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USCCB Migration And Refugee Services Release Report Recommending Extension Of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) For El Salvador And Honduras

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS), released its report today, entitled Temporary Protected Status: A Vital Piece of the Central American Protection and Prosperity Puzzle recommending the U.S. government extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for El Salvador and Honduras.

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, in a letter of introduction of the report states: “As this report indicates, there is ample evidence to suggest that current TPS recipients from Honduras and El Salvador cannot return safely to their home country at this time.”

A delegation from MRS/USCCB traveled to Honduras and El Salvador, from August 13 to 19, 2017, to examine conditions in both countries regarding Honduras and El Salvador’s ability to adequately receive and integrate the possible return of existing TPS recipients. USCCB/MRS Committee Member, Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell of Los Angeles, California, led the delegation and was accompanied by MRS staff from Children’s Services, Policy and Public Affairs, and the National Collections offices.

Currently, El Salvador and Honduras have Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from the U.S. government for certain nationals living in the United States, and the review of TPS is shortly to be re-evaluated by the U.S. government. It is estimated that there are approximately 200,000 current TPS recipients from El Salvador and 57,000 TPS recipients from Honduras living in the United States. TPS recipients living in the United States are parents to over 270,000 U.S. citizen children and are very integrated into American daily life.

Bishop Vásquez states in his introductory letter: “As you read this report, I urge you to keep the people of El Salvador and Honduras, including TPS recipients, in your thoughts and prayers. I encourage you to engage the Administration in requesting a TPS extension for El Salvador and Honduras . . . and to reach out to your elected Congressional leaders to request they support a legislative solution for TPS recipients who have been in the United States for many years.”

Resources and information about Temporary Protected Status and the report are available on the Justice for Immigrants website www.justiceforimmigrants.org. The information includes a backgrounder on the temporary protected status and a toolkit for Catholic leaders that offers ideas on how to show their support and solidarity with TPS recipients.

The full text of the report can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/fact-finding-mission-reports/upload/el-salvador-honduras-report-20171016.pdf.

2017-10-19T09:34:10+00:00News|

Joint Letter Urging DACA Renewal extension deadlines

September 14, 2017

Elaine Duke

Acting Secretary

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Washington, D.C. 20528

 

Dear Acting Secretary Duke:

We write on behalf of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., (CLINIC), Catholic Charities USA and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS) to highlight the needs of certain Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. In light of the terrible devastation wrought by these hurricanes, we urge you to provide impacted youth applying for DACA renewals with an extension of the filing deadline and an opportunity to qualify for fee waivers.

The U.S. Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities USA have long supported DACA youth and have worked through the national Catholic Charities ministry to assist eligible young people file their applications and renewals. CLINIC’s network of over 300 legal services providers have assisted tens of thousands of DACA applicants. Since 2012, we have done this work in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, promoting public engagement and education on DACA and also helping to prevent incidents of notario fraud. This work has been rooted in our faith. As Catholics, we believe that the dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children and youth, must be protected.

With some of the largest populations of DACA youth living in Texas and Florida, we know that these individuals were among those whose lives were upended by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. These hurricanes, which brought with them torrential rainfall and winds over 130mph, wrought heartbreaking devastation upon Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, and South Carolina. Initial estimates suggest that the storms caused $150 to $200 billion worth of damage to homes, furnishings, vehicles, real estate, and public infrastructure. USCCB, Catholic Charities USA and local Catholic Charities agencies have been working heroically to raise resources, build response teams and assist the impacted communities. However, it will likely take months, if not years, to rebuild and replace what was lost.

In the September 5, 2017 memorandum on the rescission of the 2012 DACA program, the Administration determined that current DACA recipients whose status is set to expire between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 may apply for a two-year renewal of DACA. The filing deadline for such applications was set for October 5, 2017. In light of the substantial devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, however, we request a three-month extension of the filing deadline for renewal -eligible DACA youth living in areas impacted by the hurricanes. These young people were among those evacuated and among those who returned to find their homes flooded and their personal belongings destroyed. Like many others, the current focus for these DACA youth is – as it should be – on restoring basic stability to their lives. As such, a short filing extension is warranted and ensures that they will not be unduly disadvantaged.

Additionally, we request that you provide the ability for impacted DACA youth to apply for fee waivers for their renewal applications. The economic toll of the hurricanes was massive; for many, their savings will need to be spent rebuilding homes and replacing basic necessities. DACA youth who do not have the means to pay $495 filing fee due to the hurricane however, are not less deserving of the opportunity to renew their status and we request you evaluate fee waivers in certain demonstrable hurricane devastation-related situations.

In the wake of great tragedy, we must come together as a nation to support all those whose lives have been upended. We respectfully ask for a short extension of the renewal filing deadline and limited fee waiver opportunities for DACA youth impacted by the hurricanes. We strongly believe that doing so would be both the humane and the just course of action. We appreciate your consideration of our requests and would welcome the opportunity to answer any questions you may have or meet with you on these and other issues related to DACA.

Sincerely,

Bill Canny, Executive Director, Migration and Refugee Services, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO, Catholic Charities USA

Jeanne M. Atkinson, Esq., Executive Director, Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC)

Click here for a PDF version of the letter

2017-09-14T16:19:54+00:00News|

USCCB/MRS Letter to Congress in Opposition of H.R. 3697

Dear Representative:

I write on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM) to express our serious concern regarding H.R. 3697, the “Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act,” which is being considered by the full House for a vote this Wednesday, September 13, 2017. We urge you to reject H.R. 3697 as it is a very broad bill that could contribute to victims of criminal gangs facing detention and being barred from seeking protection in the U.S.

The Catholic Church has significant interest in the protection of vulnerable immigrants and asylum seekers. The Catholic Church’s work in assisting immigrants stems from the belief that every person is created in God’s image and should be treated with dignity and compassion. While the Catholic Church recognizes governments’ sovereign right to control their borders, we believe this right should be balanced with the right of immigrants to access safety and due process. Jesus himself was a migrant, and the Holy Family, a migrant family fleeing persecution from King Herod.  The USCCB works to fulfill the teachings of the Church on migration through our work providing resettlement services to refugees, services to unaccompanied immigrant children, and case management services to human trafficking victims in the United States.

Violence in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala (the Northern Triangle of Central America) remains the primary force driving citizens to flee and seek protection. We have seen firsthand from our work with unaccompanied children and their families the increasing threat posed by gangs and forcible gang recruitment in the Northern Triangle. Moreover, the United Nations’ refugee-protection agency (UNHCR) found that the majority of children fleeing the Northern Triangle “were forcibly displaced because they suffered or faced harms that indicated a potential or actual need for international protection.” Alarmingly, however, H.R. 3697, would deny critical protection to many of these children and their families.

H.R. 3697 establishes both an expansive definition of “criminal gang” and a low threshold for association with such a group. The bill allows those whom the government merely has “reason to believe” have ever been gang members or those who have participated in any activities of a designated group as inadmissible, deportable and subject to mandatory detention. Additionally, because of such a perceived “association” by the government, these individuals would be unable to access several vital forms of legal relief, including asylum, Temporary Protected Status, and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.

Given these severe consequences, we are particularly concerned that H.R. 3697 provides no exemption for children or other individuals who were victims of gangs and or individuals who were forced to engage in gang-related activities under duress. We fear that under H.R. 3697 there will be victimized children who will be considered “associated” with criminal gangs. This concern is reinforced by the stories of the children we serve daily. They are children like Mariana[1] who was 16 when the local gang began to target and harass her in her home country of El Salvador. Mariana lived in constant fear after the gang began to threaten her and her family, ultimately forcing her to smuggle a package of drugs to another neighborhood in El Salvador. After this incident, Mariana fled to the U.S. to escape the growing daily threat of the gang and also to avoid forcible recruitment. Mariana is living with her mother now while she complies with her immigration proceedings. Sadly, we know Mariana is just one of many children from the Northern Triangle trying to flee gang violence. H.R. 3697 would deny such children safety, forcibly returning them to situations where their wellbeing and even their lives would be at risk.

We should not be turning our back on children and families who have fallen victim to and are fleeing from the very criminal organizations which our country is so diligently working to eradicate. Rather, these victims are deserving of our compassion, care, and protection and should be encouraged to tell their stories so that we may adequately bolster our prevention and child protection work. Our committee understands and appreciates your commitment to the safety and security of our nation. H.R. 3697, however, is not the answer. We must resist the urge to mischaracterize and mislabel victims in search of a safe haven. We urge you to reject H.R. 3697 and instead work towards immigration reform that addresses root causes and safe repatriation and integration. And we pray that the all victims of criminal gangs – regardless of their immigration status – find peace and justice.

Sincerely,

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

 

Click here to view this PDF

2017-09-12T22:29:49+00:00News|

USCCB Committee on Migration Letter to Senate Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee

September 5, 2017

Honorable Roy Blunt, Chair

Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies

United States Senate

Russell Office Building, Office 260

Washington, DC 20510

 

Honorable Patty Murray, Ranking Member

Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies

United States Senate

Russell Office Building, Office 154

Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Senators Roy Blunt and Patty Murray:

As a Church at the service of all God’s people, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM) stands ready to work with the leaders of both parties to protect poor and vulnerable people, promote human life and dignity, and advance the common good. I write to request your support for appropriate federal funding of several accounts and programs that are crucial for at-risk immigrants, refugees, unaccompanied children, and trafficking victims. As you finalize funding for FY 2018, please consider the following requests. We urge you as leaders of the relevant Senate appropriations committee to exercise crucial humanitarian leadership to maintain appropriate funding for these accounts that impact the most vulnerable.

Refugee Protection

Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies:

We ask that Congress appropriate at least $1.69 billion in Fiscal Year 2018 for the Refugee Entrant and Assistance (REA) account, an amount we believe would enable the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR) to adequately serve all vulnerable populations under ORR’s care. As you know, the REA account helps state 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 survivors of torture. In FY17, ORR is expected to serve an estimated 175,000 newly-arrived individuals, in addition to other recently-arrived individuals. For these services, Congress appropriated $1.69 billion in FY17 plus almost $400 million in transfer and contingency funds for a total of $2.1 billion in FY17. USCCB estimates that FY18 arrivals will be around 165,000 individuals. Given these continued large numbers, maintaining at least the $1.69 billion base funding would be prudent minimum funding. And, maintaining highly flexible transfer authority would also be reasonable planning to meet unforeseen contingencies.

Protection of Unaccompanied Children

Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies:

Within the $1.69 billion level of base funding that we suggest for the HHS REA account, we ask that Congress appropriate $948 million to serve unaccompanied children (UAC). ORR provides custody and care, shelter, and support services to UAC apprehended in the United States by Department of Homeland Security. UAC are taken into the custody of HHS/ORR pending reunification or resolution of their immigration cases. We note with approval that the Office of Management and Budget recommended this level of funding for the line item in the REA account related to these children.

Combatting Human Trafficking and Protecting Survivors

Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies:

Within the $1.69 billion level of funding that we suggest for the REA account, we ask that Congress appropriate $32 million for the Office of Trafficking in Persons (OTIP), in the form of $16 million to foreign national victims’ protection and $16 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 own reports, we know ILAB plays a major role in monitoring and reporting on labor practices in countries around the world. We strongly oppose the Administration’s proposal to not fund the grant program within ILAB.

Members of USCCB/COM just returned from a solidarity and assessment trip to Honduras and El Salvador, where we witnessed the life-saving “Youth Builders” program conducted by our sister agencies Catholic Relief Services and Caritas in the region. This program provides many youth from these countries with a viable alternative to dangerous migration and the risk of being victims of human trafficking. If the ILAB grant program receives no funding, as proposed by the Administration, such life-saving programs would end.

Thank you for considering our recommendations.

Yours truly,

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

 

Full PDF version of the Letter

2017-09-06T08:45:36+00:00News|

USCCB Committee On Migration Letter to Congress in Support of the Dream Act of 2017

Dear Representative:

I write on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM) to urge you to support H.R. 3440 the “Dream Act of 2017.” This bipartisan legislation, introduced on July 26, 2017, by Representatives Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40) and Ros- Lehtinen (R-FL-27), would protect numerous immigrant youth from deportation, including the approximately 780,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

The Dream Act is intended to protect immigrant youth who entered the United States as children and know America as their only home. The bill offers qualifying immigrant youth “conditional permanent resident status” and a path to full lawful permanent residency and eventual citizenship. In order to receive the conditional status, the person must, among other requirements, have entered the U.S. as a child, been continuously present in the United States for at least four years prior to enactment of the bill, meet certain admissibility and security requirements, and have obtained or be pursuing secondary education. Current DACA recipients are also deemed eligible for the conditional status. H.R. 3440 allows recipients of this conditional status to obtain non- conditional lawful permanent residency if they satisfy requirements that include: background checks; demonstrated English proficiency; and either education in a higher learning institution, honorable military service, three years of employment in the United States, or a hardship exception.

My brother bishops and I believe in protecting the dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children. The Catholic Bishops have long supported these immigrant youth and their families who are contributors to our economy, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes. These youth have grown up in our country, some even choosing to put their lives on the line to serve in our armed forces. They truly exemplify the extraordinary contributions that immigrants can provide to our nation. These youth should not be forced to live their lives in constant fear that they will be deported at any moment and separated from their families. It is both our moral duty and in our nation’s best interest to protect them and allow them to reach their God-given potential.

For these reasons, we ask you to support and co-sponsor the Dream Act of 2017. We also urge you to continue to work towards the larger legislative reform of our immigration laws that our country so desperately needs. As always, USCCB/COM stands ready to work with Congress to reform our immigration system in a humane, just, and common-sense manner.

Sincerely,

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

Click here for the PDF version of the lettter

2017-09-01T15:31:04+00:00News|

Letter to President Trump on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Dear Mr. President,

As uncertainty surrounding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program continues with untold consequences, we write to strongly urge you to continue to support this vital program.

The Catholic Bishops have long supported DACA youth and continue to do so. We believe that the dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children and youth, must be protected. An estimated 800,000 young people have received and benefitted from the DACA program. Through our parishes and over 300 Catholic Charities, CLINIC and other affiliated member and partner agencies, we have had the privilege of meeting and working with tens of thousands of these outstanding individuals who are so much a part of who we are. They are contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes and communities.

Your decision to continue this program would ensure that young people can continue to work, study, and be protected from deportation while Congress debates broader legislative fixes to our broken immigration system. A decision to end this program would turn our nation’s back on immigrant youth who are seeking to reach their full God-given potential and fulfill the promise of gratefully giving back to the only country most have ever known.

At the heart of Catholic Social Teaching is the moral obligation to protect the life and dignity of every human being, particularly the most vulnerable, which includes our youth. These young people were brought to the United States by their parents whose desire was to provide their children with hope, opportunity, and safety that they could never hope to find in their countries of birth.

Mr. President, your administration once again has an extraordinary opportunity to demonstrate, both now and to future generations, our nation’s spirit of generosity and compassion. We hope and pray that you make the right decision to continue the DACA program for the benefit of not only these amazing youth, but our nation as a whole.

Sincerely,

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

Sr. Donna Markham OP, PhD, President and CEO, Catholic Charities USA

Jeanne M. Atkinson, Esq., Executive Director, Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC)

 

2017-08-30T15:55:23+00:00News|

Know Your Rights Information for Parents and Sponsors of Unaccompanied Minors

Below are our two newest resource videos for you. These are Know Your Rights videos for parents and sponsors of unaccompanied minors. The videos can be found in both English and Spanish as well as found on our video resource page here.

Know Your Rights information for Parents and Sponsors of Unaccompanied Minors

Conozca sus derechos por padres y patrocinadores de niños no acompañados

2017-08-11T16:17:35+00:00News|

USCCB Committe on Migration Chair Voices Opposition to Border Wall Funding

Dear Representatives,

I write on behalf of the Committee on Migration of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to express our opposition to including funding for a dramatic increase in construction of border fencing in the fiscal year 2018 appropriations package that the full House of Representatives is scheduled to take up this week.

As you know, the House Committee on Appropriations included approximately $1.6 billion in funding for border fencing construction in H.R. 3355, its proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Homeland Security Appropriations Act, and there are strong indications that the House intends to include this funding in an unrelated appropriations package that the House plans to take up this week.  This funding has been described by the Administration, and others, as a “down payment” on the Administration’s plan to construct a wall along the entire U.S. border with Mexico.

The bishops respect the right of the federal government to control our borders and ensure security for all Americans.  However, we oppose the construction of a wall like the one that is envisioned by this proposed appropriation.  Indeed, we fear that construction of such a wall would put immigrant lives needlessly in harm’s way, could increase the risk of women and child migrants being trafficked, and destabilize the many interconnected communities that live peacefully along the border.  Moreover, an expenditure of the amount of funding necessary to construct such a wall does not reflect a proper prioritization of scarce federal funds in a time of fiscal austerity.

We urge that the House reject any plans to include funding for a “down payment” for the construction of the Administration’s proposed border wall in the fiscal year 2018 appropriations package that it takes up this week.

Sincerely.

Most Rev. Joe S. Vásquez

Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

Click here to read the PDF Version of the Letter

2017-07-26T10:51:08+00:00News|

World Refugee Day Event

On Monday, June 19th, USCCB/MRS held a kickoff event for World Refugee Day. The event consisted of two panels that discussed different aspects to refugee resettlement and also a keynote speech from Bishop Dorsonville of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.

Below is the video for the nearly three hour event.

 

2017-07-25T14:41:29+00:00News|