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.


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+00:00 Statements|

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+00:00 Statements|

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:

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

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+00:00 Statements|

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.



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+00:00 Statements|

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+00:00 Statements|

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 For more information on events in your area or to submit an event, email USCCB/MRS Communications Manager Mark Priceman (

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

USCCB Chairman Welcomes Ninth Circuit Decision Upholding Preliminary Injunction on Refugee Resettlement Pause and Travel Ban

June 13, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS—On June 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit largely affirmed a nationwide preliminary injunction against implementation of sections of the Administration’s executive order that attempted to suspend and limit the U.S. refugee resettlement program and also attempted to ban the entry of people from six Muslim-majority countries.

A statement from Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chair of the Committee on Migration regarding the Ninth Circuit ruling follows:

“I am heartened by the decision of the 9th Circuit to maintain the temporary halt implementing certain provisions of the March 6th Executive Order. Upholding the injunction will allow us to continue welcoming and serving refugees fleeing persecution.  Together with my brother bishops, we believe it is possible to simultaneously provide for the security of our country and have a humane refugee policy that upholds our national heritage and moral responsibility. We remain dedicated to accompanying and supporting our brothers and sisters who for various reasons have been forced to leave their homeland. We follow the example of Pope Francis and pledge to them “a duty of justice, civility and solidarity.”

2017-06-13T13:02:52+00:00 Statements|

RCUSA Statement on the Decision of the 4th Circuit Court

Below is the statement on the decision by the 4th Circuit Court, put out by Refugee Council USA (RCUSA), of which USCCB/MRS is a member organization:

RCUSA is heartened that the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling against the Executive Order that was issued on March 6th. In doing so,  it found that the President’s travel ban is likely to be ruled unconstitutional. This win means that, as the world faces an historic displacement crisis, America’s doors will remain open, as a symbol of U.S. global leadership at a time when it is sorely needed.

Hans Van de Weerd, Chair of RCUSA, states; “Our hope is that -if this case makes its way to the US Supreme Court-  it too will  uphold the 4th Circuit decision to preserve the proud American traditions of welcome and non-discrimination. As always, RCUSA stands at the ready and welcomes the opportunity to work with the Administration and Congress to ensure that the U.S. refugee resettlement program is successful and secure.”

2017-05-26T12:06:35+00:00 Statements|

USCCB Committee on Migration Chair Thankful for Administration’s Decision to Extend Temporary Protection for Haitians; Urges Continued Engagement on Humanitarian Assistance

May 22, 2017

WASHINGTON—The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, offered his appreciation to Secretary John Kelly of the Department of Homeland Security for his decision to extend Temporary Protective Status for Haitians in the United States for six months but urged continued engagement and humanitarian assistance to improve conditions in Haiti.

Full statement follows:

“On behalf of the USCCB Committee on Migration, I express gratitude to Secretary Kelly of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Trump Administration for extending another six months of Temporary Protective Status (TPS) to over 58,000 Haitians living and working in the United States legally.  While this extension is helpful, it still leaves many Haitian families in the United States in an insecure and vulnerable position, particularly with respect to ensuring legal work authorization. Extending TPS serves an important humanitarian role by providing for the safety, well-being, and stability of Haitians living in the United States. We encourage our government to work proactively with the Haitian government to provide life-saving aid and recovery assistance. Haiti will continue to struggle to receive back those who are temporarily protected, even those who may be returned in the near future. Through the Church’s service networks, we will continue to assist Haitian families in the U.S., aid the rebuilding process in Haiti and look for opportunities to collaborate with the Church in Haiti and the Haitian and U.S. governments.”

2017-05-22T17:11:06+00:00 Statements|