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USCCB Chairman of Committee on Migration Letter to Congress with Concerns on Two Immigration Bills Before Congress

June 18, 2018

Dear Representative,

I write on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM) concerning the two pending immigration bills that may be brought to the House floor this week.

For over 18 years, the Catholic Church has urged Congress to put forth and pass 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 such legislative solution must: (1) be bipartisan, (2) provide Dreamers with a path to citizenship, (3) be pro-family, (4) protect the vulnerable; and (5) be respectful of human dignity with regard to border security and enforcement.

While my brother bishops and I appreciate your good faith effort to find a legislative solution for Dreamers by bringing immigration measures before the full House of Representatives, these two bills contain a number of provisions that cause us serious concern. As the USCCB/COM has written regarding our opposition to H.R. 4760 in the past, I turn to the second, yet-to-be-numbered alternative immigration bill that also may soon be before you. As written, this bill contains several provisions that run contrary to our Catholic social teaching. Specifically, it would:

  • undermine asylum  protections  by  significantly  raising the  hurdle applicants face during  the  “Credible  Fear”  review;
  • lead to increases in child and family detention through the proposed changes to the Flores Settlement;
  • eliminate protection for unaccompanied minors through the proposed changes to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA);
  • includes part of the DACA-eligible population but does not include same population eligible in the USA Act and the Dream Act;
  • make sweeping cuts to family-based immigration; and
  • unilaterally implement a safe third country agreement without a bilateral or multilateral treaty or agreement.

Lastly, it is important to note that the bill would not end the practice of separating families at the U.S./Mexico border, which could be ended by the Administration at its discretion at any point. Instead, (as mentioned above) this bill would increase the number of children and families in detention, which is not acceptable.

While we truly want a legislative solution for Dreamers, we cannot, in good faith, endorse large structural changes to the immigration system that detrimentally impact families and the vulnerable, such as those that are contained in this legislation. 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.

We respectfully urge you to reject H.R. 4760.  With respect to the alternative immigration bill that has been put forward, we ask for timely consideration of our concerns mentioned above, particularly the cuts to family-based immigration, as well as the harmful changes to the asylum system and existing protections for unaccompanied children. Without such changes to these measures, we would be compelled to oppose it.

We ask for a truly bipartisan effort to achieve a legislative solution for Dreamers that will protect them, keep our borders safe, and not harm families or the vulnerable. We remain committed to working with Congress to find such a solution.

Wishing you God’s blessings in your work on these critical issues, I am

Sincerely in Christ,

Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez
Bishop of Austin
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

Click here for a PDF of the Letter

2018-06-19T13:01:14+00:00News|

Written Testimony of Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin, Chairman, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration, Regarding The Prevention of Trafficking and Abuse of Unaccompanied Children For a Hearing of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration

My name is Bishop Joe Vásquez. I am the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Austin, Texas and the Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration. The Committee on Migration oversees the work of the Department of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) within the USCCB. On behalf of the USCCB/MRS, I would like to thank the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration, as well as Subcommittee Chair Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ranking Member Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), for the opportunity to submit this written statement for the record.

The care of unaccompanied children fleeing violence in Central America is of great importance to the Catholic Church. In this testimony, I highlight the need for existing protections for unaccompanied children to combat human trafficking and also to ensure safe placement and strong integration into communities. I also offer a few key recommendations for improved care of these children and for increased protection against trafficking and exploitation.

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops & Catholic Social Teaching

While the Catholic Church recognizes governments’ right to control their borders and enforce immigration laws, we also hold a strong pastoral interest in the welfare and humane treatment of unaccompanied immigrant children. The protection of immigrant children is an especially important issue for the Catholic Church, as one of Jesus’ first experiences as an infant was to flee for his life from King Herod with his family to Egypt. Indeed, Jesus, Himself, was a child migrant fleeing violence, and the Holy Family is the archetype of the refugee families we see today, both at our borders and around the world. The Holy Family faced the same difficult migration circumstance as thousands of children fleeing to the United States each year.

The Catholic Church in the United States has played a critical role in the care of unaccompanied children, and the USCCB/MRS has been a leader in the protection of and advocacy for this vulnerable population. Since 1994, the USCCB/MRS has operated the “Safe Passages” program. This program serves undocumented immigrant children apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and placed in the custody and care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Through cooperative agreements with ORR, and in collaboration with community-based social service agencies, the Safe Passages program provides community-based residential care (foster care and small group home placements) to unaccompanied children in ORR custody, as well as family reunification services (pre-release placement screening and post-release social services for families). In fiscal year 2017, the USCCB/MRS Safe Passages program served 1,294 youth who arrived as unaccompanied children—1,042 through the family reunification program and 252 through the residential care programs.

Our work assisting these children is rooted in the belief that they, like all God’s children, were created in His image and have a unique and sacred dignity.

The Northern Triangle – A Refugee Crisis

We know from the extensive presence of the Catholic Church in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (the Northern Triangle of Central America) and from over three decades serving this population that these children are fleeing for their lives. Violence in the home and at the community and state level is a primary factor forcing children to leave the Northern Triangle. As a result, many of these children present extreme international protection concerns. Given their vulnerability, they deserve and need our protection and our compassion.

In our years of service, we have seen firsthand the human consequences of violence and impunity in the Northern Triangle. We urge you to look beyond statistics and rhetoric and see that these are children. Children such as:

  • Karen, a young teen from El Salvador who began to be tormented by the MS-13 gang after winning a beauty pageant in her small town. The gang started by trailing Karen and her younger sister on their way home from school. The situation quickly escalated, however, and the gang demanded $10,000 from Karen’s family, saying that they would murder both girls if the fee was not paid. The girls fled for their lives, unaccompanied and seeking protection in the U.S. Karen quickly learned English, excelled in her studies, and was granted asylum in 2017. She recently won a scholarship and looks forward to attending college and working towards her dream of becoming a pediatrician. “I want people to be proud of me, to see all I’m trying to do,” she explained. “People think we are bad people. . . We don’t come because we want to come; we come because of conflicts so we can survive. We want to make things better, not give problems.”1

 

  • Manuel and Lucas, 9- and 11-year-old brothers from Honduras. The boys’ father was a local police officer who was working to combat gang violence in the community. When he was murdered by gang members, his mother fled to the U.S. and left the boys with their grandmother. Unfortunately, the boys were also forced to flee when the gang found them and murdered their grandmother. Arriving to the U.S. unaccompanied, they were transferred to the custody of ORR and eventually reunited with their mother. USCCB/MRS provided the family with vital family reunification services – assisting with school enrollment, providing education on the immigration court process, linking the family to legal counsel, and connecting the boys with counseling services to address their past trauma. Manuel and Lucas ultimately won their asylum cases and are adjusting well to their new community. 2

The trauma and persecution these children faced in their home countries highlights the Northern Triangle governments’ inability to adequately protect children due to corrupt or inadequate law enforcement and legal systems, as well as limited social welfare and child protection infrastructure.

In a time when the immigration debate has become increasingly polarized, it is easy to focus on statistics and fears, rather than faces and stories. But as the stories above clearly illustrate, these children are refugees.

Preventing Persecution and Trafficking of Unaccompanied Children

Once an unaccompanied child arrives at our border, we have a moral obligation to ensure his or her safety and wellbeing. As Pope Francis has said: “Among migrants, children constitute the most vulnerable group, because as they face the life ahead of them, they are invisible and voiceless.”3 Unaccompanied children are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking, domestic servitude, and other exploitative situations – in part, like any child, due to their age and inherent desire to trust and please adults. In the case of children in a forced migration context, prior victimization in their home country or during their journey to the United States, debts incurred for smuggling fees, and their undocumented status are all characteristics that put them at heightened risk and make them easy prey for traffickers and others with ill intent.

Recognizing these unique vulnerabilities to trafficking and exploitation, Congress passed critical protections for unaccompanied children in the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008. Under the TVPRA, transfer of apprehended unaccompanied children from non-contiguous countries (e.g., Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador) to ORR is required within 72 hours.4 These children are subsequently placed into immigration court proceedings. This automatic transfer, which has come under recent attack, is a vital safeguard to ensure that persecuted and trafficked children are afforded a meaningful chance at protection.

For children who are not afforded this automatic referral (i.e., children from Mexico and Canada), screening by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for trafficking and protection concerns is currently inadequate and leaves many children vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation. In its 2015 report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that 95% of Mexican unaccompanied children from fiscal years 2009-2014 were returned to Mexico, despite frequent indicators of trafficking or fear of return.5 The GAO report also found that CBP often did not correctly apply trafficking indicators, did not routinely ask follow-up questions to rule out all trafficking concerns, and did not ask questions pertaining to the risk of trafficking upon return to Mexico.6

We greatly respect the work of CBP agents and recognize their contributions to defend our borders and make us safe. However, they are law enforcement officers – not trained asylum officers or child welfare experts. The protections codified in the TVPRA are needed to ensure that child trafficking is identified and addressed. Consequently, rolling back TVPRA protections would undoubtedly lead to increased numbers of children being returned to the hands of their traffickers and abusers.

Ensuring Safe Placements & Promoting Community Integration

Facilitating release of unaccompanied children to family or “sponsors” pending their immigration removal proceedings is a humane and fiscally-sound policy. In addition to the moral and humanitarian concerns, detention of children is incredibly costly and an unnecessary use of government resources.7 It is vital, however, to ensure that children are not released to unsafe situations, that families are supported and connected to community resources, and that they understand the need to appear for their immigration court proceedings.

Family reunification services promote safe placements and facilitate family and community integration after reunification. These services include screening of placements prior to the release of children to relatives or family friends pending their immigration proceedings (“home studies”), as well as support to families after unaccompanied children are released from ORR custody (“post-release services”). While home studies and post-release services are valuable tools, we believe them to be under-utilized. We commend ORR’s recent efforts to increase post-release services but note that all family reunification services should be expanded and provided to a much greater number of children.

The limited use of these services has resulted in children being released to situations of abuse, abandonment, neglect, and trafficking. These are youth like Juan,8 who was released without services to his half-uncle in Florida. Shortly after his reunification, Juan’s uncle withdrew him from school and sent him to work in the fields with his two cousins (who had not been in the care of ORR). This forced labor continued until Juan’s cousin was injured and brought to the Emergency Room, where the injury raised abuse concerns. Child Protective Services investigated the situation and removed the children from the home, placing the children in state custody. From our work, we know that Juan’s story is more common than we think. We cannot let this happen to children.

To ensure that child trafficking is identified, we look to robust protection measures. Family reunification services, providing a connection to a child welfare professional trained to identify and respond to any such indicators, are one such measure that put children at a decreased risk of trafficking and exploitation. Additionally, with these short-term case management services and monitoring by child welfare professionals, it is more likely that children will appear at their immigration proceedings, enroll in school, and integrate into their communities — mitigating risk for future entry into the public child welfare system.

We must ensure that all children – regardless of their immigration status – are offered safety, support, and care in the United States.

Recommendations

  1. Address Root Causes of Migration. Congress should ensure robust appropriation of funds to address the root causes of forced migration from Northern Triangle countries. Such funding should support the efforts of Northern Triangle countries to strengthen their humanitarian and child protection responses, to include developing and improving education and child welfare systems, increasing opportunities for youth development, and providing safe spaces and alternatives to gang entry and migration. An example of programming that achieves these goals is the Catholic Relief Services “YouthBuilders” initiatives in Honduras and El Salvador. Government assistance must not solely be focused on enforcement but on strengthening protection systems and communities. We must address these issues to help ensure that children are not forced to make the dangerous journey north.
  2. Maintain Existing Protections for Children. In order to continue to fight human trafficking, which Pope Francis has rightly deemed “a crime against humanity,” we must safeguard our existing anti-trafficking protections. The TVPRA, including the automatic referral system for children from non-contiguous countries, is vital to ensuring that unaccompanied children are not returned to persecution or trafficking. Proposals to undermine or eliminate these existing safeguards are inhumane, run counter to basic child protection principles, and should be firmly rejected.
  3. Ensure Safe Placements and Facilitate Community Integration. In accordance with domestic child welfare best practices, Congress should urge ORR to increase the number unaccompanied children and families receiving family reunification services. While we were pleased to see the rates of post-release services improve slightly last fiscal year, ORR still provides family reunification services for less than thirty-two percent of children released from its care (with only seven percent of these children receiving home studies). Expanded family reunification services would increase protection for these children and allow for them to be linked to local resources, educated on immigration court processes and requirements, and also provide monitoring of the child’s safety and well-being, promoting the overall safety of our communities. We note that such programming should focus on strengthening the family to best promote long-term placement stability and integration.
  4. Support Safe Repatriation. Congress should provide funding to ensure that repatriation of unaccompanied children to the Northern Triangle, when appropriate, is accomplished safely. It is recommended that the U.S. government work with governments and non-governmental organizations in the region to provide repatriation and re-integration programs. Such programs will ensure that children are returned safely to appropriate caregivers and provided with follow-up services to help them reintegrate into their communities – with the goal of preventing re-migration.

Conclusion

How we respond to the children arriving at our border is a test of our moral character. In the words of Pope Francis, we must “not tire of courageously living the Gospel, which calls you to recognize and welcome the Lord Jesus among the smallest and most vulnerable.”

We urge you to reject proposals and legislation that are rooted in fear – that seek to treat unaccompanied children not as children seeking protection, but as threats and criminals. As always, USCCB/MRS stands ready to offer our assistance to Congress and ORR to strengthen protections for unaccompanied children to prevent and mitigate situations of human trafficking, exploitation, abuse, and neglect.

 

To View a PDF of this testimony, click here

1)Alice Kenny, Beauty Queen Targeted by MS-13, CATHOLIC CHARITIES ARCHDIOCESE OF NEW YORK (Jan. 17,2018), https://catholiccharitiesny.org/blog/beauty-queen-targeted-ms-13-gang.
2) Identifying information changed to protect client confidentiality.
3) Pope Francis, 2017 World Day of Migrants and Refugees Message (September 8, 2016), available at https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/migration/documents/papa-francesco_20160908_world-migrants-day-2017.html.
4)Trafficking and Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008, § 235 (2008).
 5)See GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE, UNACCOMPANIED ALIEN CHILDREN: ACTIONS NEEDED TO ENSURE CHILDREN RECEIVE REQUIRED CARE IN DHS CUSTODY 24, 27-36 (JULY 2015), available at https://www.gao.gov/assets/680/671393.pdf.
6)Id
7)Id at 66 (estimating that the average cost to the taxpayer to keep an unaccompanied child in an ORR shelter is $248 per day).
8)Identifying information changed to protect client confidentiality.
2018-05-22T12:05:13+00:00News|

USCCB Letter to DHS Regarding Extension of TPS Designation for Honduras

The Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen

Secretary

Department of Homeland Security

Washington, DC 20528

VIA EMAIL AND IN-PERSON

 

RE: Extension of TPS Designation for Honduras

Dear Secretary Nielsen,

I write on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops/Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS) to urge you to extend the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation of Honduras for 18 months. As you know, while the current TPS designation extends through July 5, 2018, for Honduras,[1]  pursuant to statutory requirements,[2] a decision to extend or terminate TPS for the country must be made by May 4, 2018. From our delegation trip to the region in Fall 2017, as well as our continued presence and work in the region and with affected communities in the U.S., we know firsthand that Honduras is not currently able to adequately handle the return of their nationals who 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, 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.”[3]

Bishop David O’Connell of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Bishop Vasquez of the Diocese of Austin led the USCCB/MRS Fall 2017 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 should TPS be terminated. As discussed in the trip report, Temporary Protected Status: A Vital Piece of the Central American Protection and Prosperity Puzzle

the delegation found an extension of TPS for both countries crucial for humanitarian, regional security, and economic stability reasons. Regarding Honduras, the delegation found that the country lacks 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 Honduras;
  • Large numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Honduras (~174,000) continue to be displaced, illustrating already existing safety issues and the growing humanitarian protection challenges in the country; and
  • The Honduran government does not have the current capacity 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).

In addition to the findings in the report, it is important to note that the disputed nature of the December 2017 presidential election in Honduras has compounded the society-wide instability of the country and further inhibits the Honduran government’s ability to accept returned nationals. The events around the presidential election diverted valuable resources away from improving the existing national protection and repatriation infrastructure. As a result, the capacity to reintegrate Honduran nationals remains very limited. Given this precarious state, the influx of deportees has the potential of further debilitating Honduras’ human security, economy, and civil society; thus, hurting the efficacy of its cooperation with the United States.

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 nationals who have received TPS from the United States. Doing so would likely destabilize this key strategic, regional partner and potentially bring harm to those returned. In addition, terminating TPS would needlessly add large numbers of Hondurans 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, pursuant to Section 244(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act,[1] until individuals’ return and reintegration to the country can be safely accomplished. This will allow Hondurans 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 continues to improve its 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 wellbeing and dignity of Honduran families as the country continues the path to reform, addressing citizen security and building protection infrastructure.

Respectfully Submitted,

William Canny, Executive Director

Click Here for a PDF Version of the Letter

[1] 8 U.S.C. § 1254a(b).
[1] Extension of the Designation of Honduras for Temporary Protected Status, 82 Fed. Reg. 59,630 (December 15, 2017), available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/12/15/2017-27140/extension-of-the-designation-of-honduras-for-temporary-protected-status
[2] 8 U.S.C. § 1254a(b).
[3] Deut. 10:17-19, available at http://www.usccb.org/bible/deuteronomy/10
[4] USCCB/MRS, Temporary Protected Status: A Vital Piece of the Central American Protection and Prosperity Puzzle (October 2017), available at http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/fact-finding-mission-reports/upload/el-salvador-honduras-report-20171016.pdf.
[5] 8 U.S.C. § 1254a(b).
2018-05-02T15:28:43+00:00News|

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+00:00News|

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+00:00News|

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+00:00News|

House Appropriations Letter FY 19

Dear Representative:

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 impoverished and marginalized people, promote human life and dignity, and advance the common good. As Congress contemplates the end of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 appropriations process and the beginning of that process for FY 2019, many USCCB policy offices either have already expressed, or will later express their views on appropriations matters under their purview. Together, these views represent the breadth of concern of the bishops in the budget and appropriations process. Today, I write on behalf of the USCCB Committee on Migration to request your support for our funding priorities with respect to several federal accounts, programs, and activities that are crucial for immigrants, refugees, unaccompanied children, and trafficking victims. I ask that as you finalize FY 2018 funding levels and begin your consideration of funding for FY 2019, please consider the following requests:

Refugee Protection

Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
We ask that Congress appropriate $1.901 billion in FY 2019 for the Refugee Entrant and Assistance (REA) account, an amount we believe would enable the Department of Health and Human Service Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to adequately serve all the vulnerable populations and respond to unanticipated needs. The REA account helps states and local communities welcome and support refugees and other populations on their path to self-sufficiency. ORR also serves unaccompanied children, asylees, Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipients, Cuban and Haitian entrants, victims of human trafficking, and victims of torture. ORR serves up to 200,000 newly arrived individuals annually.

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
We ask that Congress appropriate $3.604 billion for the Department of State’s Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account, $50 million for the Department’s Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) account, and $3.883 billion for the International Disaster Assistance (IDA) that is administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID), amounts we believe would ensure that State and USAID can continue to service currently displaced populations while responding to numerous humanitarian crises.

The MRA account funds the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. This account provides overseas assistance to displaced refugees and funding lifesaving services in humanitarian emergencies, while stabilizing refugee host countries in sensitive regions. Escalating violence in many parts of the world underscores the urgent need for the ERMA account—an emergency draw-down account that provides an important “safety valve” during emergencies. IDA account funds humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons. Meeting the needs of internally displaced persons is one way to prevent them from fleeing their countries of origin and becoming refugees.

Protection of Unaccompanied Children

Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
For FY 19, within the $1.901 billion level of funding that we suggest for the HHS REA account, we ask that Congress appropriate $948 million to serve unaccompanied children. ORR provides custody and care, shelter, and support services to these children apprehended in the U.S by the Department of Homeland Security. We urge overall funding be utilized for continued family reunification efforts. We note the additional $206 million above the FY 2019 funding that is requested to meet potential increased demand. We welcome this funding and preparation efforts, but urge that such funding not be utilized for large-scale shelters nor efforts to separate children from their parents as a deterrence strategy. Such funding should focus on smaller individualized shelters that comport with child welfare principles as well as transitional and long-term foster care placements. Additionally, for FY 2018 we welcome the additional $686 million requested by the Administration for provision of care to unaccompanied children, however we urge similar large-scale shelter and family separation restrictions on such funding.

Combatting Human Trafficking and Protecting Survivors

Labor, Health and Human Services and Education
Within the $1.694 billion level of funding that we suggest for the REA account, we ask Congress to appropriate $40 million for Office of Trafficking in Persons (OTIP), in the form of $20 million to foreign national victims’ protection and $20 million to protection of U.S. citizen victims. We also ask Congress to appropriate $91 million for the Department of Labor International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB). OTIP oversees the care and treatment of all U.S. citizen and foreign national trafficking victims in the United States. OTIP identifies and serves trafficking victims and provides specialized case management.
ILAB plays a critical role in efforts to eradicate child labor and address forced labor. Through its reports, ILAB plays a major role in monitoring and reporting on labor practices in countries around the world.

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
We ask that Congress appropriate $24 million for the Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Person Office (J/TIP) for combatting human trafficking. J/TIP needs additional resources to ensure that it can administer anti-trafficking programming and research.

Department of Homeland Security
We ask that Congress appropriate $5 million to enable Border Patrol agents to identify and protect child trafficking victims. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 requires CBP to screen children it encounters for indicators that they are trafficking victims. The funds we suggest be appropriated could be used for orientation, training, and hiring child welfare experts.

Immigration Enforcement

Department of Homeland Security
The President’s FY 2019 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Budget in Brief suggests allocating $5.6 billion in additional funding for programs to implement the January 25, 2017, Executive Orders on Border Security and Immigration Enforcement. Specifically, the Budget requests:

• $1.6 billion for costs associated with the construction of 65 miles of new wall in Rio Grande Valley sector;
• $780 million to recruit, hire, and train 750 new Border Patrol Agents and 2,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement law enforcement personnel in FY 2019;
• $3.266 billion for expanded detention, transportation, and removal capabilities; and
• Expansion of immigrant detention bed capacity from approximately 39,000 to 52,000.

The Catholic Church acknowledges the right of nations to control their borders and governments’ responsibility to protect the people within their borders. At the same time, we believe that those rights and responsibilities should be exercised in a manner that is consistent with their moral obligation to protect the humanitarian needs of migrants and refugees. Wealthier nations have a stronger obligation to accommodate those needs and can do so in a manner that does not jeopardize the safety of their people.

We oppose shifting resources away from accommodating humanitarian needs and toward the enforcement priorities proposed by the Administration for FY 2019. We believe the priorities enunciated in the Administration’s FY 2019 budget submission would constitute a further, unnecessary and dangerous security buildup on the U.S./Mexico border and would cause an extreme increase in the use of immigrant detention. We do not believe such an enforcement-only approach is appropriate. Moreover, we do not believe that such resources need to be or should be invested in the type of border wall proposed by the Administration or in more detention facilities. Instead, we believe that some of this funding should be dedicated to more humane and economical programs, such as alternatives to detention programs that utilize case management; legal services; and safe voluntary repatriation programs. As such, we welcome the allocation of $184 million to Alternatives to Detention programs, but note that such funding should be increased in lieu of immigrant detention funding. We especially note disappointment at the cancellation of the Family Case Management Program, which provided a community-based support alternative to detention for vulnerable immigrant families, primarily women and their children.

Other Important Immigration Priorities

Department of Homeland Security
We note that the FY 2018 Continuing Resolution extended the expiring Special Immigrant Non-Minister Religious Worker Visa program until March 23, 2018. We ask that Congress include language that would permanently reauthorize this small program in any bill appropriating funds for DHS for FY 2019. We also ask that Congress include in the DHS portion of any appropriations vehicle it passes a Hyde-like provision to ensure that federal funds not be used to fund elective abortions.

Commerce Justice Science and Related Agencies
The President’s FY 2019 Budget requests an additional $40 million to support an additional 75 Immigration Judges. We urge you to accommodate this request.

We also ask that Congress appropriate $50 million for Administrative Review and Appeals Executive Office of Immigration Review (APA/EOIR) to expand the pilot program for legal representation and leverage federal funds to bolster pro bono efforts and improve immigration court efficiency. And finally, we ask that Congress appropriate $40 million to expand the APA/EOIR Legal Orientation Program (LOP) and the Legal Orientation Program for Custodians of Unaccompanied Children (LOPC). We suggest this funding include $25 million for the LOP and $15 million for the LOPC as this effort streamlines immigration court proceedings.

Thank you for considering our recommendations.

Sincerely,

Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin
Chair, Committee on Migration
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Click Here for a PDF Version of this Letter

2018-03-07T14:29:26+00:00News|

Senate Appropriations Letter FY 19

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 impoverished and marginalized people, promote human life and dignity, and advance the common good. As Congress contemplates the end of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 appropriations process and the beginning of that process for FY 2019, many USCCB policy offices either have already expressed, or will later express their views on appropriations matters under their purview. Together, these views represent the breadth of concern of the bishops in the budget and appropriations process. Today, I write on behalf of the USCCB Committee on Migration to request your support for our funding priorities with respect to several federal accounts, programs, and activities that are crucial for immigrants, refugees, unaccompanied children, and trafficking victims. I ask that as you finalize FY 2018 funding levels and begin your consideration of funding for FY 2019, please consider the following requests:

Refugee Protection

Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
We ask that Congress appropriate $1.901 billion in FY 2019 for the Refugee Entrant and Assistance (REA) account, an amount we believe would enable the Department of Health and Human Service Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to adequately serve all the vulnerable populations and respond to unanticipated needs. The REA account helps states and local communities welcome and support refugees and other populations on their path to self-sufficiency. ORR also serves unaccompanied children, asylees, Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipients, Cuban and Haitian entrants, victims of human trafficking, and victims of torture. ORR serves up to 200,000 newly arrived individuals annually.

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
We ask that Congress appropriate $3.604 billion for the Department of State’s Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account, $50 million for the Department’s Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) account, and $3.883 billion for the International Disaster Assistance (IDA) that is administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID), amounts we believe would ensure that State and USAID can continue to service currently displaced populations while responding to numerous humanitarian crises.

The MRA account funds the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. This account provides overseas assistance to displaced refugees and funding lifesaving services in humanitarian emergencies, while stabilizing refugee host countries in sensitive regions. Escalating violence in many parts of the world underscores the urgent need for the ERMA account—an emergency draw-down account that provides an important “safety valve” during emergencies. IDA account funds humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons. Meeting the needs of internally displaced persons is one way to prevent them from fleeing their countries of origin and becoming refugees.

Protection of Unaccompanied Children

Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
For FY 19, within the $1.901 billion level of funding that we suggest for the HHS REA account, we ask that Congress appropriate $948 million to serve unaccompanied children. ORR provides custody and care, shelter, and support services to these children apprehended in the U.S by the Department of Homeland Security. We urge overall funding be utilized for continued family reunification efforts. We note the additional $206 million above the FY 2019 funding that is requested to meet potential increased demand. We welcome this funding and preparation efforts, but urge that such funding not be utilized for large-scale shelters nor efforts to separate children from their parents as a deterrence strategy. Such funding should focus on smaller individualized shelters that comport with child welfare principles as well as transitional and long-term foster care placements. Additionally, for FY 2018 we welcome the additional $686 million requested by the Administration for provision of care to unaccompanied children, however we urge similar large-scale shelter and family separation restrictions on such funding.

Combatting Human Trafficking and Protecting Survivors

Labor, Health and Human Services and Education
Within the $1.694 billion level of funding that we suggest for the REA account, we ask Congress to appropriate $40 million for Office of Trafficking in Persons (OTIP), in the form of $20 million to foreign national victims’ protection and $20 million to protection of U.S. citizen victims. We also ask Congress to appropriate $91 million for the Department of Labor International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB). OTIP oversees the care and treatment of all U.S. citizen and foreign national trafficking victims in the United States. OTIP identifies and serves trafficking victims and provides specialized case management.
ILAB plays a critical role in efforts to eradicate child labor and address forced labor. Through its reports, ILAB plays a major role in monitoring and reporting on labor practices in countries around the world.

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
We ask that Congress appropriate $24 million for the Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Person Office (J/TIP) for combatting human trafficking. J/TIP needs additional resources to ensure that it can administer anti-trafficking programming and research.

Department of Homeland Security
We ask that Congress appropriate $5 million to enable Border Patrol agents to identify and protect child trafficking victims. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 requires CBP to screen children it encounters for indicators that they are trafficking victims. The funds we suggest be appropriated could be used for orientation, training, and hiring child welfare experts.

Immigration Enforcement

Department of Homeland Security
The President’s FY 2019 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Budget in Brief suggests allocating $5.6 billion in additional funding for programs to implement the January 25, 2017, Executive Orders on Border Security and Immigration Enforcement. Specifically, the Budget requests:

• $1.6 billion for costs associated with the construction of 65 miles of new wall in Rio Grande Valley sector;
• $780 million to recruit, hire, and train 750 new Border Patrol Agents and 2,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement law enforcement personnel in FY 2019;
• $3.266 billion for expanded detention, transportation, and removal capabilities; and
• Expansion of immigrant detention bed capacity from approximately 39,000 to 52,000.

The Catholic Church acknowledges the right of nations to control their borders and governments’ responsibility to protect the people within their borders. At the same time, we believe that those rights and responsibilities should be exercised in a manner that is consistent with their moral obligation to protect the humanitarian needs of migrants and refugees. Wealthier nations have a stronger obligation to accommodate those needs and can do so in a manner that does not jeopardize the safety of their people.

We oppose shifting resources away from accommodating humanitarian needs and toward the enforcement priorities proposed by the Administration for FY 2019. We believe the priorities enunciated in the Administration’s FY 2019 budget submission would constitute a further, unnecessary and dangerous security buildup on the U.S./Mexico border and would cause an extreme increase in the use of immigrant detention. We do not believe such an enforcement-only approach is appropriate. Moreover, we do not believe that such resources need to be or should be invested in the type of border wall proposed by the Administration or in more detention facilities. Instead, we believe that some of this funding should be dedicated to more humane and economical programs, such as alternatives to detention programs that utilize case management; legal services; and safe voluntary repatriation programs. As such, we welcome the allocation of $184 million to Alternatives to Detention programs, but note that such funding should be increased in lieu of immigrant detention funding. We especially note disappointment at the cancellation of the Family Case Management Program, which provided a community-based support alternative to detention for vulnerable immigrant families, primarily women and their children.

Other Important Immigration Priorities

Department of Homeland Security
We note that the FY 2018 Continuing Resolution extended the expiring Special Immigrant Non-Minister Religious Worker Visa program until March 23, 2018. We ask that Congress include language that would permanently reauthorize this small program in any bill appropriating funds for DHS for FY 2019. We also ask that Congress include in the DHS portion of any appropriations vehicle it passes a Hyde-like provision to ensure that federal funds not be used to fund elective abortions.

Commerce Justice Science and Related Agencies
The President’s FY 2019 Budget requests an additional $40 million to support an additional 75 Immigration Judges. We urge you to accommodate this request.

We also ask that Congress appropriate $50 million for Administrative Review and Appeals Executive Office of Immigration Review (APA/EOIR) to expand the pilot program for legal representation and leverage federal funds to bolster pro bono efforts and improve immigration court efficiency. And finally, we ask that Congress appropriate $40 million to expand the APA/EOIR Legal Orientation Program (LOP) and the Legal Orientation Program for Custodians of Unaccompanied Children (LOPC). We suggest this funding include $25 million for the LOP and $15 million for the LOPC as this effort streamlines immigration court proceedings.

Thank you for considering our recommendations.

Sincerely,

Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin
Chair, Committee on Migration
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

Click here for a PDF Version of this Letter

2018-03-07T14:23:40+00:00News|

Letter from USCCB Committee on Migration Chairman Urging Legislative Solution for Dreamers

Dear Senator,

I write on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM) to reiterate our support for the swift enactment of a common sense and just legislative solution for Dreamers, young people without immigration status who were brought to the United States by their parents. As you know, the Senate is scheduled to take up legislation in the coming days to address Dreamers. We urge you to consider the following principles as you review that legislation and any proposed amendments to it:

(1) Provide Protection to the Dreamer Population- We agree with the proposal made by President Trump that protection should be given to the larger 1.8 million Dreamer population (instead of solely the 800,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) population), as there are many young people who were brought here as children but were prevented from obtaining DACA due to the program’s age cut-offs. We believe that this larger Dreamer population should be included in any legislative solution that the Senate takes up. We urge you to support amendments, if necessary, to accomplish this goal and to oppose amendments that would narrow the class of individuals who would obtain relief under the legislation.

(2) Provide a Path to Citizenship- We agree with the proposal made by President Trump to afford relief to Dreamers that permits them to apply for U.S. citizenship. Most of these young people know the United States as their only home and should not be denied the opportunity to obtain U.S. citizenship and fully participate and integrate into American civic life. We urge you to support amendments, if necessary, that would provide a path to citizenship for persons obtaining relief through this legislation and to oppose amendments that would deny them this opportunity.

(3) Promote Family Unity and Maintain the Family-Immigration System- Family immigration is the foundation 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 or its size, is vital to our faith and to our country. We are deeply disturbed by proposals that provide relief for Dreamers at the expense of dismantling our country’s rich tradition of family reunification and sponsorship of close family members and ending the diversity visa program. We ask you to reject provisions or amendments to this legislation that would threaten family-based immigration.

(4) Protect the Vulnerable Who Seek Refuge- A solution for Dreamers should not come at the expense of other vulnerable immigrants and refugees. It is vital to maintain existing protections for refugees, unaccompanied children, trafficking victims, and asylum seekers that help prevent abuse, ensure access to adequate care, and promote due process. We must continue to welcome and serve the vulnerable and ask you to reject provisions or amendments that undermine protections for refugees, unaccompanied children, trafficking victims, and asylum seekers.

(5) Ensure that All Border Security Measures Are Humane and Proportionate- The Catholic Church has long recognized the right of nations to secure their borders and control entry into their countries. At the same time, we believe that border security and interior immigration enforcement practices should be humane and proportionate; they should make the country safer, and they should not sacrifice the due process rights and human dignity of persons seeking protection.

We believe that the urgent, longstanding need to provide relief for Dreamers is a discrete matter that should not be delayed or hindered by unrelated, controversial provisions. Accordingly, we are concerned by a number of unrelated suggestions that have been proposed as a price for providing the just relief that Dreamers need. We would oppose the inclusion of such provisions in the legislation that the Senate is poised to take up. We urge you to reject such provisions and amendments. At a minimum, we urge you to consider the dignity of the human person and protection of the vulnerable when you examine any border security, interior immigration enforcement or large-scale reform amendments that are proposed to this legislation.

An overwhelming majority of Americans agree that Dreamers need a permanent legislative solution. We support these young people who are contributors to our economy and leaders in our parishes and communities. A legislative solution for Dreamers would further unite us as a country and advance the common good. We remain committed to work with Congress to achieve this goal.

Sincerely,

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

Click here for a PDF version of the letter

2018-02-12T16:51:07+00:00News|

USCCB Committee on Migration Letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on H.R. 4760

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.

Sincerely,

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

2018-01-29T10:06:08+00:00News|