Statements

/Statements

USCCB President, Vice President and Committee Chairmen Denounce Administration’s Decision to End DACA and Strongly Urge Congress to Find Legislative Solution

WASHINGTON— The President and Vice President along with Chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have issued a statement denouncing the Administration’s termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program after six months.
The following statement from USCCB President Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, along with USCCB Vice President, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, chairman, Committee on Migration, and Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, chairman of the Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees, and Travelers says the “cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible.”

Over 780,000 youth received protection from the DACA program since its inception by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2012. DACA provided no legal status or government benefits but did provide recipients with temporary employment authorization to work in the United States and reprieve from deportation.

Full statement follows:

“The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible. It causes unnecessary fear for DACA youth and their families. These youth entered the U.S. as minors and often know America as their only home. The Catholic Church has long watched with pride and admiration as DACA youth live out their daily lives with hope and a determination to flourish and contribute to society: continuing to work and provide for their families, continuing to serve in the military, and continuing to receive an education. Now, after months of anxiety and fear about their futures, these brave young people face deportation. This decision is unacceptable and does not reflect who we are as Americans.

The Church has recognized and proclaimed the need to welcome young people: ‘Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me’ (Mark 9:37). Today, our nation has done the opposite of how Scripture calls us to respond. It is a step back from the progress that we need to make as a country. Today’s actions represent a heartbreaking moment in our history that shows the absence of mercy and good will, and a short-sighted vision for the future. DACA youth are woven into the fabric of our country and of our Church, and are, by every social and human measure, American youth.

We strongly urge Congress to act and immediately resume work toward a legislative solution. We pledge our support to work on finding an expeditious means of protection for DACA youth. As people of faith, we say to DACA youth – regardless of your immigration status, you are children of God and welcome in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church supports you and will advocate for you.”

2017-09-05T12:01:46+00:00Statements|

RAISE Act Will Weaken Family Bonds and Impact Nation’s Ability to Respond to Those in Crisis says U.S. Catholic Bishops Chairman

WASHINGTON—The Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin and Chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, says that the newly proposed RAISE Act would cause our nation to turn its back on those setting out to build better lives, weaken family bonds and impact the nation’s ability to respond to those in crisis.  Bishop Vásquez’s full statement follows:  
“I express strong opposition to the RAISE Act, which was introduced today in the U.S. Senate by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA). Had this discriminatory legislation been in place generations ago, many of the very people who built and defended this nation would have been excluded.
The United States supports families and should not throw up obstacles to their unity.  Unfortunately, the RAISE Act would have our nation turn its back on this long and storied tradition of welcoming families setting out to build a better life.
The RAISE Act would permanently cap the number of refugees allowed safe passage, thereby denying our country the necessary flexibility to respond to humanitarian crisis. As a Church, we believe the stronger the bonds of family, the greater a person’s chance of succeeding in life.  The RAISE Act imposes a definition of family that would weaken those bonds.
I urge the Senate to reject this measure and implore Congress and the President to work together in a bipartisan fashion to enact into law comprehensive immigration reform. I believe that such reform must recognize the many contributions that immigrants of all backgrounds have made to our nation, and must protect the lives and dignity of all, including the most vulnerable.”
2017-08-02T18:19:24+00:00Statements|

USCCB Chairman on Migration Letter of Opposition on H.R. 391 “Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act of 2017”

House Committee on the Judiciary

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

 

Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers:

I write on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM) to urge you to oppose H.R. 391, the “Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act of 2017,” which is scheduled for markup in your committee this Wednesday, July 26, 2017. Our committee is deeply concerned that the changes proposed by this bill would undermine the ability of persecuted individuals to access protection in the United States.

The Catholic Church has a significant interest in the protection of asylum seekers and has long been involved in welcoming immigrants and refugees to our nation. The Catholic Church’s work in assisting vulnerable migrants stems from the belief that every person is created in God’s image and should be treated with compassion and dignity. While the Catholic Church recognizes the governments’ sovereign right to control its borders, we believe this right must be balanced with the rights of migrants to access safety and protection.

H.R. 391 unacceptably limits protection for vulnerable migrants fleeing persecution. Among its many concerning provisions, the bill essentially prohibits victims of gang violence from accessing asylum. This would leave numerous Central American women and children at risk of abuse, violence, and even death. Through our network of service providers for unaccompanied children, as well as through our ministry, we see firsthand the terrible situations that vulnerable women and children are forced to flee, including active gang recruitment, acts of violence and threats of death.  These individuals are the victims of the transnational organized criminal groups that we as a country are trying to eradicate. How we respond to individuals and families seeking protection is a test of our moral character. In the words of Pope Francis, we must “not tire of courageously living the Gospel, which calls you to recognize and welcome the Lord Jesus among the smallest and most vulnerable.”

H.R. 391 greatly expands the “firm resettlement” bar to asylum, allowing a person’s application to be rejected simply because he or she could live in another country without fear of persecution, regardless of the person’s legal status in that country.  In doing so, it turns a blind eye to restrictions on the ability of individuals to legally work, access education, or secure legal permanency in such countries – in essence, to seek a dignified life free of persecution.

Furthermore, H.R. 391 restricts access to justice by prohibiting government funds from being used to provide legal counsel to immigrants. Currently, the government does not provide counsel for immigrants in removal proceedings, except for a few particularly vulnerable individuals, such as certain unaccompanied children and individuals with mental disabilities. We believe that children and those with diminished mental capacity should never have to go before an immigration judge without the assistance of a legal representative. Providing counsel to such individuals is not only just and merciful, and necessary for fair proceedings, it is also vital for judicial efficiency.

We ask you to reject H.R. 391 and, instead, seek meaningful and holistic solutions to our regional crisis. We call on Congress to: address the root causes that compel migrants to leave their homes; strengthen avenues to international protection; develop humane and safe repatriation programs; better fund immigration courts and counsel programs for the vulnerable; and continue to offer safety to those fleeing persecution. Instead of undermining the ability of vulnerable people to access protection in our country, my brother bishops and I seek to work with Congress to put forth compassionate and common sense reform. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Most Rev. Joe S. Vásquez

Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

 

Click here to read the PDF Version of the letter

2017-07-25T14:34:32+00:00Statements|

USCCB Committee on Migration Chair Urges Support of DREAM Act

Dear Senator:

I write on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM) to urge you to support S.1615 the “Dream Act of 2017.” This bipartisan legislation, introduced on July 20, 2017, by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), 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 youth 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. S.1615 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 youths and their families who are contributors to our economy, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes. These youths 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 youths should not be forced to live their lives in constant fear that they will be deported at any moment and separated from their families. It is both our moral duty and in our nation’s best interest to protect them and allow them to reach their God-given potential.

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

Sincerely,

Most Rev. Joe S. Vásquez

Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

 

Click here for a PDF Version of the letter Supporting the DREAM Act

Click here to read the statement in Spanish

2017-07-26T14:00:34+00:00Statements|

USCCB Chairman Expresses Ongoing Support for DACA; Calls on Administration and Congress to Ensure Permanent Protection for DACA Youth

July 18, 2017

 

WASHINGTON— Over 750,000 youth have received protection from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) since its inception by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2012.  While DACA provides no legal status, it does provide recipients with a temporary reprieve from deportation and employment authorization for legal work opportunities in the United States.

In response to the recent petition to the U.S. Department of Justice to terminate DACA, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Chair of the Migration Committee and Bishop of Austin, Texas, expressed support for DACA once again, stating:

“The Catholic Bishops have long supported DACA youth and continue to do so. DACA youth are contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes. These young people entered the U.S. as children and know America as their only home.  The dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children and youth, must be protected.

I urge the Administration to continue administering the DACA program and to publicly ensure that DACA youth are not priorities for deportation.

However, DACA is not a permanent solution; for this reason, I also call on Congress to work in an expeditious and bipartisan manner to find a legislative solution for DACA youth as soon as possible. My brother bishops and I pledge continuing efforts to help find a humane and permanent resolution that protects DACA youth. Additionally, I note the moral urgency for comprehensive immigration reform that is just and compassionate. The bishops will advocate for these reforms as we truly believe they will advance the common good.

Lastly, to DACA youth and their families, please know that the Catholic Church stands in solidarity with you.  We recognize your intrinsic value as children of God.  We understand the anxiety and fear you face and we appreciate and applaud the daily contributions you make with your families, to local communities and parishes, and to our country.  We support you on your journey to reach your God-given potential.”

2017-07-18T16:26:37+00:00Statements|

U.S. Bishops Chairman Urges Administration to Raise Cap on Refugee Admissions

WASHINGTON—This week, U.S. refugee admissions reached the historically low cap of 50,000 refugees allowed to be resettled in the United States for Fiscal Year 2017, as set forth by the Administration’s March 6th Executive Order 13780. Executive Order 13780 altered the initial Fiscal Year 2017 Presidential Determination which authorized the resettlement of 110,000 refugees into the United States. Currently there are approximately 22.5 million refugees seeking protection globally.

The following is a statement in response to the resettlement cap from Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Austin, Texas, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration:

“I note with sadness that the new U.S. refugee admissions cap of 50,000 individuals has been reached this week. While certain refugees who have ‘bona fide relationships’ will still be allowed to arrive, I remain deeply concerned about the human consequences of this limitation and its impact on vulnerable refugees such as unaccompanied refugee children, elderly and infirm refugees, and religious minorities. Now, these vulnerable populations will not be able to access needed protection and will continue to face danger and exploitation. Pope Francis reminds us that ‘refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity.’ We must be mindful that every refugee is more than just a number, they are a child of God.

Looking forward, my brother bishops and I urge the Administration to allow 75,000 refugees to arrive to our country in the next fiscal year. As I stated in March 2017, in relation to this particular Executive Order, ‘Resettling only 50,000 refugees a year, down from 110,000, does not reflect the need, our compassion, and our capacity as a nation.’ We firmly believe that as a nation the United States has the good will, character, leadership, and resources to help more vulnerable people seek refuge.  Most importantly, the Church will continue to serve and stand in solidarity with refugees, welcoming and accompanying them on their journey to protection and safety.”

The full letter from March 17 can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/news/2017/17-048.cfm

2017-07-14T09:22:44+00:00Statements|

U.S. Bishops Conference Chairman Responds to Supreme Court Action on Travel Ban

WASHINGTON— Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the Administration’s Executive Order 13870 announcing an emergency stay partially overturning preliminary injunctions that were put in place by federal courts in Maryland and Hawaii and upheld by the Fourth Circuit and the Ninth Circuit. The Supreme Court decision narrows refugee resettlement and travel from six Muslim-majority countries to individuals who can prove a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States,” until the Supreme Court can rule on the legality of the ban.

Bishop Vasquez, Bishop of Austin and Chair of the of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration issued the following statement:

“Today’s decision will have human consequences. While my brother bishops and I appreciate the Court’s ruling to allow individuals who have a ‘bona fide relationship’ with a person or entity in the United States to continue arriving, we are deeply concerned about the welfare of the many other vulnerable populations who will now not be allowed to arrive and seek protection during the proscribed pause, most notably certain individuals fleeing religious persecution and unaccompanied refugee children.”

Going forward, as the Administration begins its review of the refugee program, we urge a transparent, efficient and timely review. We ask that such review include civil society and refugee service providers as well as national security and immigration experts. We believe it is vital to utilize the full expertise of the existing resettlement program when conducting such an important evaluation.”

2017-06-28T08:04:09+00:00Statements|

USCCB/Catholic Charities USA Letter to Congress In Opposition of H.R 3003 and 3004

Dear Representative:

We write on behalf of the Committee on Migration of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB/COM), and Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) to express our opposition to H.R. 3003 and H.R. 3004.

The Catholic Church holds a strong interest in the welfare of migrants and how our nation welcomes and treats them. Our parishes include those with and without immigration status, unfortunately some who have witnessed or been victims of crime in the United States, including domestic violence, armed robbery, and assault. We understand the importance of fostering cooperation and information-sharing between immigrant communities and local law enforcement.

We oppose H.R. 3003 because it would impose obligations on local governments that we fear – and that many of them have warned–would undermine authority and discretion of local law enforcement. This, in turn, would hamper the ability of local law enforcement officials to apprehend criminals and ensure public safety in all communities.

Furthermore, Section 2 of H.R. 3003 would deny to jurisdictions vital federal funding related to law enforcement, terrorism, national security, immigration, and naturalization if those jurisdictions are deemed to be non-compliant with H.R. 3003.  The Catholic service network, including Catholic Charities, works in partnership with the federal government on a number of Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security initiatives, including disaster response and recovery, naturalization and citizenship services, and services for the immigrant, including victims of human trafficking, and domestic violence. These services are incredibly valuable to the protection and promotion of the human person and in some instances life-saving. Cutting grants related to these important national objectives, or threat of such cuts, is not humane or just, nor is it in our national interest.

Also, we oppose H.R. 3004 as it would lead to an expansion of incarceration and does not include adequate protections for people who re-enter the U.S. for humanitarian reasons or seek protection at the border. While H.R. 3004 makes notable efforts to protect us from those convicted of violent criminal offenses, the legislation goes far beyond this goal by expanding the government’s ability to prosecute illegal re-entry cases and heightening the criminal penalties in these cases. In an era of fiscal austerity, it is vital that important judicial resources are efficiently utilized to prosecute and convict the most violent offenders of violent crimes. Expanding who is eligible to be prosecuted for entry or re-entry as well as enhancing sentencing requirements does not advance the common good nor will it ensure that communities are safer.  Furthermore, we are concerned that, as introduced, H.R. 3004 would also prevent vulnerable asylum seekers and unaccompanied children, (who have presented themselves repeatedly at the U.S. border in the flight from violence), from being able to access protection, and instead face fines, imprisonment or both.

We respectfully urge you to reject these bills in favor of a more comprehensive and humane approach to immigration reform; an approach that upholds human dignity and family unity and places a greater emphasis on balancing the needs and rights of immigrants with our nation’s best interests and security.

The United States has a long and proud history of leadership in welcoming newcomers regardless of their circumstances and promoting the common good.  We stand ready to work with you on legislation that more closely adheres to this tradition and appreciate your serious consideration of our views in this regard.

 

Sincerely,

Most Rev. Joe Vásquez, Bishop of Austin, Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

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

2017-06-27T16:22:45+00:00Statements|

Letter to Secretary Kelly on Deportations

Dear Secretary Kelly,

On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration and Committee on International Justice and Peace, we write with grave concern about certain Christians, Chaldean Catholics, and others from Michigan and Tennessee who are reported to be scheduled for deportation from the United States tomorrow. Returning religious minorities to Iraq at this time, without specific plans for protection, does not appear consistent with our concerns about genocide and persecution of Christians in Iraq. We strongly encourage you to exercise the discretion available to you under law to defer the deportation of persons to Iraq, particularly Christians and Chaldean Catholics, who pose no threat to U.S. public safety, until such time as the situation in Iraq stabilizes and its government proves willing and capable of protecting the rights of religious minorities.

The United States government, our Holy Father Pope Francis, and the Christian Churches in Iraq all recognize that Christians and other religious minorities are the victims of genocide in Iraq. Despite this recognition, the Administration is reportedly working to remove dozens of individuals who come from such persecuted religious minority groups back to Iraq. The persecution that the Christian and Chaldean Catholic community has faced in Iraq is well- documented. Congress has expressed profound concern for the situation of Christians and other minorities in Iraq. Various pieces of legislation under consideration or being developed would provide greater support to remaining Christians and other minorities who are internally displaced and would seek to provide a special designation for Christians and other minorities targeted for genocide to enter the refugee resettlement program. The deportations to this same country, under such scrutiny for abuse and genocide of Christian and other minorities, seems to run counter to what is happening in other parts of our government.

For decades, many of these Christians sought legal refuge in the United States. Like other refugees from various countries of origins, they have become integrated into American communities, and in this instance, they are contributing members of communities in Michigan and Tennessee.

While we urge review of these Christian and Chaldean Catholic cases in light of the situation in Iraq, we note that some these individuals have orders of deportation because they have committed serious criminal offenses in the past. We do not minimize the serious criminal offenses of which some of these individuals have been convicted; it is entirely appropriate that they be punished for their offenses. After serving their sentences, however, we believe it would not be just or humane to deport a person who has integrated into American life and poses no evident risk to the local community. The fact that they have a significant risk of experiencing persecution and even possible bodily harm because of their faith is, from our moral perspective, an important factor to be weighed in the calculation to deport.

Our country has been an international leader in providing refuge to those who have escaped religious persecution. It is an admirable part of our history as a nation. To that end, we request that you exercise the discretion available to you under law to defer the deportation of the Christians and Chaldean Catholics, and other persons who pose no threat to U.S. public safety to Iraq until the situation in Iraq stabilizes and its government proves capable of protecting the rights of religious minorities.

Similarly, we urge that all individuals who do not pose a threat to the safety of Americans, and for whom deportation would either separate the family or be dangerous to their person, be shown mercy going forward. We must continue to protect those seeking refuge for those at risk due to the practice of their faith, and those for whom deportation would break up the cornerstone of our society, the family.

Sincerely yours,

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, President
United States Conference of Catholic Bishop

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

Most Reverend Oscar Cantú, Bishop of Las Cruces, Chairman, USCCB Committee on
International Justice and Peace

Read the Letter to Secretary Kelly here

2017-06-20T12:03:03+00:00Statements|

World Refugee Day 2017, International Day Celebrating Refugees to be held June 20

WASHINGTON—World Refugee Day 2017 will take place June 20th with celebrations noting the contributions of refugees occurring locally, nationally and globally. The international day provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the global refugee situation and the success of resettled refugees.  The world is experiencing the largest forced migration crisis since World War II with more than 65 million people forcibly displaced from their homes, including 21 million refugees worldwide.

“World Refugee Day is a day where we highlight the achievements of refugees.  Refugees are like all people, unique children of God,” said Bill Canny, Executive Director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Migration and Refugee Services. “We hope to see this year’s celebration of World Refugee Day create greater awareness and appreciation on both the community and national level.”

As part of the 2017 World Refugee Day celebration, the USCCB will be hosting a World Refugee Day Kick – Off event at the National Press Club on Monday, June 19th, featuring Bishop Mario Dorsonville of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC and Admiral Garry Hall, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for International Organizations and Alliances, ‎National Security Council. Additionally there will be two panels, one which focuses on the domestic aspects of refugee resettlement and the other which highlights the international protection needs of refugees.

This year will be the 17th year that the United Nations has officially recognized June 20th as World Refugee Day.  Many nations around the globe celebrated World Refugee Day prior to 2001, with one of the most widespread events being Africa Refugee Day, which had been celebrated on June 20.

Educational materials and other resources for World Refugee Day are available for download at https://justiceforimmigrants.org/take-action/world-refugee-day/. For more information on events in your area or to submit an event, email USCCB/MRS Communications Manager Mark Priceman (mpriceman@usccb.org).

2017-06-19T13:55:22+00:00Statements|