Letters of Support and Administrative Requests

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USCCB Letter of Support for the LIFT Act (S.4478)

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Click Here to View the House Letter of Support

Dear Senator,

On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, I urge you to consider supporting S.4478, the “Leveraging Information on Foreign Traffickers (LIFT) Act.” This bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) and Senator Hawley (R-MO) helps to advance and continue our nation’s efforts to address and eradicate human trafficking and assist human trafficking victims.

The Catholic Church teaches that all human life is a gift from God and is sacred. The dignity of the human person must be upheld, and all lives deserve to be protected and nurtured. The Church has a longstanding commitment to ending human trafficking in all its forms, and the restoration of victims. Calling human trafficking “an open wound on the body of contemporary society,” and “a crime against humanity,” Pope Francis has continued the work of his predecessors and taken global leadership on anti-trafficking initiatives. Here in the United States, we bishops wholeheartedly support the Holy Father and will continue working to eradicate human trafficking and support and uplift survivors.

S. 4478 is an important step Congress can take to ensure a robust, global response to human trafficking as it provides adequate time for the completion of the annual TIP (Trafficking in Persons) Report and also puts valuable provisions in place to track individuals who have been denied visas to the United States on human trafficking grounds. Both issues are important in this fight as it is vital to ensure that human trafficking data is clearly collected and disseminated, traffickers do not operate with impunity, and victims are protected.

We are also pleased to see that S. 4478 further extends the authorization of the Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. As Pope Francis has stated: “[Trafficking] victims are from all walks of life but are most frequently among the poorest and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. I believe that these exploited individuals deserve the care and support of our communities and our government and that such support will help them heal and become survivors.” Survivors provide a valuable and unique perspective.

We thank Congress for its long-standing commitment to confront modern-day slavery. We ask that you renew your commitment by supporting S. 4478 and work to keep this a bipartisan effort. We must continue to come together to fight this crime against humanity and ensure that survivors are given the services and opportunities they need to live with dignity.

Sincerely,

Most Reverend Mario E. Dorsonville, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington Chairman, Committee on Migration U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Letter of Support for H.R. 8046 Improving Opportunities for New Americans Act

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September 14, 2020

Dear Representative,

On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM), I urge you to cosponsor HR 8046, the Improving Opportunities for New Americans Act, introduced by Representative John Katko (NY) and sponsored by Representative Ben McAdam (UT). This bipartisan measure would direct the U.S. Secretary of Labor, in collaboration with other federal and nongovernmental agencies, to conduct a study of the factors that affect the ability of immigrants and refugees who have professional credentials that were obtained outside the United States to work in those professions while living in the United States.

For Catholics, work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continued participation in God’s Creation. “The Lord blesses our work so that we may share its fruits with others” (Deuteronomy 14: 28-29). We are supportive of this bill that would help us to explore how immigrants and refugees in our midst might better use the gifts of their professional expertise, higher education, and skills for themselves, their families, and communities throughout the United States.

HR 8046 would direct the U.S. Department of Labor to review the U.S. employment of applicable immigrants and refugees. It would concentrate on persons who have been lawfully present residents or naturalized U.S. citizens during the last five years. The study would compare the work these professionals performed before they emigrated to the United States with the work that they have performed since migrating to United States. In addition to would identify any professional credentials they possessed before emigrating and assessing barriers that keep them from pursuing comparable professional level employment in the United States. It also would identify current governmental and nongovernmental resources that help these newcomers overcome such barriers. Finally, the study would contain policy recommendations to address such barriers.

Nearly 2 million immigrants and refugees with college degrees are reportedly either employed in low-skilled jobs or unemployed. This means that many individuals are not being able to use all their education and God-given abilities. Under-employment of this kind leads to $10 billion in lost taxes at the federal, state, and local levels and over $39 billion in lost revenue for immigrant and refugee communities. Also of great concern, particularly during the COVID- 19 pandemic, is that over 263,000 immigrants and refugees with undergraduate degrees in healthcare, over half of which are in nursing, have been either under-utilized or unemployed. A recent study found that there is a severe shortfall in 15 health care occupations in the United States, including 14 frontline health care professions. We need to utilize all available essential workers to help ensure a robust response to COVID-19.

In our work with immigrants and refugees and their families, we note the great economic, cultural, civic, and religious contributions they bring to our communities and our country. As a faith that values the dignity of work and the ability to provide for one’s family, we welcome efforts that help further that endeavor. We respectfully urge you to join us in supporting this bill.

Sincerely,

Most Rev. Mario E. Dorsonville, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

Letter to the Administration on the Presidential Determination for FY2021

View a PDF of the Letter Here

 

August 31st, 2020

President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
The Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Mr. President and Secretary Pompeo,

As organizations that are committed to human rights, refugee rights, and humanitarian protection, we write to express our strong support for a robust U.S. refugee resettlement program and a refugee resettlement goal of 95,000 for FY2021.

The U.S. refugee resettlement program is a vital, life-saving program that protects the most vulnerable refugees and helps to reunite families fractured by forced migration. In the midst of the worst global displacement crisis in world history, with more than 29.6 million refugees worldwide, a strong U.S. refugee resettlement program is a humanitarian expression of our core American values, including religious freedom and democracy, a strategic tool to support key allies and help to stabilize sensitive regions impacted by forced migration, and a positive economic driver for many welcoming U.S. communities.

Refugees are individuals who have fled their homes due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group in their home country. Resettlement is the last resort for refugees who cannot rebuild their lives where they have first fled or return safely to their home country; it is a critical safety net in the humanitarian system. Less than one percent of refugees worldwide have access to resettlement. Due to ongoing wars, regional instability, lack of economic or governmental infrastructure, and religious persecution, many refugees will never be able to repatriate to their country of origin safely. Additionally, due to particular vulnerabilities such as gender-based violence, and continued threats and discrimination, many refugees will never be able to integrate into the community to which they fled.

Refugees who are selected to be resettled to the United States are the most rigorously vetted individuals to enter the U.S. and must pass through a series of security and medical clearances in order to be approved. Since the inception of the formalized U.S. refugee resettlement program in 1980, over three million refugees have been resettled to the United States. Refugees have become citizens, civic leaders, and entrepreneurs, and have contributed enormously to our country. Thousands of volunteers, houses of worship, and business leaders work alongside recently arrived refugees to ensure they can thrive here and enjoy the liberties and protections offered by our country. Indeed, the U.S. refugee resettlement program is a vital public-private partnership that helps refugees achieve self-sufficiency and a sense of belonging in their new communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged every level of American society, and refugees have been essential in the fight against this pandemic. Over 176,000 refugees are healthcare professionals treating COVID-19 patients in hospitals and nursing homes and clinics, and over 175,000 are part of the U.S. food supply chain, laboring as farm workers who put food on our tables, and truck drivers and grocery store workers making sure the shelves are stocked. Refugees have been on the frontlines reaching out as new neighbors to help the communities that welcomed them to overcome this virus.

The Presidential Determination for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 was set at the lowest level in U.S. history at 18,000. Since the start of the U.S. refugee resettlement program in 1980 until 2016, the average annual refugee admissions goal has been 95,000. We urge the Department of State to strengthen the U.S. refugee admissions program as a life-saving foreign policy and humanitarian tool and admit 95,000 refugees in FY2021, a return to historic norms. We believe having a robust U.S. refugee resettlement program is part and parcel of strong U.S. leadership and also promotes democracy and supports the United States’ foreign policy priorities agenda abroad.

Sincerely,

Action Corps
Advocating Opportunity
African American Ministers In Action
African Communities Together
Aima
Alianza Americas
American Jewish World Service
Amnesty International USA
Ansche Chesed
Arianna’s Center
Armenian Relief Society of Western USA, Social Services Asian American Advocacy Fund
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO
Asylum Access
Bethany Christian Services
Beyond90, Inc.
Bilingual International Assistant Services
Border Perspective
Bread for the World
Brooklyn For Peace
Brotherhood Synagogue
Buckman Bridge Unitarian Universalist Church
Caminando Juntos – Presentation Sisters Hispanic Ministry Canopy NWA
CARE USA
Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency
Center for Gender & Refugee Studies
Center for Victims of Torture
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice
Church World Service
Claretian Missionary Sisters
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) Columbia Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic Community Refugee & Immigration Services (CRIS) Congregation Kolot Chayeinu
Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
Demand Progress Education Fund
Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries
East End Temple
Emgage Florida
Empowering Pacific Islander Communities
Ephrata Church of the Brethren
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc.
Faith Communities Organizing for Sanctuary
Faiths for Safe Water
Farmworker Association of Florida
Florida Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality Food for the Hungry
Food Not Bombs Lake Worth
Franciscan Action Network
Freedom Network USA
Friends Committee on National Legislation Global Communities
Guatemalan Maya Center
Habecker Mennonite Church
Hebrew Tabernacle, Washington Heights, NYC
Helen Keller International
HIAS
Hispanic Federation
Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, USA-JPIC
Hope Border Institute
Human Rights First
IAMC
Immigrant Action Alliance
InterAction
InterFaith Works of CNY
International Catholic Migration Commission
International Institute of Los Angeles
International Refugee Assistance Project
International Rescue Committee
IRIS – Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services
Islamic Relief USA
J Street
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA
Jesuit Social Research Institute
Jewish Family and Community Services of Pittsburgh
Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles
Jewish Family Service Seattle
Journey’s End Refugee Services, Inc.
Justice and Peace Office- Diocese of Joliet
L.A.C.E.S.
Lancaster Church of the Brethren
Landisville Mennonite Church
Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
Latina Institute Florida
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Libyan American Alliance
Lila Latinx LGBTQ Inc,
Lititz Church of the Brethren
Louisiana Organization for Refugees and Immigrants
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Lutheran Services in Iowa
Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area
Men of Reform Judaism
Mercy Corps
Miami Workers Center
Michigan Immigrant Rights Center
Migration and Refugee Services of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees
Mustino Times
NALEC
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) National Council of Asian Pacific Americans
National Council of Churches
National Council of Jewish Women
National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights
National Partnership for New Americans
Nebraska Appleseed
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA) Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies
New York Immigration Coalition
Northminster Presbyterian Church
Norwegian Refugee Council USA
NuDay
Ohio Immigrant Alliance
Orange County Classroom Teachers Association
Oxfam America
Pan American Development Foundation (PADF)
Poderosa is Her Power
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration Program for Torture Victims (PTV)
QLatinx
Red Gate Properties, L.L.C.
Refugee Congress
Refugee Council USA
RefugeeOne
Refugees International
Resilience Force
Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Gulf Coast Florida Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of South Florida, Inc.
Safe Horizon
Save the Children
Save the Children Action Network
SEIU Florida Public Services Union
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Sojourners
South Dakota Voices for Peace
South Florida Muslim Federation
Southeast Asian Resource Action Center
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission SouthWest Organizing Project
St. James Cathedral
St. Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America (IFCLA) SWANS – Solivita Womens’ Action Network
Synagogue Coalition on the Refugee & Immigration Crisis Syrian Community Network
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Temple Beth El, Stamford, CT
Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy/Texas Impact
The Association of Salvadorans of Los Angeles
The Black Alliance for Just Immigration
The Episcopal Church
The Ethiopian Community Development Council, Inc.
The Hunger Project
The Shul of New York
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society The Workers Circle
TN Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
UNA-USA Kentucky Division
UNA-USA Southern California Division
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice (UUSJ)
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445
United Nations Association of San Diego
United Nations Association of the National Capital Area
United Stateless
USAHello
USC International Human Rights Clinic
WeaveTales
Welcoming America
Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center
Witness at the Border
Women for Afghan Women
Women of Faith
Women of Reform Judaism
Word Travels/Stories of Arrival Refugee and Immigrant Poetry Project World Relief
Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights

Catholic Letter in Support of TPS Designation for South Sudan

Click here to see a PDF version of the letter

 

August 27, 2020

Acting Secretary Chad Wolf
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
3801 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016

 

Dear Acting Secretary Wolf:

On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration and Committee on International Justice and Peace, and on behalf of Catholic Relief Services, we urge you to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months for South Sudan and to also redesignate TPS for South Sudan.

Guided by Catholic social teaching, our first concern when people are facing life-threatening situations is protecting their right to life. With this request, we are also emphasizing the biblical call in Matthew 25:31-46 to ensure that those on the margins of society do not lack the basics of life. TPS protects members of the designated groups from war and natural disaster. With TPS, they are given permission to stay in the United States and are authorized to work and provide support for themselves and their families. Many TPS holders, through remittances, also send vital financial support to their loved ones in their home countries.

TPS for South Sudan was last extended in April 2019 because of the continued existence of armed conflict and of external and temporary conditions that prevent the safe return of people back to South Sudan.1 Applying the same criteria now that led to that decision, current conditions noted below2 are comparable or worse than conditions in 2019 and thus should lead to an extension and redesignation of TPS for South Sudan:

  • the large forcible displacement of 1.6 million internally displaced persons; 300,000 people seeking refuge in South Sudan from other countries; 2.3 million South Sudanese refugees seeking refuge in neighboring countries;
  • the large need for humanitarian assistance with 7.5 million of the country’s nearly 12 million people needing humanitarian assistance;
  • the continued violation of humanitarian law including the killing of humanitarian workers that has now reached 119 workers killed since 2013;
  • the ongoing conflict leading to increased food insecurity and humanitarian needs leading U.S. Ambassador Thomas J. Hushek to redeclare a disaster in South Sudan for fiscal year 2020; and
  • the ongoing violence despite peace agreements as seen in the 400,000 conflict-related deaths since 2013, the expansive use of gender-based violence as a weapon of war, the exploitation of child soldiers, and extensive and devastating intercommunal violence.

Moreover, COVID-19, a threat not present in April 2019, is another compelling reason to extend and redesignate TPS. Only 56 percent of South Sudan’s population has access to even the most basic primary care3 and there are only 24 intensive care beds and 4 ventilators for a population of 11.7 million people.4 There are 2,490 reported cases so far of COVID-19 and 47 deaths.5 Besides the direct threat of COVID-19, it brings with it indirect threats of crippling the already-fragile health care system, and leaving South Sudanese at greater risk of not only COVID-19, but also malaria, diarrheal disease, and malnutrition.6 Indeed, experts fear that COVID-19 would add as many as 500,000 more people to the 6 million in South Sudan who already suffer from malnutrition.7

TPS serves the humanitarian and strategic interests of the United States, while expressing American values and building good will. Providing TPS is part of our commitment to South Sudan as we help them resolve their conflicts and restore those impacted by the ongoing violence.8 In line with the above policy principles and applying TPS as Congress intended, we urge you to grant the maximum protection possible through an 18-month extension and redesignation of TPS for South Sudan.

 

Most Reverend Mario E. Dorsonville,  Auxiliary Bishop of Washington Chair, Committee on Migration

Most Reverend David J. Malloy, Bishop of Rockford, Chair, Committee on Justice and Peace

Sean Callahan. President and CEO Catholic Relief Services

1 See 84 Fed. Reg. 13688 (April 5, 2019), www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/04/05/2019-06746/extension-of-the-designation-of- south-sudan-for-temporary-protected-status.
2See South Sudan Crisis: Factsheet 8, USAID (July 2, 2020), https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1866/07.02.20_-_USAID- DCHA_South_Sudan_Crisis_Fact_Sheet_8.pdf.
3 Report of the General Secretary: Situation in South Sudan, UN (June 15, 2020), p 5, https://undocs.org/S/2020/536
4 “5 crisis zones threatened by a coronavirus “double emergency,” International Rescue Committee (April 9, 2020), www.rescue.org/article/5-crisis-zones-threatened-coronavirus- double-emergency
5 COVID-19 Resource Center, Johns Hopkins University and Medicine, https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/region/south-sudan (accessed August 18, 2020)
6 Report of the General Secretary, p 5
7 Id.
8 U.S. Relations With South Sudan, U.S. Department of State (August 10, 2018), www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/171718.htm

Letter of Support for Coronavirus Assistance for American Families (CAAF) Act

August 5, 2020

 

Dear Senator,

On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM), I write to urge you to add your name as a cosponsor of the “Coronavirus Assistance for American Families (CAAF) Act”,  introduced by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Steve Daines (R-MT), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Marco Rubio (R-FL).  Your co-sponsorship of this legislation would be an enormous help in ensuring that \ immigrant families that include a U.S. citizen parent are made eligible for funding in the next COVID-19 package negotiated by Congress. CAAF would help protect some mixed-status families and is an important step in the right direction that we welcome and support. At the same time, we continue to urge lawmakers to ensure that all U.S. citizen children, including those who do not have a U.S. citizen parent,  are eligible for stimulus payments.  This would ensure that they are able to receive support they desperately need, promote family stability, and good health during this uncertain time.

The Catholic Church’s commitment to assisting immigrants is rooted in our belief that all God’s children were created in His image and have a unique and sacred human dignity. Our work on behalf of immigrant families, in particular, is centered around the importance of the family unit to society. As Pope Francis has stated, the family “is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation.” Families are an essential element of our communities, parishes, and nation; they are what holds America together. Upholding and protecting families, regardless of national origin or  immigration status is vital to our faith and to our country.

CAAF proposes providing a $1,000 Economic Impact Payment to all American citizens equally, regardless of age or dependent status. It would make adult dependent U.S. citizens eligible to receive the payment, including those with disabilities, or college students, and U.S. citizens married to foreign nationals.  It would not make foreign nationals or Individual Tax Identification Number filers eligible for the payment.  It would prioritize families by expanding assistance through an increased child benefit so that a family that includes four U.S. citizens would receive $600 more than it received under the CARES Act.  And it would provide greater assistance to single parents with multiple children who face additional economic hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The changes proposed in CAAF would make more mixed-status immigrant families eligible to receive the assistance they need. We are pleased with this critical effort to include more immigrant families in vital relief efforts.

We respectfully request that serious consideration be given to be more inclusive with stimulus aid to all U.S. citizen children, regardless of their parents’ immigration status. We firmly believe that such life-affirming relief for U.S. citizen children should not hinge on their parents’ immigration status. We know that there is much need now for assistance for immigrant families, particularly mixed-status families, who are hurting. From our work supporting and ministering to immigrant communities, we know that their livelihoods and general health outcomes could be greatly improved by this addition.

We are thankful to our elected legislators in Congress for their work in helping our country respond to the coronavirus pandemic and the long road we face ahead in recovery. We ask that you cosponsor the Coronavirus Assistance for American Families (CAAF) Act  as it is a step forward in ensuring that all are included in the recovery efforts. Additionally, we urge you to ensure all U.S. citizen children are eligible for future coronavirus stimulus relief. We must continue to come together to ensure for the advancement of the common good and the inclusion of those who are left on the margins.

 

Sincerely,

Most Rev. Mario E. Dorsonville, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

 

 

 

USCCB Letter to Senators Regarding COVID-19 Funding

Click Here for a PDF of this Letter

July 27, 2020

Dear Senators,

Over the past few months, you have heard from several U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) committees regarding the bishops’ priorities for the next phase of COVID-19 relief. I write you on behalf of the United States Conference of Bishops’ Committee on Migration concerning supplemental funding related to COVID-19 for refugee and immigrant families. Consistent with Catholic social teaching, we urge an inclusive approach to halting and mitigating the ongoing health and economic impacts of COVID-19. We believe that the pursuit of the common good must involve all people, including the most vulnerable populations on the margins, such as refugees and at-risk immigrant families. We are all in it together.

We urge you to include in the upcoming COVID-19 bill, S. 4071 the American Citizen Coronavirus Relief Act, sponsored by Senators Rubio (R-FL) and Tillis (R-NC). We believe this legislation is a step in the right direction to help ensure that certain immigrant families, specifically those which include a U.S. citizen parent, are eligible to receive the stimulus funding under the CARES Act and future COVID-19 relief. While the American Citizen Coronavirus Relief Act does not protect all U.S. citizen children who are currently ineligible for stimulus funding under the CARES Act, this is an important effort to ensure that more mixed-status families are able to receive support they desperately need to ensure family stability and health during this uncertain time.

We also urge you to include in the upcoming COVID-19 relief bill, S. 4307, Protecting Benefits for Elderly Refugees and Refugees with Disabilities During COVID-19 Act, sponsored by Senator Murray (D-WA). This bill would extend the period of eligibility for Supplemental Security Income for elderly and disabled refugees who are in the U.S. after fleeing religious and other persecution. The extension is necessary because of the long delays of up to seven years, in the naturalization process.

In addition to these requests relating to inclusion of S. 4071 and S. 4307 into the next COVID-19 bill, we ask you to also include:

  • automatic extension of work authorization and visas for all Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, as well as all immigrants who have been characterized as “essential workers.” This enables immigrants and refugees to keep working and contributing to our economic rebound.
  • testing and treatment for COVID-19 must be available to all. It is vital that all individuals are able to access care for their well-being as well as for community health.

Coronavirus Relief Act, sponsored by Senators Rubio (R-FL) and Tillis (R-NC). We believe this

American Citizen

legislation is a

• $642 million to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement to respond to urgent needs of refugees and others under their care. As recent research shows, refugees have contributed greatly to the United States during this time.

The Catholic Church’s commitment to assisting immigrants is rooted in our teaching on the sacredness and dignity of all human life, and all God’s children were created in His image. Our work on behalf of immigrant and refugee families, in particular, is centered around the importance of the family unit to society. As Pope Francis has stated, the family “is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation.” 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 and its immigration status, is vital to our faith and to our country.

Thank you for considering these requests.
Yours truly,

Most Rev. Mario E. Dorsonville
Auxiliary Bishop of Washington
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

USCCB Letter to House in Support of H.R. 2214 and H.R. 5581

Click Here for a PDF of this Letter

July 21, 2020

Dear Representative:

I write on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM) to urge your support for H.R. 2214, the National Origin Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants Act (NO BAN Act), and H.R. 5581, the Access to Counsel Act. The full House is scheduled to take up these bills on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, as House Amendments to the Senate Amendment to H.R. 2486.

The NO BAN Act would end the ongoing harms caused by a series of executive actions negatively impacting refugees and immigrants and their families and would put into place vital protections to prevent future discriminatory bans. On January 27, 2017, the President signed Executive Order (EO) 13769, which temporarily banned the entry of all refugees and the entry of foreign nationals from several Muslim-majority countries. He subsequently implemented related EO 13780, EO 13815, and Presidential Proclamation (PP) 9645. He also later signed PP 9822 that limited access to asylum protection in a manner contrary to the Refugee Act of 1980. Most recently, on January 31, 2020, he issued Presidential Proclamation 9983 that restricts access to U.S. immigrant visas for citizens of six more countries. For individuals being considered for admission to the United States and are in secondary or deferred inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Access to Counsel Act would provide them with crucial access to legal counsel, as well as access to family and close associates. This strengthens due process for these individuals, many of whom are asylum seekers.

While Catholic social teaching recognizes the duty and responsibility of governments to protect their citizens by properly controlling borders, it also recognizes the government’s obligation to protect and provide strong due process for vulnerable groups and individuals, particularly refugees, asylum seekers, and vulnerable children and families. The NO BAN Act would vacate 6 past executive actions that restricted access to lawful migration while not strengthening protection for U.S. citizens, and the Access to Counsel Act would strengthen at risk migrants’ access to due process while not undermining U.S. security or public safety.

USCCB/COM has opposed all six of the executive actions that will be vacated by the NO BAN Act. These actions undermine our longstanding commitment to and implementation of refugee and asylum protection. Moreover, we are deeply troubled over the Administration implementing immigration and refugee policies that are based on religious discrimination. We filed two amicus briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court during the last two years raising concerns about how the Administration’s policies threaten religious liberty. With support of the Access to Counsel Act, USCCB/COM continues its long-time support of access to counsel for asylum seekers and immigrants.

Thank you for your attention to these urgent issues, and we ask that you support the two measures when they are brought before the full House of Representatives.

Sincerely,

Most Reverend Mario E. Dorsonville Auxiliary Bishop of Washington
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

Letter to Vice President and State Department Regarding Resettlement Needed for Refugees Including Those Fleeing Religious Persecution

Click here for a PDF of this Letter

July 9, 2020

 

The Honorable Mike Pence

Vice President

Eisenhower Executive Office Building

West Executive Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

The Honorable Michael Pompeo

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20520

 

-VIA EMAIL-

 

Re: Resettlement Needed for Refugees Including Those Fleeing Religious Persecution

Dear Vice President Pence and Secretary Pompeo,

We write to you out of concern for refugees fleeing religious persecution and other critical needs for resettlement. We have a strong commitment to religious freedom and protection of vulnerable refugees, including support for and partnership with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). We appreciate the Trump Administration’s prioritization of protecting religious freedom and religious minorities as acknowledged in the National Security Strategy, and promoted by two Religious Freedom Ministerials, noted in the recent 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom[1] and advanced through the June 2 Executive Order on Advancing International Religious Freedom. We also take this opportunity to commend the Trump Administration for keeping the door open for urgent resettlement cases during the COVID-19 crisis.

In that collaborative spirit, we urge you to exercise flexibility in your administration of USRAP by reallocating the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Presidential Determination (PD) refugee categories to ensure that the refugee program can maximize its life-saving mission amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. With low arrival numbers in the categories of Iraqi P-2s (86) and Central Americans (255)[2], we urge you to expand resettlement in the two other admission categories to reach the full 18,000 FY20 PD, including by increasing slots for refugees fleeing religious persecution. Additionally, if COVID-19 prevents full resumption of the refugee program and as a result, there is a shortfall in reaching 18,000 refugees resettled for FY 2020, we urge you to:

  • increase the refugee admissions in the FY 2021 PD beyond the FY2020 level of 18,000 by at least the number not resettled from the FY 2020 allocation;
  • count refugees who were ready for departure in FY 2020 toward the FY 2020 PD, even if they arrive in FY21; and
  • return, as soon as possible, to average historical admission levels of 75,000 or more so that the U.S. program is commensurate with global need, and traditional U.S. global leadership on this issue is restored, given that we face the largest forced global displacement crisis on record.

With implementation of these changes, it is estimated that 15,000 more refugees fleeing religious persecution alone would be protected through refugee resettlement.[3] We view this as an issue of extreme importance especially given the precipitous decline of resettlement of refugees facing religious persecution in recent years: for example, the number of Iraqi Christians resettled declined 94.2% from FY 2016 to FY 2019, from 1524 individuals to 89 individuals, and the number of Jewish refugees resettled from Iran declined 97.2% from FY 2016 to FY 2019, from 72 individuals to 2 individuals.[4]

“We cannot, nor should we look the other way when, in many parts of the world, believers of different religious denominations are persecuted,” Pope Francis has said. “The use of religion to incite hated, violence, oppression, extremism and blind fanaticism, cries out to God.”[5] Protection of religious minorities, including Christians, is an extremely important issue for Catholics worldwide and in the United States[6] as well as Evangelicals[7].

In the coming months, we urge you to flexibly adjust USRAP operations and in the coming fiscal year, we urge you to pursue the above described recommendations to increase the number of lives the United States saves through resettlement, including the lives of thousands of families fleeing religious persecution. We pledge to work with you on this and welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss how we can move forward in the vital work of protecting individuals and families persecuted on account of religion both in the United States and worldwide. Please feel free to follow up with the USCCB Migration and Refugee Services Policy Director, Ashley Feasley at afeasley@usccb.org and USCCB International Justice and Peace Office Director, Lucas Koach at lkoach@usccb.org to arrange a meeting with the undersigned for further discussion. We welcome the chance to dialogue on this important matter.

 

Yours truly,

Most Reverend Mario Dorsonville

Auxiliary Bishop of Washington

Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

 

Most Reverend David J. Malloy

Bishop of Rockford,

Chairman, USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace

 

Most Reverend Thomas Wenski

Archbishop of Miami

Chairman, USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty

 

Scott Arbeiter

President

World Relief

 

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

 

Donald Kerwin

Executive Director

Center for Migration Studies

 

Walter Kim

President

National Association of Evangelicals

 

Donna J. Markham OP, PhD, ABPP

President & CEO

Catholic Charities USA

 

Russell Moore
President
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

 

Chris Palusky

President & CEO

Bethany Christian Services

 

Joan Rosenhauer

Executive Director

Jesuit Refugee Service

 

Monsignor Robert J. Vitillo

Secretary General

International Catholic Migration Commission

 

[1]2019 Report on International Religious Freedom, U.S. Department of State, June 20, 2020, available at https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-report-on-international-religious-freedom /  At the roll out of the 2019 Report, Secretary Pompeo stated: “There is no other nation that cares so deeply about religious freedom, that we gather accounts from all across the world – it’s an enormous, it’s a comprehensive accounting of this fundamental human right.”
[2] Refugee Processing Center, Arrivals by Admission Category, June 5, 2020, https://www.wrapsnet.org/admissions-and-arrivals/
[3] “Statement of Barbara L. Strack, Retired, Former Chief, Refugee Affairs Division, Refugee, Asylum, and International Operations Directorate, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security (2005-2018),” page 6, Hearing on The Current State of the U.S. Refugee Program, House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration & Citizenship, February 27, 2020, https://www.congress.gov/116/meeting/house/110569/witnesses/HHRG-116-JU01-Wstate-StrackB-20200227.pdf
[4] Data compiled by World Relief. All data is reported from the U.S. State Department’s Refugee Processing Center (www.wrapsnet.org) as of September 30, 2019.  Religious affiliation is self-reported and various denominations within a particular religious tradition (i.e., Methodist, Catholic, Orthodox, simply “Christian,” etc.,) have been aggregated by Matthew Soerens of World Relief. Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious groups that self-identify as Christians are included in that category, even though some other Christians would classify them as a distinct religious tradition. Years reported are fiscal years lasting from October 1 through September 30, not calendar years.
[5]Inés San Martín, “Pope, UN chief decry religious violence, including against Christians, Crux, Dec. 21, 2019
 available at https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2019/12/pope-un-chief-decry-religious-violence-including-against-christians/
[6]Catholic News Service, “Survey: Number of Catholics concerned about Christian persecution rises”
Mar. 21, 2019, https://www.ncronline.org/news/quick-reads/survey-number-catholics-concerned-about-christian-persecution-rises
[7] In 2017 National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson wrote to President Trump, “Christians and churches have been welcoming refugees for 2,000 years, and evangelicals are committed to continue this biblical mission. Thousands of U.S. evangelicals and their churches have welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees over the past 40 years through World Relief and other federally approved resettlement agencies. We don’t want to stop now.”  https://www.nae.net/nae-calls-president-trump-continue-resettling-refugees/

Letter to Senators in Support of the American Citizen Coronavirus Relief Act

View this Letter as a PDF

 

Dear Senator,

On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM), I to urge you to consider supporting the American Citizen Coronavirus Relief Act, introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC). This legislation is a step in the right direction to help ensure that certain immigrant families, specifically those which include a U.S. citizen parent, are eligible to receive the stimulus funding under the CARES Act. While the American Citizen Coronavirus Relief Act does not protect all U.S. citizen children who are currently ineligible for stimulus funding under the CARES Act, this legislation is an important effort to ensure that more mixed-status families are able to receive support they desperately need to ensure family stability and health during this uncertain time.

The Catholic Church’s commitment to assisting immigrants is rooted in the belief that they, like all God’s children, were created in His image and have a unique and sacred human dignity. Our work on behalf of immigrant families, in particular, is centered around the importance of the family unit to society. As Pope Francis has stated, the family “is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation.” 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 and its immigration status, is vital to our faith and to our country.

The American Citizen Coronavirus Relief Act would amend the CARES Act law and the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to adjust identification number requirements for taxpayers filing joint returns to receive Economic Impact Payments. These changes would ensure that U.S. citizens with an undocumented spouse and U.S. children are able to receive the stimulus funding set forth in the CARES Act. With this change, more mixed-status immigrant families will be able to receive the assistance they need. We are pleased with this critical step and the effort to include more immigrant families in vitally needed relief efforts. We respectfully request that serious consideration be given to be more inclusive of the CARES Act stimulus relief to all U.S. citizen children, regardless of their parents’ immigration status. We firmly believe that such life-affirming relief for U.S. citizen children should not hinge on their parents’ immigration status.

We know that there is much need now for assistance and immigrant families, particularly mixed-status families, who are hurting. From our work supporting and ministering to immigrant communities, we know that their livelihoods and general health outcomes could be greatly improved by this addition.

We are thankful to our elected legislators in Congress for their work in helping our country respond to the coronavirus pandemic and the long road we face ahead in recovery. We ask that you consider sponsoring the American Citizen Coronavirus Relief Act as it is a step forward to ensuring that all are included in the recovery efforts. Additionally, we urge you to ensure all U.S. citizen children are eligible for CARES relief. We must continue to come together to ensure for the advancement of the common good and the inclusion of those who are left on the margins.

Sincerely,

Most Rev. Mario E. Dorsonville

Auxiliary Bishop of Washington

Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

Letter to the Senate Regarding Emergency Appropriations funding for USCIS

Click here for a PDF of this Letter

Dear Senator:

As a Church at the service of all God’s people, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) stands ready to work with the leaders of both parties to protect marginalized people, promote human life and dignity, and advance the common good. I write on behalf of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration to note the funding priorities of USCCB Migration Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS).

The committee has submitted a letter on our funding priorities with respect to programs for immigrants, refugees, unaccompanied children, and trafficking victims in Fiscal Year (FY) 21 (see attached). I write today regarding the recent request for funding by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) due to a projected shortfall of $1.2 billion. We note the important work of USCIS and our concern that not funding the agency in this moment will result in mission-threatening cuts to USCIS’s capacity for adjudicating immigration applications. Our requests fall into three core areas: (1) agency transparency; (2) efficiency in legal immigration; and (3) ensuring access to humanitarian protection for unaccompanied children, refugees and asylum seekers. Please consider the following requests as you work to fund USCIS:

Agency Transparency:

(1) Conduct a formal accounting of how policy changes have affected USCIS’s efficiency and encourage a temporary pause on the implementation of all new policies. We would recommend a halt to new policy implementation within USCIS until there is a full accounting as to how changes have affected USCIS processing and contributed to the surplus drain and case backlog. Particular changes have added redundancy such as new labor-intensive in-person interview requirements on routine cases, and overall increases in paperwork. Furthermore, the sheer number of changes has affected efficiency, particularly with staff and contractors having to halt work for ongoing re-training.

(2) Requested funds should only be spent on core USCIS mission work of adjudication. We would request that funding appropriated by Congress specifically be designated to facilitate adjudications of employment, family-based and humanitarian immigration applications. Funding should not be designated or transferred for enforcement, tip forms or other initiatives outside the scope of adjudications during this time. We would also recommend analysis of how much money has been spent on projects outside of core work and transfers outside of USCIS over recent fiscal years.

Encouraging Efficiency in Legal Immigration:

(3) Improve family-based visa processing. The Catholic Church believes that the family is the building block of our society. We promote family reunification and oppose family separation. Family members of new Americans face increased delays in their legal reunification due to lengthening visa backlogs. For example, in 2019, for certain case types, USCIS estimated it would take the agency more than three years to complete the process.1 We urge USCIS to work to improve the family-based adjudication wait times. We also urge quarterly reporting to Congress on family visa processing. Additionally, in order to reduce further delays, we suggest that USCIS ensure that any unused family-based immigration visas from 2020 can be used in 2021 or 2022.

(4)Implement virtual oath ceremonies. Part of the U.S. Catholic Church’s mission in welcoming is to work to integrate immigrants into our society, with the naturalization process being a vital part of that journey. To clear the backlog and improve processing times, USCIS should clear naturalization cases that have been completed all but for the last step – the oath ceremony. USCIS should implement virtual ceremonies and take measures necessary to clear and complete.

(5) Ensure that USCIS utilizes premium processing fees and consider expanding to other benefit types. In recent years, USCIS has not consistently used premium processing fees, which are known revenue boosters to the financial well-being of the agency. Earlier this month, USCIS reintroduced premium processing for Petitions for Nonimmigrant and Alien Workers, (respectively (Form I-129 and I-140)) and H-1B petitions while this development is welcomed, we urge USCIS to expand premium processing to other benefit types. Additionally, we encourage the Committee to consider directing revenues from premium processing to cover the cost of payroll (instead of infrastructure improvement), in order to ensure that federal workers in USCIS Service Centers are not furloughed and also that adjudication is not disrupted.

Ensuring Access to Humanitarian Protection for Unaccompanied Children, Asylum-Seekers & Refugees

(6) Require USCIS to adjudicate Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) petitions within 180 days and to provide Congress with quarterly reports on efforts to reduce overall case backlog. From FY 2016 to 2019, USCIS’s average processing time for Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, the petition filed by unaccompanied children seeking SIJ humanitarian protection, increased from 4.8 months to 16.8 months, in contradiction with congressional intent of adjudication in 180 days.2 In our programs, we see directly the stress and harm these types of delays can cause children, as it can affect their ability to integrate in their communities and with families. Additionally, there are currently several children in USCCB/MRS foster care programs who are at risk of aging out before their SIJ cases will be adjudicated because of the case backlog delays. Aging out without an SIJ eligibility determination will severely limit a child’s eligibility for continuous placement and for vital social services.

(7) Prohibit fees for seeking asylum and for asylum seekers’ initial requests for employment authorization. In November 2019, USCIS proposed a filing fee for Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, as well as for a first-time I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, filed by an asylum seeker.3 These fees would preclude some unaccompanied children from requesting potentially life-saving relief, while pricing out many others from the employment authorization necessary not only to work, but also to obtain federal identification often needed to access housing, medical care, and educational opportunities while their asylum cases are pending. Likewise, these fees would also preclude many asylum seekers, who have often fled their countries with nothing, from pursuing U.S. asylum protection or supporting themselves as they pursue protection.

(8) Extend flexibility with regard to adjudicated refugee cases. Thousands of refugees whose cases have already been adjudicated by USCIS and are ready for travel in FY 20 may not be able to arrive in the United States due to travel restrictions as a result of the coronavirus. In an effort to maximize USCIS resources, refugees marked “ready for departure” in FY 20 should be counted towards the FY 20 Presidential Determination and should be admitted regardless of category.

(9) Extend validity periods for security checks. Refugees and Special Immigrant Visa holders face significant processing delays due to resource-intensive security checks. These delays have been exacerbated by the present pandemic. In order to prevent use of more USCIS staff resources to review security checks, USCIS and its vetting partners should extend security check validity periods until the resumption of arrivals.

(10)Reduce USCIS expenditures related to refugee adjustment of status applications: Refugees are required by law to seek adjustment of status one year after arrival in the United States. Due to the vetting a refugee receives, these adjustment of status applications can be adjudicated more quickly and efficiently. USCIS should cut expenses by waiving in-person interviews for refugees applying for adjustment of status and re-using biometric information. 4

(11) Restore Cuban Haitian Entrant Program (CHEP): Managing potential migration flows in the Caribbean is essential to maintaining efficient USCIS operations in the future. The Cuban-Haitian Entrant Program (CHEP) was statutorily authorized to provide reception and resettlement services to newly arriving Cubans and Haitians paroled into the U.S. The USCIS should restore the program to be prepared for potential migration events in the Caribbean and Florida. From 2015 to 2019, an estimated 248,251 Cubans and Haitians came to the United States, including 89,422 during the initial years of this Administration.5 The CHEP not only provides crucial humanitarian transitional support for these entrants but also helps the communities respond in an orderly and effective manner.

It is the mission of the Catholic Church to bring to the teaching of Jesus Christ, who reminds us of the truth that every person is created in God’s image merits dignity. The work of the USCCB/MRS on behalf of immigrants, refugees, unaccompanied children, and trafficking victims is part of our ongoing effort to live out this teaching.

Thank you for considering our recommendations.

Sincerely,

Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville Auxiliary Bishop of Washington Chairman, Committee on Migration

 

1CLINIC Written Testimony to the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, July 16, 2019, https://cliniclegal.org/resources/clinics-written-testimony-house-judiciary-committees-subcommittee-immigration-and
2 See USCIS, “Historical National Average Processing Time (in Months) for All USCIS Offices for Select Forms By Fiscal Year,” https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/historic-pt.
3 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements, 84 Fed. Reg. 62,280 (Nov. 14, 2019) (Proposed Rule).
4See USCIS, Adjustment of Status, https://www.uscis.gov/green-card/green-card-processes-and-procedures/adjustment-status 5Department of Health and Human Services, Fiscal Year 2020, Budget Justification, https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/olab/acf_congressional_budget_justification_2020.pdf (page 39)