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


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.


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

Click here for the PDF version of the lettter


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.


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)



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


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.


Most Rev. Joe S. Vásquez

Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

Click here to read the PDF Version of the Letter


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.



Joint Letter from USCCB/CCUSA on Appropriations Funding

Dear Chairman Frelinghuysen and Ranking Member Lowey:

July 17, 2017

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plays a critical role in securing our country from physical and cyber threats and implementing our immigration laws, as well as responding to emergencies stemming from national disasters. As you address our nation’s funding priorities for these efforts, we urge you to continue to fund programs that help communities mitigate and respond to natural disasters and provide resources towards humane implementation of our immigration laws. Such implementation should be programmatically-sound, fiscally responsible, and respectful of family unity and human dignity; it also should enable migrants to seek both protection and access to due process.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS) works in partnership with the federal government to provide services for immigrants and refugees, unaccompanied children and human trafficking victims. USCCB/MRS facilitates most of these programs through the Catholic Charities network. Catholic Charities ministries operate over 2,900 locations across the country and five U.S. territories. In 2016, the Catholic Charities network served over 300,000 immigrants and refugees with services such as case management, employment training, legal immigration services and resettlement assistance. Additionally, Catholic Charities agencies provided disaster relief and recovery services to over 100,000 individuals.

As a Church at the service of all God’s people, we stand 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. As you review the subcommittee- approved version of the FY 2018 DHS Appropriations Act and its accompanying committee report, please consider the following requests:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
The proposed increase of immigrant detention bed space to the total of 44,000 ADP is an increase of 4,676 beds from FY 2017 and a marked increase from the FY 2009-FY 2016 average of approximately 34,000 beds/night. As mentioned in the committee report language, this bed space increase will be accomplished by expansion of private sector contracts and Inter-Governmental Service Agreements. We strongly urge you to oppose this drastic increase in funding for immigrant detention and corresponding enforcement. While immigrant detention is necessary to protect community safety in certain instances, large scale immigrant detention “engenders despair, divides families, causes asylum-seekers to relive trauma, leads many to forfeit their legal claims, and fails to treat immigrants with dignity and respect.”1 Of further concern is the expansion of private detention contracts given reports of lack of accountability and oversight of these facilities. It is disheartening to note: (1) the $5.5 million dollar decrease for Alternatives to Detention funding and (2) the failure to reinstate the Family Case Management Program (FCMP). We are in favor of community-support case management models of alternatives to detention such as FCMP, and support the committee report language urging ICE to utilize elements of such programs, like legal orientation, case management and community NGO engagement to improve ICE’s other existing alternative to detention programs. Such elements improve compliance and provide humane enforcement solutions.

The $24 million in funding to support expansion of the 287(g) program should be opposed as well. These agreements between DHS and state and local officials allow the state and local actors to perform immigration functions such as the apprehension, or detention of undocumented immigrants. Such agreements may undermine the hard-won trust between immigrant communities and local police and could decrease the willingness of undocumented immigrants to report crimes

1 USCCB/MRS and Center for Migration Studies, Unlocking Human Dignity: A Plan to Transform the U.S. Immigrant Detention System, May 2015, available at

to local law enforcement. In turn, this would hamper the ability of local law enforcement officials to investigate local crimes and ensure public safety in all communities.

Additionally, we urge you to oppose the $1.6 billion funding for the construction of a physical barrier between U.S. and Mexico. We do not believe such an enforcement-only approach is appropriate. Moreover, we do not believe that such resources should be invested in a border wall. Instead, some of this funding should be dedicated to humane and more economical programs, such as alternatives to detention programs that utilize case management, legal services, and safe voluntary repatriation programs. In short, as Pope Francis has often repeated, we should be building bridges, not walls.

Lastly, we welcome the inclusion of increased funding to ICE for international and national investigations, as it relates to human trafficking and child exploitation. We appreciate the appropriation of $15.7 million to forced labor investigations. The committee report language that encourages ICE to collaborate with NGOs and trafficking prevention efforts is commendable and we stand ready to work with you in combatting human trafficking. In this vain, additional funding for improved screening of child trafficking victims should be provided. We urge you to support a $5 million allocation to enable Border Patrol agents to identify and protect child trafficking victims at the border. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 requires CBP to screen children it encounters for indicators that they are trafficking victims. Funds should be appropriated for CBP orientation, training, and the hiring of child welfare experts.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP): Preservation of this program at its current level of $120 million is essential. We urge you to continue to support FEMA’s role as administrator of the program and oppose the transfer of the program to Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The EFSP was created in 1983 to supplement the work of local service organizations (soup kitchens, food banks, homeless shelters, etc.) who provide services to those in need of emergency services. Since 2011, this program has been cut by 40% and those who in need of services cannot afford further reductions. Already, 2,800 fewer organizations are able to participate and partner in providing services. The EFSP has an innovative, inter-agency funding model which relies on a national board of leading social service agencies to distribute monies to local organizations best postured to meet local needs. Transitioning this program to HUD would weaken the strong collaborative governance that exists in administering this program.

Disaster Relief Fund (DRF): Robust funding for DRF federal assistance programs is vital. Multiple severe storms and floods made 2016 one of the most expensive years of disaster losses on record and the consensus among experts is that both the frequency and severity of disasters will continue to rise. A robust allocation of monies to the DRF also helps to ensure the necessary funds for critical local disaster case management programs (DCM). As part of a coordinated effort for community recovery after a disaster, DCM programs partner with local voluntary, faith-based and nonprofit organizations to promote effective deliver of post-disaster services, partner integration and improve capacity building.

Finally, we urge your support for the Aderholt amendment to include important Hyde-like protection to this appropriations bill. The Aderholt amendment should be enacted to ensure that the current practice prohibiting funding for elective abortion is continued, and to safeguard the conscience rights of any ICE employee who objects to facilitating an abortion.

We ask that you review these requests and also our supplementary materials on immigration-specific appropriations. At a time of budgetary constraints, the needs of the hungry, the migrant, and those affected by disasters should be prioritized.


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

Most Reverend Frank J Dewane, Chairman, USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development

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


Letter of Support for the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization 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 consider supporting H.R. 2200, the “Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2017.” This bipartisan legislation, introduced by Representative Smith (R-NJ-4) and Representative Bass (D-CA-37) on April 27, 2017, is vital to continuing our nation’s efforts to eradicate human trafficking and assist human trafficking victims.

The Catholic Church has a longstanding role in the prevention of human trafficking and the rehabilitation of victims. Calling human trafficking “an open wound on the body of contemporary society” and “a crime against humanity” Pope Francis and the Vatican have taken global leadership on anti-trafficking initiatives. In the United States, we support Pope Francis’ commitment and will continue to work to eradicate human trafficking and rehabilitate victims.

H.R. 2200 is an important step Congress can take to help prevent human trafficking and protect victims as it provides important service provisions that will aid victims. Programs and services such as those contained in H.R. 2200 recognize the importance of dignified care for and reintegration of human trafficking victims. As Pope Francis has stated: “[Trafficking] victims are from all walks of life, but are most frequently among the poorest and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.” I believe that these exploited individuals deserve the care and support of our communities and our government and that such support will help them heal and become survivors.”

We are also pleased to see that H.R. 2200 includes provisions which would aid the monitoring of child, forced, and slave labor, as well as further the elimination of human trafficking in U.S. government supply chains. These are issues which are of deep concern to Catholics globally. As Pope Francis explained at the 2015 World Day of Peace, “Purchasing is always a moral – and not simply an economic – act.”

We thank Congress for its long-standing commitment to confront modern-day slavery. We ask that you renew your commitment by supporting H.R. 2200 and work to keep this a bipartisan effort.
The need for this legislation is great; we must come together to fight this crime against humanity and ensure that survivors are given the services they need to live with dignity.



Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez

Bishop of Austin

Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration