Yearly Archives: 2019


Catholic Partners Join in Submitting Comment in Opposition to USCIS’ proposed Fee Schedule

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services in conjunction with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network and Catholic Charities USA, have submitted a comment in opposition to the Department of Homeland Security’s notice of proposed rulemaking titled, “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements,” published on Nov. 14, 2019, and supplemented on Dec. 9, 2019. The comment highlights the disparate impact of the proposed rule on low-income immigrants and requests that USCIS withdraw all provisions that make immigration benefits less accessible to vulnerable people.

The full comment is available for download here.

U.S. Bishops Applaud Legislation Protecting Immigrant Farmworkers and U.S. Agricultural Industry

December 13, 2019

WASHINGTON— Two bishops who chair committees for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) applauded the passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 (H.R. 5038). Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, spoke in support of this legislation, which would improve conditions for immigrant farmworkers and their families, as well as ensure the stability of the U.S. agricultural industry.

“The Farm Workforce Modernization Act was written in an effort to make a better system for both the farmer and the farmworkers and to create a more effective and humane agriculture industry. The Catholic Church has long recognized the dignity of work of both citizen and immigrant farmworkers and growers alike and welcomes changes in the law to help ensure greater protections,” said Archbishop Coakley.

Bishop Dorsonville noted, “I commend the lawmakers who worked on this important effort in a bipartisan manner and I urge the U.S. Senate to take up this bill which gives earned permanent residency for certain farmworkers.”

In November, the USCCB Committee on Migration and Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development sent a letter of support that can be found on the Justice for Immigrants website.


USCCB Letter of Support for H.R 4916 – Farm Workforce Modernization Act

Click Here to See the Letter

November 12, 2019

United States House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative,
On behalf of the Committee on Migration and the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, we write to urge you to support H.R. 4916, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. This bipartisan legislation, introduced on October 30, 2019, by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and several Republican and Democratic sponsors, would create an earned legal status program for agricultural workers and would improve the existing H-2A system.

Recognizing the dignity of work of farmworkers and their families is a central concern of the Catholic Church. In his 1981 encyclical, Laborem Exercems, Pope John Paul II spoke of the importance of agricultural workers and the need to protect those working in the fields.1 Farmworkers produce the food that we eat and contribute to the care of our community. Regarding immigrant farmworkers, the bishops in the U.S. have long advocated for reforms of the existing system, including a “legalization program that would help stabilize the workforce, protect migrant workers, and their families from discrimination and exploitation and ensure that these workers are able to continue to make contributions to society.”2

H.R. 4916 proposes a meaningful way for migrant agricultural workers to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment and contributions to the U.S. agricultural economy. It also improves labor protections while producing employment flexibility that is needed to aid our agricultural industries. H.R. 4916 creates more accessible and predictable worker programs while ensuring more worker protections, such as improving the availability of farmworker housing and providing better health protections.

As currently written, H.R. 4916 is a step in the right direction and reflects genuine bipartisan engagement. We encourage you to consider co-sponsoring this current version of the bill and to move it forward to help ensure a more stable workforce for our farming economy, as well as a tailored earned legalization program and greater worker protections.



Most Reverend Joe Vasquez, Bishop of Austin, Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

Most Reverend Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of Venice, Chairman, USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development


1 Pope John Paul II, Laborem Exercems (On Human Work), 1981, par. 23. available at
2 See For I Was Hungry & You Gave Me Food: A Catholic Agenda for Action- Pursuing a More Just Agricultural System- Part 2 available at

The Catholic Church Urges Untiring Resistance to Immigration Jail

The Following is a Letter from Bishop Steven Biegler of Cheyenne that was read to the Uinta County Commission before it voted to endorse a proposed detention facility because it would bring extra jobs to the area.


Recently, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) doubled the upper limit for an
immigration detention center proposed to be built near Evanston, Wyoming. The maximum
number of beds jumped from 500 to 1,000. Some believe that this change may be due to several
state and local governments cutting ties with ICE detention facilities or state legislatures passing
bills to deter immigrant detention in Virginia, Texas, Michigan, Illinois and California.
It seems prudent for Wyoming’s local and state officials to become better informed about issues
regarding for-profit prisons by conferring with those who are knowledgeable about these
institutions. They also should listen to the concerns of those who are living in the community in
which this facility potentially could reside.

The Catholic Church promotes faithful citizenship, and we urge all people of good will to
contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue. Everyone has a duty to weigh in on civic issues
so as to promote the common good. It is a concrete way of loving our neighbor. We seek to
uphold our dual heritage as both faithful Catholics and American citizens with rights and duties
as participants in the civil order.

The Catholic Church is gravely concerned about the practice of long-term and large-scale
detention of undocumented adult immigrants and their families within the U.S. The church has a
long history of supporting the dignity and rights of all immigrants. We view immigrant detention
centers from the perspective of our biblical tradition, which calls us to act with justice toward
persons on the margins of society, including strangers and imprisoned persons. Because of our
long experience as a pilgrim people, we know what it is like to be uprooted, persecuted and
imprisoned. Most of our ancestors came to this country to achieve a better life.

Jesus Christ commanded us to imitate his love; thus, he calls us to protect the rights of refugees,
to promote the reunification of families and to honor the inherent dignity of all migrants,
whatever their status. Regrettably, the U.S. immigrant detention system represents a far cry from
loving solidarity. It divides us from our migrant brothers and sisters and separates families. We
are particularly concerned about detaining young migrant mothers and fathers with their
children. This response from our nation to their flight from violence or persecution violates
human dignity and human rights. Children are dying; seven of them, in fact, met their demise
while in U.S. custody.

This is not to say that the Catholic Church does not acknowledge the role of the government in
ensuring public safety. We agree that those who are a threat to our communities should be
detained. Mandatory detention, however, contributes to the misconception that all immigrants are
criminals and a threat to our nation’s unity, security and well-being. It engenders despair, divides
families, causes asylum-seekers to relive trauma, leads many to forfeit their legal claims and fails
to treat all immigrants with respect.

Current immigrant detention policies are costly, inhumane and destructive to families. Many
immigrants are held in immigration detention centers away from their families and communities,
so they are unable to access legal assistance or other support. In fact, 81 percent of the
individuals currently in detention lack legal representation. Certainly, appropriate legal
representation is not readily available in Evanston, Wyoming. That location also separates those
detained there from families and any meaningful support system.

We must reject proposals to expand this inhumane immigrant detention system and efforts to
curtail existing protections for children and their families. If our public officials are willing to
secure this vital issue of human rights, then we are hopeful that migrants, regardless of their legal
status, will be treated with dignity and compassion when they arrive to our country. Ignoring an
issue regarding such grave violations of human dignity is not an option, and rhetoric that attacks
the human rights and dignity of the migrant is unfitting of any country, especially a nation of

Wyoming’s contribution to the immigration problem should not be to remain silent. Issues
surrounding immigration today demand everyone’s civic participation. This is especially true for
our legislators, but all people have a responsibility to speak out. For-profit prisons are only one
symptom of a larger issue that must be addressed by the federal government. Often action at the
federal level is driven when citizens at the local level raise their voices.

I encourage all people of good will to express their opposition to the proposed immigration jail
by signing petitions or by writing letters to the Uinta County Commissioners. I also encourage all
concerned citizens to communicate with Wyoming’s elected officials to express their opinions
against this for-profit prison.

Steven Biegler
Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Cheyenne


Catholic Leaders Voice Concern Over New Asylum Rules

November 25, 2019
WASHINGTON – On Monday, November 18, the Administration published two notices in the Federal Register to implement asylum cooperative agreements with Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The rules would allow the U.S. government to send asylum seekers to the three Central American countries without the opportunity to access asylum in the United States, and require the respective Central American governments to adjudicate asylum claims and attempt to provide protection.

Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and Chairman of the Committee on Migration for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Sean Callahan, President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), issued the following statement in response:

“Vulnerable individuals seeking protection and safety in the United States should be welcomed and given the chance to access the protection that our laws provide. If implemented, we fear that the asylum cooperation agreements would leave many helpless people, including families and children, unable to attain safety and freedom from violence and persecution. The governments of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras do not have the resources nor the capacity to safely accept, process, and integrate asylees. There are numerous concerns with the implementation of these agreements which have also been voiced . . . by the Catholic Church of Guatemala. Furthermore, these agreements do not address the root causes of forced migration and could further endanger the lives of people fleeing a region that continues to have some of the highest homicide rates in the world.

These rules, combined with the implementation of the Migration Protection Protocol and the continued hold of humanitarian and development assistance to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, undermines U.S. moral leadership in protecting vulnerable populations and risks further destabilizing the region. To preserve and uphold the sacredness and dignity of all human life, we cannot turn our back on families and individuals in desperate need of help. In light of the Gospel, let us always remember we are invited to embrace the foreigner and to take care of this human person. Let us move ourselves from a culture of indifference to a Christian culture of solidarity. We can and must do more.”