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The Catholic Church Urges Untiring Resistance to Immigration Jail

The Following is a Letter from Bishop Steven Biegler of Cheyenne that was read to the Uinta County Commission before it voted to endorse a proposed detention facility because it would bring extra jobs to the area.

 

Recently, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) doubled the upper limit for an
immigration detention center proposed to be built near Evanston, Wyoming. The maximum
number of beds jumped from 500 to 1,000. Some believe that this change may be due to several
state and local governments cutting ties with ICE detention facilities or state legislatures passing
bills to deter immigrant detention in Virginia, Texas, Michigan, Illinois and California.
It seems prudent for Wyoming’s local and state officials to become better informed about issues
regarding for-profit prisons by conferring with those who are knowledgeable about these
institutions. They also should listen to the concerns of those who are living in the community in
which this facility potentially could reside.

The Catholic Church promotes faithful citizenship, and we urge all people of good will to
contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue. Everyone has a duty to weigh in on civic issues
so as to promote the common good. It is a concrete way of loving our neighbor. We seek to
uphold our dual heritage as both faithful Catholics and American citizens with rights and duties
as participants in the civil order.

The Catholic Church is gravely concerned about the practice of long-term and large-scale
detention of undocumented adult immigrants and their families within the U.S. The church has a
long history of supporting the dignity and rights of all immigrants. We view immigrant detention
centers from the perspective of our biblical tradition, which calls us to act with justice toward
persons on the margins of society, including strangers and imprisoned persons. Because of our
long experience as a pilgrim people, we know what it is like to be uprooted, persecuted and
imprisoned. Most of our ancestors came to this country to achieve a better life.

Jesus Christ commanded us to imitate his love; thus, he calls us to protect the rights of refugees,
to promote the reunification of families and to honor the inherent dignity of all migrants,
whatever their status. Regrettably, the U.S. immigrant detention system represents a far cry from
loving solidarity. It divides us from our migrant brothers and sisters and separates families. We
are particularly concerned about detaining young migrant mothers and fathers with their
children. This response from our nation to their flight from violence or persecution violates
human dignity and human rights. Children are dying; seven of them, in fact, met their demise
while in U.S. custody.

This is not to say that the Catholic Church does not acknowledge the role of the government in
ensuring public safety. We agree that those who are a threat to our communities should be
detained. Mandatory detention, however, contributes to the misconception that all immigrants are
criminals and a threat to our nation’s unity, security and well-being. It engenders despair, divides
families, causes asylum-seekers to relive trauma, leads many to forfeit their legal claims and fails
to treat all immigrants with respect.

Current immigrant detention policies are costly, inhumane and destructive to families. Many
immigrants are held in immigration detention centers away from their families and communities,
so they are unable to access legal assistance or other support. In fact, 81 percent of the
individuals currently in detention lack legal representation. Certainly, appropriate legal
representation is not readily available in Evanston, Wyoming. That location also separates those
detained there from families and any meaningful support system.

We must reject proposals to expand this inhumane immigrant detention system and efforts to
curtail existing protections for children and their families. If our public officials are willing to
secure this vital issue of human rights, then we are hopeful that migrants, regardless of their legal
status, will be treated with dignity and compassion when they arrive to our country. Ignoring an
issue regarding such grave violations of human dignity is not an option, and rhetoric that attacks
the human rights and dignity of the migrant is unfitting of any country, especially a nation of
immigrants.

Wyoming’s contribution to the immigration problem should not be to remain silent. Issues
surrounding immigration today demand everyone’s civic participation. This is especially true for
our legislators, but all people have a responsibility to speak out. For-profit prisons are only one
symptom of a larger issue that must be addressed by the federal government. Often action at the
federal level is driven when citizens at the local level raise their voices.

I encourage all people of good will to express their opposition to the proposed immigration jail
by signing petitions or by writing letters to the Uinta County Commissioners. I also encourage all
concerned citizens to communicate with Wyoming’s elected officials to express their opinions
against this for-profit prison.

Sincerely,
Steven Biegler
Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Cheyenne

2019-12-05T14:57:35-05:00Statements|

Catholic Leaders Voice Concern Over New Asylum Rules

November 25, 2019
WASHINGTON – On Monday, November 18, the Administration published two notices in the Federal Register to implement asylum cooperative agreements with Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The rules would allow the U.S. government to send asylum seekers to the three Central American countries without the opportunity to access asylum in the United States, and require the respective Central American governments to adjudicate asylum claims and attempt to provide protection.

Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and Chairman of the Committee on Migration for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Sean Callahan, President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), issued the following statement in response:

“Vulnerable individuals seeking protection and safety in the United States should be welcomed and given the chance to access the protection that our laws provide. If implemented, we fear that the asylum cooperation agreements would leave many helpless people, including families and children, unable to attain safety and freedom from violence and persecution. The governments of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras do not have the resources nor the capacity to safely accept, process, and integrate asylees. There are numerous concerns with the implementation of these agreements which have also been voiced . . . by the Catholic Church of Guatemala. Furthermore, these agreements do not address the root causes of forced migration and could further endanger the lives of people fleeing a region that continues to have some of the highest homicide rates in the world.

These rules, combined with the implementation of the Migration Protection Protocol and the continued hold of humanitarian and development assistance to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, undermines U.S. moral leadership in protecting vulnerable populations and risks further destabilizing the region. To preserve and uphold the sacredness and dignity of all human life, we cannot turn our back on families and individuals in desperate need of help. In light of the Gospel, let us always remember we are invited to embrace the foreigner and to take care of this human person. Let us move ourselves from a culture of indifference to a Christian culture of solidarity. We can and must do more.”

2019-11-25T09:26:17-05:00Statements|

USCCB Chairmen Issue Statement on Supreme Court Cases Upholding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program

November 12, 2019

WASHINGTON— Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, of Austin and Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, commented on three cases argued before the Supreme Court today – Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of University of California; McAleenan, Secretary of Homeland Security v. Vidal; Trump, President of U.S. v. NAACP. These cases challenge whether decisions in the lower court to repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) were lawful.

On October 4, the USCCB, with other Catholic and evangelical partners, filed an amicus curiae brief in the cases. The brief argues that rescinding DACA without considering crucial facts underlying the program irreparably harms hundreds of thousands of families by placing them at imminent risk of separation, which violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and is thus unlawful.

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez offered the following statement on the hearing:

“DACA youth are leaders in our parishes and significant contributors to our economy and communities. They are hard-working young people who know the United States as their only home.   We continue to urge Congress and the President to work together to find a permanent legislative solution to the plight of all DREAMers, including DACA beneficiaries. In the meantime, ending DACA would disrupt DACA recipients’ continued contributions and integration to our country and could needlessly separate them from their families. Not allowing these young people to continue to utilize DACA to reach their God-given potential is against the common good and our nation’s history of welcoming the immigrant.”

USCCB’s amicus curiae brief in these consolidated cases is available at: http://www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/amicus-briefs/upload/2019-10-04-FINAL-DACA-brief.pdf.

2019-11-12T10:53:56-05:00Statements|

USCCB Migration Chair Condemns Administration Plans for the Third Consecutive Mass Reduction in Refugee Resettlement

September 27, 2019

WASHINGTON — For the third consecutive year, the Administration plans to slash the number of refugee admissions for the coming fiscal year, ordering a new record low of 18,000 refugees. That would represent a 40% drop from last year’s already historic low of 30,000. Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, and Chairman of the Committee on Migration of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued the following statement:

“We are currently in the midst of the world’s greatest forced displacement crisis on record, and for our nation, which leads by example, to lower the number of refugee admissions for those who are in need is unacceptable. Refugees are among the most vulnerable people, fleeing war, religious persecution, and extreme targeted violence. Turning a blind eye to those in need with such callous disregard for human life would go against the values of our nation and fail to meet the standards that make our society great.

“We also have deep concerns about the forthcoming Executive Order permitting state and city officials to turn away refugees from their communities. We fear the collateral negative consequences, especially for refugees and their families, of creating a confusing patchwork across America of some jurisdictions where refugees are welcomed and others where they are not.

“Given the unprecedented humanitarian need and the crucial global leadership role that our country plays, we strongly urge the Administration and Congress — as they engage in the consultation phase mandated by statute — to work together to restore U.S. refugee resettlement to at normal, historical levels.”

2019-09-27T15:55:26-05:00Statements|

World Day for Migrants and Refugees to be Celebrated on Sunday, September 29

September 25, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C.- The Vatican’s World Day for Migrants and Refugees will be held this Sunday, September 29, 2019. The theme for this year’s celebration is, “It is not just about migrants.” Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, noted of the celebration:

“This year’s theme for the World Day for Migrants and Refugees is an opportunity to look at the migration issue from the lens of humanity, of caring for and walking with our brothers and sisters. The World Day for Migrants and Refugees reminds us that it is not about where people come from but their unique God-given human dignity.” Vásquez noted. “It reflects our call as people of faith to welcome our brothers and sisters, promote their well-being, protect them from cruelty and human indifference, and assist in their integration into our community.”

Support for migrants and refugees is particularly vital in this moment as the world is in the midst of the greatest global forced displacement crisis on record. We must continue to embrace love for our neighbor to counter the growing throwaway culture which disregards the human dignity of migrants and refugees.”

Educational resources related to the upcoming World Day for Migrants and Refugees can be found by visiting the Justice for Immigrants website.

2019-09-25T09:58:35-05:00Statements|

USCCB President and Migration Chair Urge Against Further Reduction in Refugee Resettlement as Contrary to American Values

September 13, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Administration officials will reportedly recommend to President Trump that the number of refugee admissions for the coming year will be fewer than 30,000 refugees, already an historic low. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Chair of USCCB Committee on Migration, issued the following statement:

“Further reductions in the number of refugees allowed to seek freedom in the United States would be wholly counter to our values as a nation of immigrants. America welcomes refugees; that is who we are, that is what we do. Such reductions would undermine America’s leadership role as a global champion and protector of religious freedom and human rights. Beginning with European refugees in the aftermath of World War I, the Catholic Church in the United States has more than a century of experience resettling vulnerable populations to a safer life and one in which they have contributed to the greatness of America. The 3.4 million refugees that America has welcomed since 1975 have paid billions of dollars in taxes, founded companies, earned citizenship, and bought homes at notably high rates.

As the Catholic Church prepares to celebrate the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on September 29th, we are reminded of Pope Francis urging us all to work for a ‘globalization of solidarity’ with refugees, not a globalization of ‘indifference’. In light of refugees’ extraordinary contributions to our country, and of the world’s struggle with the greatest forced displacement crisis on record and historic highs in religious persecution, we categorically oppose any further reductions in the refugee resettlement program.”

2019-09-13T10:33:37-05:00Statements|

Chair of USCCB’s Committee on Migration Denounces New Rule Undermining Existing Protections for Immigrant Children

August 23, 2019

WASHINGTON— Today, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, condemned the final rule published by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) relating to the care and custody of immigrant children under the Flores Settlement Agreement. The agreement sets forth foundational principles and critical protections regarding the care, custody, and release of immigrant children who are in federal custody, including the general requirements that they be housed in the least restrictive setting and in licensed facilities for childcare.

The rule will drastically undermine existing Flores protections for immigrant children in federal custody.

“This rule will have heartbreaking consequences for immigrant children – those whom Pope Francis has deemed ‘the most vulnerable group’ among migrants,” said Vásquez. “It is an attempt by the Administration to circumvent existing obligations and undermine critical protections for these children. This rule will jeopardize the well-being and humane treatment of immigrant children in federal custody and will result in children suffering long-lasting consequences of being held for prolonged periods in family detention. We oppose this rule that we believe is unlawful and inhumane.  Countless children will be harmed by this new rule and this is simply not acceptable.”

USCCB also opposed this rule when it was initially proposed by DHS and HHS by submitting comments detailing concerns with the rule and urging it be rescinded.

2019-08-23T10:02:41-05:00Statements|

Chairs of USCCB’s Committees on Migration and Domestic Justice and Human Development Express Deep Concern Over New Rule on Individuals and Families that Access Public Benefits

August 13, 2019

WASHINGTON— Today, bishops from two committees at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) expressed their strong opposition to a final rule on public charge put forth by the Department of Homeland Security. The rule, which is expected to be officially published on August 14th and will take effect sixty days after publication, will undoubtedly have a negative consequence for families accessing critical public benefits for which they otherwise qualify. Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of Venice, FL, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, offered the following statement.

“This rule will undermine family unity and lead many lawful immigrants to forgo vital assistance, including enrollment in nutrition, housing, and medical programs.  Families already in the U.S. will be faced with deciding whether to access critical  assistance programs for which they qualify, knowing that in doing so they could jeopardize their ability to stay here with their loved ones. And, it will reduce the ability of many to reunify with family in the U.S. We have already seen the culture of fear that the anticipation of this rule has created in our communities. Ultimately, we believe that this rule is in tension with the dignity of the person and the common good that all of us are called to support.”

The USCCB also opposed this rule when it was initially proposed by DHS and submitted joint comments with Catholic Charities USA detailing concerns with the rule and urging it be rescinded.

 

2019-08-13T10:19:20-05:00Statements|

Chair of USCCB Committee on Migration Urges Rescission of New Rule that Undermines our Asylum System and Puts Vulnerable Individuals and Families at Risk

August 12, 2019

WASHINGTON— Recently, the Trump Administration issued an “interim final rule” that would nearly eviscerate our current asylum system. A 30-day period was given to submit comments to the government about the rule. The move would allow the Administration to block most individuals arriving at our southern border from gaining access to asylum in the U.S. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops submitted comments on August 9th and called the rule “unlawful, unjust, and unwise.”

Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin, Texas, Chair of the of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, issued the following statement:

“We have grave concerns about the Administration’s interim final rule, issued on July 16, 2019, that greatly limits U.S. asylum eligibility at the southern border,” said Bishop Vásquez. “The rule would turn our back on the vast majority of asylum seekers, requiring them to apply for protection in almost any other country through which they transit, leaving access to U.S. asylum exceptionally rare. Not only do we believe that this rule is unlawful, but it also jeopardizes the safety of vulnerable individuals and families fleeing persecution and threatens family unity. Further, the rule undermines our nation’s tradition of being a global leader providing and being a catalyst for others to provide humanitarian protection to those in need. We remind the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security that how we respond to asylum seekers arriving at our border is a test of our moral character and strongly urge the Administration to rescind this rule.”

Please find a copy of the comments here.

 

2019-08-12T11:50:37-05:00Statements|

In Wake of Horrific, Hate Filled Violence in El Paso, USCCB Migration Chairman, Domestic Social Development Chairman, and Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Racism Call for Change in Language and Rhetoric of All Americans

August 8, 2019

WASHINGTON— Today, Bishops from three committees at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) expressed their deep concern about racism and xenophobia that apparently motivated this weekend’s massacre in El Paso and that have motivated numerous other recent mass shootings in the United States. The Chairmen called on our elected officials to exert leadership in seeking to heal the wounds that these shootings have caused and to deal with the scourges of racism, xenophobia, and religious bigotry, including refraining from expressing hurtful, painful, and divisive rhetoric that dehumanizes and polarizes people on the basis of their race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin.

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, chairman of the Committee on Migration, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of Venice, FL, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Social Development, and Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, Bishop of Houma-Thibodaux, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism offered the following comments.

“The tragic loss of life of 22 people this weekend in El Paso demonstrates that hate-filled rhetoric and ideas can become the motivation for some to commit acts of violence. The anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-Muslim, and anti-Semitic sentiments that have been publicly proclaimed in our society in recent years have incited hatred in our communities. Hatred and harsh rhetoric were echoed in the El Paso shooter’s explanation about why he committed this weekend’s shooting, as well as being evident in the motivation of the shooters who attacked the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last year and the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015. We, therefore, renew our call to all to act swiftly to stop using hate-filled language that demeans and divides us and motivates some to such horrific violence. Instead, we ask our leaders and all Americans to work to unite us as a great, diverse, and welcoming people.”

2019-08-08T11:05:31-05:00Statements|