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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+00:00Statements|

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+00:00Statements|

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+00:00Statements|

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+00:00Statements|

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+00:00Statements|

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+00:00Statements|

Catholic Partners Letter Requesting Extension Of TPS Designation For El Salvador

Dear Secretary Nielsen,

We, the undersigned, write on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), the Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN), and Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) to urge you to extend the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for El Salvador by 18 months. As you know, El Salvador’s TPS designation currently extends through March 9, 2018.[1] Pursuant to statutory requirements, a decision to extend or terminate TPS for a designated country must be made at least 60 days prior to the current expiration date.[2] This letter follows a prior request sent to Acting Secretary Elaine Duke on October 26, 2017, which discussed why an extension of TPS for the country is both warranted and humane and included current country conditions justifying an extension. We hope that you will consider this information as you make your decision by January 8, 2018.

The Catholic Church’s deep concern for TPS holders is rooted in Catholic Social Teaching and our experience with welcoming and integrating large populations of immigrants to the U.S. and around the world. The teachings of the Church make clear that all people have the right to migrate to protect their lives and the lives of their families. Under Catholic doctrine, TPS holders, like all immigrants, have the right to safety and to care for their families. And while the Church recognizes the right of nations to regulate their borders, this right must be exercised with justice and mercy and balanced with immigrants’ rights to human dignity and life.

In August 2017, a delegation led by the USCCB traveled to El Salvador on a fact-finding mission regarding TPS. Consistent with the long experience of CRS and the local Catholic Church in El Salvador, the report from this delegation overwhelmingly demonstrates that El Salvador is currently not in a position to adequately handle the return of the nearly 200,000 Salvadoran TPS holders from the U.S. The delegation’s trip report, Temporary Protected Status: A Vital Piece of the Central American Protection and Prosperity Puzzle,[3] shows that:

  • Entire families, not just children, currently face targeted violence;
  • Large numbers of people in El Salvador (approximately 220,000 – 400,000) are internally displaced, illustrating already existing safety issues and the growing humanitarian protection challenges; and
  • The Salvadoran government does not currently have the capacity to adequately handle the return of its TPS population. This is evidenced by its failure to address citizen safety and humanitarian concerns related to its large-scale internal displacement, as well as by its lack of an adequate reception, protection, and integration system for internally displaced people and annual returnees (52,560 in 2016).

Even according to the most recent Federal Register Notice extending TPS for El Salvador, the country suffers from widespread housing shortages, lack of access to clean water, disease and food insecurity as a result of the 2001 earthquakes and subsequent natural disasters.

Terminating TPS for El Salvador now would be inhumane and untenable; El Salvador is in no position to accommodate the return of roughly 200,000 Salvadorans. In addition to potentially bringing harm to those returned, terminating TPS for El Salvador would likely destabilize this key strategic, regional partner, undermining the tremendous investments of the U.S. government. It would also divide American families as many parents would not bring their U.S. citizen children back to the Northern Triangle where they would face acute integration challenges, violence, and potential persecution.

We appreciate your consideration of this request. We ask you to show compassion and patience as El Salvador continues to improve its citizen security and humanitarian capacity for reception, protection, and integration. The Catholic Church stands ready to support measures to protect the well-being and dignity of Salvadoran families here and abroad.

Respectfully submitted,

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

Reverend Leonir Chiarello, Executive Director, Scalabrini International Migration Network

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

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

Mr. Sean Callahan, President/CEO, Catholic Relief Services

Click Here for a PDF Version of the Letter

[1] 81 Fed. Reg. 44,645 (July 8, 2016), www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/07/08/2016-15802/extension-of-the-designation-of-el-salvador-for-temporary-protected-status.
[2] INA § 244 (b)(3)(A).
[3] Temporary Protected Status: A Vital Piece of the Central American Protection and Prosperity Puzzle, USCCB/MRS (Oct. 2017), www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/fact-finding-mission-reports/upload/el-salvador-honduras-report-20171016.pdf.
2017-12-21T09:17:53+00:00Statements|

USCCB Committee on Migration Letter to Pass Legislation on TPS

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM), I write to urge you to work in a bipartisan manner to pass legislation to protect Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients. We are encouraged by the recent introduction of H.R. 4184, the “Extending Status Protection for Eligible Refugees with Established Residency Act of 2017” (ESPERER Act); H.R. 4384, the “Act to Sustain the Protection of Immigrant Residents Earned through TPS Act of 2017” (ASPIRE-TPS Act); and H.R. 4253, the “American Promise Act of 2017”.

TPS is a renewable and statutorily-authorized immigration status that allows 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. Currently, there are approximately 320,000 TPS recipients in the U.S. with an estimated 270,000 U.S. Citizen children. Many of these individuals have been here for years; they are business owners, professionals and community leaders. We know these individuals to be hardworking contributors to American communities, Catholic parishes and our nation.

To the Church, the future of TPS recipients and their loved ones is both an issue of family unity and human dignity. We are also responding to the call of Pope Francis who exhorts Catholics to act in solidarity with refugees, migrants, and all those seeking safety from the ravages of violence, environmental disasters, and despair.

The time for Congress to act is now. Recently, the Department of Homeland Security terminated TPS for Nicaragua, Haiti, and Sudan, and it will be making the decision to extend or terminate TPS for El Salvador in January 2018 and for Honduras in May 2018. Yet, as discussed in the recent USCCB Migration and Refugee Services trip reports, “Temporary Protected Status: A Vital Piece of the Central American Protection and Prosperity Puzzle” and “Haiti’s Ongoing Road to Recovery: The Necessity of an Extension of Temporary Protected Status,” we know that many of these countries are unable to adequately and safely handle the return and reintegration of their nationals with TPS at this time.

The aforementioned bills offer legislative solutions to addressing the protection needs of TPS recipients’ and their families. For example, the ESPERER Act will allow eligible recipients from Haiti, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, and their qualifying beneficiaries, to apply for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residency. This bill will prevent such hardworking individuals from having their lives uprooted and their families torn apart. We hope you will consider co-sponsoring H.R. 4184.

Finding a legislative solution for TPS recipients and their families is critical for
humanitarian and regional stability. The Catholic Church stands ready to work with Congress
and will continue to welcome TPS recipients into our parishes and communities.

Sincerely,

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

Click here to read the PDF version of the TPS Legislation Letter

2017-12-14T11:17:39+00:00Statements|

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and the Unborn, will be Celebrated Around the Country December 12, as Day of Solidarity with Immigrants

WASHINGTON— On Tuesday, December 12, the Catholic Church will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and the Unborn. Celebrations in dioceses across the nation will be held throughout the month of December to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe. These events seek to honor the accomplishments, hopes, fears, and needs of all families who have come to the U.S. seeking a better life.

“As we enter the Advent season and Christmas approaches, we are reminded of the unique role and importance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a unifier and peacebuilder for communities. We honor her role as protectress of families, including those families separated and far from home,” stated Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin, Texas, and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration.

Over 55 prayer services, Masses, processions and other events will be held in dioceses across the country as the Catholic Church continues to accompany migrants and refugees seeking opportunity to provide for their families. On December 12, 2017, a Mass honoring our Lady of Guadalupe will be celebrated by the Most Reverend Mario Dorsonville, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, at St. Peter’s Church in Washington, DC at 12:10 PM. All are welcome to attend.

For more information, please visit the Justice for Immigrants (JFI) website at https://justiceforimmigrants.org/lady-guadalupe-resource-page/ which has background material and scriptural information on Our Lady of Guadalupe in English and Spanish, a nationwide map of events, and community celebration ideas.

2017-12-07T13:43:39+00:00Statements|

U.S. Bishops’ Chairmen Express Disappointment with U.S. Government Withdrawal from UN’s Process to Develop a Global Compact on Migration

WASHINGTON—Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, expressed disappointment after the Trump Administration announced on Saturday, December 2, 2017, that the U.S. government is withdrawing from the process of the United Nations (UN) to develop a Global Compact on Migration. That process was begun when the UN General Assembly ratified the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants on September 19, 2016.

 

“Catholic social teaching on migration recognizes and respects the sovereignty of each nation, indeed each nation’s right and responsibility, to ultimately decide how it will regulate migration into its territory,” explained Bishop Vásquez. “The Church has long articulated that it is the obligation of nations to assure human rights for all migrants and special protections for vulnerable migrants, such as refugees, forced migrants, victims of human trafficking, and women and children at risk. Pope Francis has described such obligations as part of building ‘global solidarity’ on behalf of migrants and refugees. In fact, the Bishops continue to promote the international campaign initiated by Pope Francis, Share the Journey, as a sign of solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters.”

 

“With a growing global concern about protracted forced migration situations, the UN process provides an opportunity for the United States to help build international cooperation that respects such rights and protections on behalf of those seeking safety and security for their families.  Participation in that process allows the US to draw on our experience and influence the compact,” said Archbishop Broglio. “Therefore, the USCCB encourages the Administration to reconsider its decision to withdraw from this process.”  

2017-12-05T12:15:52+00:00Statements|