and would appreciate an opportunity to meet with you to further discuss these concerns and recommendations.

Sincerely,
William Canny
Executive Director

 

1 See, e.g., U.S. CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS / MIGRATION AND REFUGEE SERVICES, TEMPORARY PROTECTED STATUS: A VITAL PIECE OF THE CENTRAL AMERICAN PROTECTION AND PROSPERITY PUZZLE 5-6 (OCTOBER 2017), available at http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/fact-finding-mission-reports/upload/el-salvador-honduras-report-20171016.pdf (discussing the increase in family targeted violence in the region).
* Name and identifying information changed to protect client confidentiality.
2018-04-18T13:59:07+00:00 News|

U.S. Bishops’ Migration Chairman Supports Southern Border Bishops Concerns Over White House Decision to Deploy National Guard at U.S./Mexico Border

April 11, 2018

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Catholic Bishops of the southern border issued a statement on April 6, 2018, regarding their deep concern over the Administration’s decision to deploy the National Guard at the U.S./Mexico border. Bishop Joe Vásquez, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, today issued the following statement in support of the Southern Border Bishops and in response to the Administration’s recent actions:

“On behalf of the USCCB Committee on Migration, I fully affirm the concerns voiced by the U.S. Bishops of the southern border regarding the presence of the National Guard at the U.S./Mexico border. Current law entitles those fleeing persecution and arriving in our country to due-process as their claims are reviewed. As the border bishops state: ‘Seeking refuge from persecution and violence in search of a peaceful life for oneself and one’s family is not a crime.’ Our faith calls us to respond with compassion to those who suffer and seek safe haven; we ask our government to do the same as it seeks to safely and humanely secure the border.”

2018-04-16T10:00:17+00:00 Statements|

U.S. Catholic Bishops of U.S./Mexico Border Respond to U.S. National Guard Deployment

April 6, 2018 – In response to announcements regarding deploying the United States National Guard to the U.S./Mexico Border, the U.S. Catholic Bishops of the U.S./Mexico Border issued the following statement:

We are deeply concerned by the announcement that the National Guard will be deployed on the U.S./Mexico Border. The continued militarization of the U.S./Mexico Border distorts the reality of life on the border; this is not a war zone but instead is comprised of many peaceful and law-abiding communities that are also generous in their response to human suffering.  We recognize the right of nations to control and secure their borders; we also recognize the need of nations to respect the rule of law. Current law in the United States rightly provides that those arriving to our country fleeing persecution are entitled to due-process as their claims are reviewed. Seeking refuge from persecution and violence in search of a peaceful life for oneself and one’s family is not a crime. Our faith calls us to respond with compassion to those who suffer, and to live in a spirit of solidarity with all human beings. We remain hopeful that our local, state and federal officials will work collaboratively and prudently in the implementation of this deployment, ensuring that the presence of the National Guard is measured and not disruptive to community life. We are also deeply concerned that at this time divisive rhetoric often promotes the dehumanization of immigrants, as if all were threats and criminals. We urge Catholics and people of good will to look past the dehumanizing rhetoric regarding immigrants and remember that they are a vulnerable population, our neighbors, and our sisters and brothers in Christ.

 

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, Archdiocese of San Antonio

Bishop Daniel E. Flores, Diocese of Brownsville

Bishop Michael J. Sis, Diocese of San Angelo

Bishop James Tamayo, Diocese of Laredo

Bishop Mark J. Seitz, Diocese of El Pasp

Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger, Diocese of Tuscon

Bishop Robert W. McElroy, Diocese of San Diego

Bishop Oscar Cantú, Diocese of Las Cruses

 

Click here to read the Statement in Spanish

2018-04-09T16:23:33+00:00 News|

Letter to Secretary Nielsen on Refugee Resettlement

March 26, 2018

Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen Secretary of Homeland Security Department of Homeland Security

Dear Secretary Nielsen,

I write on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration to urge the Administration to honor this nation’s historically bipartisan commitment to resettling refugees. As you know, the United States has had an average admissions ceiling of over 95,000 refugees each year since the modern U.S. refugee admissions program was established by the Refugee Act of 1980. We are deeply concerned about both the historically low target that the Administration has set for refugee admissions for Fiscal Year 2018, as well as by the extraordinarily low number of refugees that the United States is on pace to resettle during the current fiscal year. We respectfully ask for a meeting with you to discuss this urgent matter.

The number of refugees that are scheduled to be resettled by the United States has plummeted in the last year. For FY 2018, a target of only 45,000 refugee admissions was set, which is the lowest target in the history of the U.S. refugee resettlement admissions program. Moreover, as of March 16, 2018, nearly the halfway point of FY18, the U.S. has resettled only 9,616 refugees. With these numbers, the United States is on pace to resettle fewer than 20,000 refugees in FY 2018 – a number which is only 25% percent of the number of refugees who arrived just two years before in fiscal year 2016.

The current level of refugee arrivals leaves thousands of vulnerable people in harm’s way and searching for protection. This includes 87 Iranian Christians and other persecuted religious minorities from Iran who were recently denied admittance to the United States. Similarly situated Iranians have been granted admission to the United States at a 99% rate in past years. Further, many of the refugees who are being excluded from arriving and resettling in the United States are among the estimated 5% who cannot remain in refugee host countries that neighbor the home countries they fled. Most often they are at-risk women and children who are too vulnerable to remain in the region and/or in situations too dangerous for them to wait in the host country until the conflict at home has ended. Others are often part of a religious or ethnic group not welcome by the host country. These trends signify an abdication of our nation’s leadership in humanitarian protection through resettlement and in championing international religious freedom.

For 37 years, the U.S. has been a world leader in welcoming and resettling refugees, and the U.S. Catholic Church has been a committed partner in this work. As Christians, our concern for refugees is  integral to our life of faith. The Catholic Church believes that every person is created in God’s image. In the Old Testament, God calls upon his people to care for the newcomers because of their own experience as newcomers: “So, you, too, should love the resident alien, for that is what you were in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:19). In his own life and work, Jesus identified himself with newcomers and with other marginalized persons in a special way: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt. 25:35). Jews, Christians, including many Catholics, and other people of faith continue to be persecuted for their religion, race, ethnicity, political opinion or associations.
In this spirit, we urge the Administration to renew a bipartisan commitment to resettlement for refugees, including religious minorities. More specifically, we request: (1) robust and transparent processing by the Department of Homeland Security to ensure greater processing of refugees for resettlement for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2018; and (2) admittance of at least 45,000 refugees this year and a Presidential Determination of 75,000 refugees next year. Lastly, we again renew our request for a meeting with you to discuss how to address the current state of refugee processing.

Sincerely,

Most Reverend Joe S. Vasquez Chair, USCCB Committee on Migration

cc: Speaker Paul Ryan;Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi;  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell;  Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer; White House Chief of Staff John Kelly

Click for pdf of this letter

2018-03-27T11:57:41+00:00 News|