Chairman of U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Migration Praises Path to Citizenship for Dreamers; Remains Deeply Troubled About Proposal’s Impact on Family Unity
WASHINGTON—In response to the White House framework on immigration released on January 26th, Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin, and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, stated the following:
“We welcome the Administration’s proposal to include a path to citizenship for Dreamers. However, the proposed cuts to family immigration and elimination of protections to unaccompanied children are deeply troubling. Family immigration is part of the bedrock of our country and of our Church. Pope Francis states: ‘the family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation.’ Upholding and protecting the family unit, regardless of its national origins, is vital to our faith. Additionally, in searching for a solution for Dreamers, we must not turn our backs on the vulnerable. We should not, for example, barter the well-being of unaccompanied children for the well-being of the Dreamers. We know them all to be children of God who need our compassion and mercy.
We urge a bipartisan solution forward that is narrowly-tailored. Time is of the essence. Every day we experience the human consequences of delayed action in the form of young people losing their livelihood and their hope. As pastors and leaders of the Church, we see this fear and sadness in our parishes and as such, continue to call for immediate action. Elected officials must show leadership to quickly enact legislation that provides for our security and is humane, proportionate and just.”
January 26, 2018
Dear Speaker Ryan,
I write on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM) to urge Congress to put forth a common sense and just legislative solution for Dreamers, young people who were brought to the U.S. by their parents. We believe that any legislation must be: (1) bipartisan, (2) provide Dreamers with a path to citizenship, (3) provide a solution for the largest possible number of deserving young Dreamers, (4) uphold the sanctity of families, and (5) protect the vulnerable. Several bipartisan legislative proposals have either been introduced or are under development in both the House and the Senate that we believe meet these criteria. However, we believe that one measure that has received increasing attention in the House, H.R. 4760, the “Securing America’s Future Act of 2018,” fails to meet the above criteria, and we urge you to reject it as a vehicle for House floor consideration. That is, H.R. 4760 significantly undermines the family immigration system, does not provide an acceptable solution for Dreamers, and upends existing protections for asylum seekers and unaccompanied children.
My brother bishops and I are troubled that H.R. 4760 does not provide a path to citizenship to Dreamers. An overwhelming majority of Americans agree that Dreamers need a permanent legislative solution. We have watched these young people work to support their families, attend and excel in school, and enlist in our military. They are contributors to our economy and leaders in our parishes and communities. Ensuring that they receive a path to citizenship would enable them to come out of the shadows, fully participate in daily civic life, and live without the constant fear of deportation. It would further unite us as a country and advance the common good.
Through its sweeping proposed changes to family-based immigration, H.R. 4760 also threatens the unity of the family – the cornerstone of our country’s immigration system and of our Church. As Pope Francis states, the family “is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation.” We steadfastly know that families are an essential element of our communities, parishes, and nation; they are what holds America together. Upholding and protecting the family unit, regardless of its national origins, is vital to our faith and to our country.
H.R. 4760 further seeks to close the door to the most vulnerable. H.R. 4760 proposes ruthless changes to existing protections for asylum seekers and unaccompanied children. It will eliminate protections for young children who are fleeing extreme violence and those seeking refuge will not be able to access due process. The Catholic Church’s work in assisting these vulnerable migrants stems from the belief that every person is created in God’s image and should be treated with compassion and dignity. Now more than ever, we must and will continue to welcome and serve the vulnerable.
Regarding proposals to strengthen border security, the Catholic Church has long recognized the right of nations to secure their borders and control entry into their countries. We believe that any border security provisions should be humane and proportionate.
We urge you to reject H.R. 4760, and instead, ask for timely consideration of common sense, bipartisan legislative proposals that would protect Dreamers. These young people of promise and their families depend on a solution. We remain committed to work with Congress to achieve this goal.
Most Rev. Joe S. Vásquez
Bishop of Austin
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration
The fate of nearly 1.8 million Dreamers remains uncertain as Congress has yet to reach a bipartisan deal to protect these youth. On January 22nd, Congress passed a short-term spending bill that will fund the government through February 8th, ending the government shutdown. The bill did not include protections for Dreamers, however, parties have agreed to continue negotiations and work towards a fix.
Unfortunately, every day that passes without a solution is a day where DACA youth fall out of status and lose their ability to go to school, serve in the military, and work legally.