Statements

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Chairman of U.S. Bishops Committee on Migration Expresses Concern about Immigration Bills Before Congress, Urges Bipartisan Engagement

June 19, 2018

WASHINGTON—Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB/COM) Committee on Migration, sent a letter to every Member of the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday in response to two immigration bills that are expected to be taken up later this week by the full House.  Bishop Vasquez had previously written in opposition to the first of the two bills (H.R. 4760), introduced in January of this year. The Bishop’s June 18 letter focuses most of its attention on a second, yet-to-be-numbered House Republican Leadership alternative bill.

In his letter to Congress, Bishop Vásquez wrote, “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. We welcome the opportunity to dialogue with lawmakers and to discuss possible opportunities for further compromise, particularly with respect to effects on families and the vulnerable.”

Bishop Vásquez added, “My brother bishops and I appreciate the effort by Representatives to find a legislative solution for Dreamers by bringing immigration measures before the House of Representatives. We believe that any such legislation must be bipartisan, provide Dreamers with a path to citizenship, be pro-family, protect the vulnerable and be respectful of human dignity with regard to border security and enforcement.” Bishop Vásquez reminded Members of the House that the Administration can end family separation without legislation through executive discretion.

2018-06-19T19:46:51+00:00 Statements|

A Statement from Daniel Cardinal DiNardo Archbishop Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

June 13, 2018

Fort Lauderdale, FL—“At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life. The Attorney General’s recent decision elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection. These vulnerable women will now face return to the extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country. This decision negates decades of precedents that have provided protection to women fleeing domestic violence. Unless overturned, the decision will erode the capacity of asylum to save lives, particularly in cases that involve asylum seekers who are persecuted by private actors. We urge courts and policy makers to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential of our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life.

Additionally, I join Bishop Joe Vásquez, Chairman of USCCB’s Committee on Migration, in condemning the continued use of family separation at the U.S./Mexico border as an implementation of the Administration’s zero tolerance policy.  Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma.  Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”

2018-06-13T09:43:11+00:00 Statements|

U.S. Bishops’ Migration Chairman Reacts to Policy Separating Families at U.S./Mexico Border: “Children are Not Instruments of Deterrence”

June 1, 2018

The Department of Homeland Security has recently acknowledged implementation of the policy of separating families arriving at the U.S./Mexico Border.  Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin and Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, issued the following statement in response:

“Forcibly separating children from their mothers and fathers is ineffective to the goals of deterrence and safety and contrary to our Catholic values. Family unity is a cornerstone of our American immigration system and a foundational element of Catholic teaching. ‘Children are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward.’ (Psalm 127:3) Children are not instruments of deterrence but a blessing from God.

Rupturing the bond between parent and child causes scientifically-proven trauma that often leads to irreparable emotional scarring.  Accordingly, children should always be placed in the least restrictive setting:  a safe, family environment, ideally with their own families.

My brother bishops and I understand the need for the security of our borders and country, but separating arriving families at the U.S./Mexico border does not allay security concerns.  Children and families will continue to take the enormous risks of migration—including family separation—because the root causes of migration from the Northern Triangle remain: community or state-sanctioned violence, gang recruitment, poverty, and a lack of educational opportunity.  Any policies should address these factors first as we seek to repair our broken immigration system.”

2018-06-01T16:41:19+00:00 Statements|

U.S. Catholic Working Group on Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration

Introduction.  Members of the U.S. Catholic Working Group on the Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration[i] are deeply involved in the care and accompaniment of migrants and forcibly displaced persons at every stage of their journeys. We often work in partnership with the U.S. government, international organizations, and local organizations.  Through advocacy and service our work includes fighting against the root causes of migration, providing humanitarian support to forced migrants, especially those in vulnerable situations, and advocating for just reform of national immigration laws in the United States. While we bring a distinct American Catholic experience to our statement, we also echo and build upon the Twenty Points document issued by the Holy See Mission to the United Nations in New York.[ii]  We thank the co-facilitators of Mexico and Switzerland for their able leadership in developing the latest draft of the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (“Global Compact on Migration”).We offer the following principles which we believe should be reflected in the final draft of the Global Compact on Migration.

The Global Compact on Migration should foster the catalytic role of faith-based organizations that provide service to migrants at every stage of their journey.  We strongly believe that the Global Compact on Migration should specifically include faith-based organizations as important stakeholders and partners in both the Preamble and the Implementation sections of the document.   As has been stated by the Holy See during the negotiations, faith-based organizations are unique because of their presence in sending, transit, and destination countries–at every point of the migration process.  Faith-based organizations are universal in nature and thus have a reach beyond that of a single government.

Moreover, faith-based organizations fill gaps in services to migrants which governments are unable or unwilling to fill and work closely with many member states to protect migrants in vulnerable situations.  They often build bridges between migrants and the local people. In addition, migrants often are attracted to faith-based groups because they are members of the faith or otherwise trust them to look after their best welfare, including warning them about the potential dangers of the migration journey.

The Global Compact on Migration should highlight increased legal avenues and regularization programs as the primary tools for reducing irregular migration and encourage member states to adopt these tools more aggressively. Consistent with its goal to promote safe, orderly, and regular migration, the Global Compact on Migration should include specific language, in both the preamble and Objective 5, which calls for a significant increase in legal avenues for migrants and regularization programs for migrants residing in their countries.

In most cases, migrants travel in an irregular status because there are insufficient visas available for them to migrate in a legal manner. Once they have navigated an arduous and dangerous journey, they fill low-skilled jobs in many economies, yet remain susceptible to exploitation and abuse in the workplace.  Legal avenues, which should include the option for permanent residency, should be increased to protect their lives, their human rights and the integrity of their family.

Migrants who reside in a country often live in fear of deportation, despite equities they may have built—families, businesses, homes—over time.  Family separation, in which parents are deported away from their citizen children, is a real threat.  Regularization programs bring immigrants and their families into society, thus increasing their economic contributions, preserving family unity, and aiding national security, as governments would know who they are and more effectively integrate them into society.

In our view, the Global Compact on Migration should increase legal immigration as a method for reducing irregular migration, as opposed to using enforcement and methods of deterrence to accomplish this goal.  Not only is it the most humanitarian way to respond to the challenge of irregular migration, it also is the most effective and sustainable.

Border management should ensure that migrants receive due process protections and should not deploy deterrence schemes to halt large movements of migrants and refugees. More and more, destination nations, sometimes in conjunction with transit nations, are using deterrence tactics to prevent large mixed movements of persons from reaching their borders, including the use of interdiction and return, detention, family separation, push backs, criminal prosecution of irregular migration, the closing of borders, and conditional aid agreements, among other tactics.  These formal and informal arrangements among nations can prevent migrants in vulnerable situations and even refugees from receiving protection and in some cases entail returning vulnerable individuals to harm.

Objective 11 of the Global Compact on Migration should prohibit the use of these tactics and encourage responsibility-sharing among member states that ensures that migrants and refugees are screened by a competent and independent authority, and, if necessary, offered protection, by either a transit nation or other nations in a region.  In addition, language should be restored in the draft that encourages member states to promote screening of asylum-seekers, including informing migrants of their rights to apply for asylum protection.

Migrants, regardless of their legal status, should be guaranteed certain services, consistent with their human rights and international law.   Human persons, regardless of legal status, possess God-given human rights that should not be violated, including the right to life, and thus should be provided services necessary to protect those rights, including health-care, social services, access to justice, education, and pastoral services.  Such services should be specified in the Global Compact on Migration, so that member states have a common understanding of this requirement.  In providing these services to undocumented persons or to persons in a temporary legal status, firewalls should exist to prevent personal information from being used for enforcement purposes.

Migrants in vulnerable situations should receive protection. Perhaps the most difficult issue to address between the Global Compact on Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees is the issue of migrants in vulnerable situations.  This group may include persons fleeing natural disaster or the effect of climate change; migrants in countries in crisis; migrants who may not achieve refugee protection or asylum but nevertheless have legitimate protection claims and could face harm upon their return; victims of human trafficking or forms of domestic violence; and inherently vulnerable migrants, such as unaccompanied children, the elderly, or the disabled.

These groups may not meet the refugee definition laid out in international refugee law, but nevertheless face danger and possible harm in their home countries.  Member states should increase the legal tools available to them to address these populations, including humanitarian visas, temporary protected status, and visas targeted toward specific groups, such as victims of human trafficking, victims of domestic violence, and unaccompanied alien children.  Protection consistent with international human rights law should be afforded them.

Return of migrants to their countries of origin should uphold the principle of non-refoulement and when return is proper should include re-integration programs which offer them comprehensive re-integration services.   Just as countries of origin have an obligation to their nationals to receive them, destination countries should follow international law in assessing their status, informing them of their rights in the process, and, as the law requires, either allowing them to remain or returning them to their homes.  We oppose policies which deny due process to migrants seeking protection, as well as tactics that pressure them to acquiesce to deportation without due process.  Non-refoulement should govern the return policies of all nations.

Safeguarding the integrity of the family is crucial when people are subjected to detention and deportation processes.  Humane alternatives to detention and defenses to removal based on family unity should be available in lieu of detention and deportation. In cases where family members are detained and/or returned, systems should be established to track their locations and to inform family members.

Moreover, re-integration programs should be created in countries of origin that assist returnees with job training and placement, access to social services, and physical security, so they are able to remain and live in safety and dignity.  Destination countries should provide assistance to source countries in creating these programs.

The root causes of migration should be comprehensively addressed, so that migration is a choice, not a necessity.  Migration and development are intrinsically linked, as remittances are a primary resource for development efforts.  The Global Compact on Migration should facilitate remittances by lessening fees and fostering financial inclusion.  Remittances should not be a substitute for global support for sustainable economic development in developing nations.

Finally, we urge the creation of a well-financed capacity-building framework that facilitates the actionable commitments of the Global Compact on Migration, as well as a monitoring system that holds member states accountable in implementing them.  While the Global Compact on Migration may be legally non-binding, it should be politically binding, so that good faith efforts are made by all member states in reaching its goals and achieving a positive impact on migrants around the world.

To view a PDF of this document, click here

[i]The working group includes Catholic Charities-USA, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), U.S. Liaison Office of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, Jesuit Refugee Services/USA (JRS-USA), Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN), and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS).
[ii] “Responding to Refugees and Migrants: Twenty Action Points,” Migrants & Refugee Section, Dicastery on Integral Human Development, Vatican, 2017. A summary of the document is also in a video featuring Pope Francis. See “Let’s welcome, protect, promote and integrate refugees as Pope Francis is asking us,” Migration & Refugee Section, Dicastery of Integral Human Development, Vatican, January 18, 2018, video available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDlxrIY96ak

 

 

2018-05-22T13:28:19+00:00 Statements|

Letter of Support for the Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act

April 25, 2018

Dear Representative,

I write on on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM) to urge you to support and co-sponsor H.R. 4796, the “Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act of 2018,” as it is written. This legislation, which in part provides critical protections from deportation for “Dreamers” qualifying immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, was introduced by Representatives Hurd (R-TX) and Aguilar (D-CA) and is currently cosponsored by an equal bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats.

The U.S. Catholic Bishops have long supported Dreamers, recognizing that they are contributors to our economy, academic standouts in our universities, veterans of our military, and leaders in our parishes. These youths have grown up in our country and know America as their only home. They truly exemplify the extraordinary contributions that immigrants can provide to our nation when they are permitted to reach their God-given potential.

The USA Act would provide qualifying Dreamers with protection from deportation, as well as a path to citizenship. Additionally, the USA Act of 2018: (1) augments border security at the U.S./Mexico border, in part through deployment of new technology and development of a strategic plan; (2) increases the number of immigration judges and Board of Immigration Appeals staff attorneys; and (3) seeks to address root causes and prevent future irregular migration by conditioning aid to Central America to prevent corruption.

While a larger solution is still needed to fix our broken immigration system, we urge Congress to first focus on passing H.R. 4796, as written, or similar bipartisan and narrowly-tailored legislation. Any legislation passed should provide Dreamers with a path to citizenship, not undermine our family-based immigration system or terminate existing protections for vulnerable migrants, and ensure that border security measures are just, proportionate, and humane.

It is both our moral duty and in our nation’s best interest to protect Dreamers. We hope that you will stand with us in supporting these valuable members of our communities and co-sponsor the USA Act.

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

Click here for a PDF version of the Letter

2018-04-25T09:49:10+00:00 Statements|

U.S. Bishops’ Migration Chairman Supports Southern Border Bishops Concerns Over White House Decision to Deploy National Guard at U.S./Mexico Border

April 11, 2018

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Catholic Bishops of the southern border issued a statement on April 6, 2018, regarding their deep concern over the Administration’s decision to deploy the National Guard at the U.S./Mexico border. Bishop Joe Vásquez, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, today issued the following statement in support of the Southern Border Bishops and in response to the Administration’s recent actions:

“On behalf of the USCCB Committee on Migration, I fully affirm the concerns voiced by the U.S. Bishops of the southern border regarding the presence of the National Guard at the U.S./Mexico border. Current law entitles those fleeing persecution and arriving in our country to due-process as their claims are reviewed. As the border bishops state: ‘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 seek safe haven; we ask our government to do the same as it seeks to safely and humanely secure the border.”

2018-04-16T10:00:17+00:00 Statements|

USCCB President, Vice President, and Migration Chair Announce National Call-in Day for Dreamers for February 26

WASHINGTON—Late last week, the Senate failed to achieve the 60 votes needed to move forward with debate on legislation to provide relief to Dreamers.  Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB President; Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB Vice President; and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, together issued the following statement:

“We are deeply disappointed that the Senate was not able to come together in a bipartisan manner to secure legislative protection for the Dreamers.  With the March 5th deadline looming, we ask once again that Members of Congress show the leadership necessary to find a just and humane solution for these young people, who daily face mounting anxiety and uncertainty.

“We are also announcing a National Catholic Call-In Day to Protect Dreamers. This coming weekend, we will be asking the faithful across the nation to call their Members of Congress next Monday, February 26, to protect Dreamers from deportation, to provide them a path to citizenship, and to avoid any damage to existing protections for families and unaccompanied minors in the process. 

“Our faith compels us to stand with the vulnerable, including our immigrant brothers and sisters.  We have done so continually, but we must show our support and solidarity now in a special way.  Now is the time for action.”

2018-02-20T11:20:42+00:00 Statements|

Chairman of U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Migration Praises Path to Citizenship for Dreamers; Remains Deeply Troubled About Proposal’s Impact on Family Unity

WASHINGTON—In response to the White House framework on immigration released on January 26th, Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin, and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, stated the following:

“We welcome the Administration’s proposal to include a path to citizenship for Dreamers. However, the proposed cuts to family immigration and elimination of protections to unaccompanied children are deeply troubling. Family immigration is part of the bedrock 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, is vital to our faith. Additionally, in searching for a solution for Dreamers, we must not turn our backs on the vulnerable. We should not, for example, barter the well-being of unaccompanied children for the well-being of the Dreamers. We know them all to be children of God who need our compassion and mercy.

We urge a bipartisan solution forward that is narrowly-tailored. Time is of the essence. Every day we experience the human consequences of delayed action in the form of young people losing their livelihood and their hope. As pastors and leaders of the Church, we see this fear and sadness in our parishes and as such, continue to call for immediate action. Elected officials must show leadership to quickly enact legislation that provides for our security and is humane, proportionate and just.”

2018-01-30T10:33:53+00:00 Statements|

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Emphasize Human Beings All Made in the Likeness of God

The following statement has been issued by James Rogers, Chief Communications Officer for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), emphasizing the USCCB position that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God and therefore deserving of our respect and compassion.
 
Full statement follows:
 
“Reports of recent disparaging remarks about African countries and Haiti have aroused great concern. As our brothers and sisters from these countries are primarily people of color, these alleged remarks are especially disturbing. All human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and comments that denigrate nations and peoples violate that fundamental truth and cause real pain to our neighbors. It is regrettable that this comes on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and could distract from the urgent bipartisan effort to help Dreamers and those with Temporary Protected Status. As a vigorous debate continues over the future of immigration, we must always be sure to avoid language that can dehumanize our brothers and sisters.”
2018-01-12T17:22:13+00:00 Statements|

Migration Chairman Deeply Disappointed by Termination of Temporary Protected Status for El Salvador; Calls for Congress to Find a Legislative Solution

January 8, 2018

WASHINGTON — On January 8th, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it is terminating Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for El Salvador. TPS is a temporary, renewable, and statutorily authorized humanitarian migration program that permits individuals to remain and work lawfully in the U.S. during a period in which it is deemed unsafe for nationals of that country to return home. The vast majority of TPS recipients in the U.S. are Salvadoran.

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM), issued the following statement:

“The decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador is heartbreaking. As detailed in our recent delegation trip report to the region, El Salvador is currently not in a position to adequately handle the return of the roughly 200,000 Salvadoran TPS recipients. Today’s decision will fragment American families, leaving over 192,000 U.S. citizen children of Salvadoran TPS recipients with uncertain futures. Families will be needlessly separated because of this decision.

We believe that God has called us to care for the foreigner and the marginalized: ‘So you too should love the resident alien, for that is what you were in the land of Egypt’ (Deut. 10:19). Our nation must not turn its back on TPS recipients and their families; they too are children of God.

DHS has provided an 18-month period (through September 9, 2019) during which TPS recipients from El Salvador can legally stay in the United States and prepare for their departure. While we recognize and appreciate this extra time, it will not remedy the underlying protection and family unity concerns that remain for Salvadoran TPS recipients.

We renew our call to Congress to work in a bipartisan manner to find a legislative solution for long-term TPS recipients, and we stand ready to support such efforts. TPS recipients are an integral part of our communities, churches, and nation. Without action by Congress, however, recipients’ lives will be upended and many families will be devastated. As with DACA, we strongly urge Congressional members and leadership to come together and address this issue as soon as possible.

To Salvadoran TPS recipients, we promise to continue to stand in solidarity with you and pray for you and your families, and all those who are displaced or forced to flee from their homes.”

2018-01-09T09:43:37+00:00 Statements|