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


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


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 (


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.”


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.”


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.”


USCCB Committee On Migration Letter to House Judiciary Committee

Click below to read the letter from Committee on Migration Chair, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, on three bills that were before the House Judiciary Committee, involving immigration and law enforcement.

House Judiciary Committee Mark Up Letter

Full text of the letter below:


May 18, 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 express our opposition to three bills that are scheduled for mark up in your committee this Thursday, May 18, 2017: (1) H.R. 2431, the “Michael Davis, Jr. and Danny Oliver in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act” ; (2) H.R. 2406, the “Immigration and Customs Enforcement Authorization Act of 2017;” and (3) H.R. 2407, the “United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Authorization Act.”

The USCCB/COM acknowledges and accepts the role of the government in ensuring the integrity of our border and enforcement of our laws. We appreciate the government’s commitment to public safety and recognize the contributions of law enforcement. However, we believe that, together, these three bills would constitute an unacceptable expansion in immigration enforcement that would contravene the principle of treating all individuals with human dignity, regardless of their immigration status.

H.R. 2431 proposes massive increases to immigrant detention. Further, we believe it would undermine community trust of local law enforcement, rollback existing protections for accompanied children in the context of family detention, and erode the existing framework for extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

USCCB/COM is troubled by many of the provisions in this measure, including those that would:

Expand Detention: H.R. 2431 calls for further increases in our already expansive immigration detention network and for detention of not only those pending removal but those awaiting a decision. Broadening detention to this population would result in the mass detention of asylum seekers, many fleeing persecution and torture, while they are working to comply with their immigration proceedings. We fear it would result in increased retraumatization and is not necessary in this time of fiscal austerity when other, more effective mechanisms like community-sponsored case management based alternatives to detention are available.

Expand State and Local Immigration Enforcement: As written, H.R. 2431 would create a disjointed national immigration policy that could lead to 50 different state immigration policies. It would allow states or political subdivisions of states to create their own criminal and civil penalties for federal immigration violations so long as the penalties applied do not exceed those of federal law.

Limit Protections for Accompanied Children: H.R. 2431 would strip existing protections from accompanied children, including the right to be detained in the least restrictive setting. This could lead to increased family detention, which we have long opposed as an inhumane practice. Detaining children is psychologically and physically damaging; it also is contrary to international human rights law and generally accepted child welfare principles.

Erode the TPS Framework: H.R. 2431 would further undermine the existing TPS framework. Congress created TPS in 1990 as a uniform procedure to provide temporary protection to individuals who cannot safely return to their countries of origin. It was a bipartisan effort signed into law as part of the Immigration Act of 1990 by President George H. W. Bush. H.R. 2431 would establish a new extreme threshold that would require Congress to pass legislation, within 90 days of a request by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to extend TPS designations. We fear that this would, effectively, result in the end of the use of this vital humanitarian program, which has helped protect many families whose lives and homes have been upended by natural and man-made disasters. We believe that it would be unjust to prevent those suffering from such disasters from seeking temporary refuge in our country.

In addition, USCCB/COM also opposes H.R. 2406 and H.R. 2407. H.R. 2406 would expand the ability of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to carry out warrantless arrests of individuals. Many in our communities and parishes are already living in fear of deportation and family separation, and this bill will further fuel these concerns. H.R. 2406, further, would legislatively mandate the establishment of a Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE)

Office to serve families of victims of “criminal aliens.” While we recognize the tragedy that all crime victims and their families endure and seek to offer our solace for their losses, we are concerned that H.R. 2406 does not contain any provisions to assist immigrant victims who have been targeted as a result of a hate crime. Furthermore, we fear that codification of the VOICE office by Congress will feed into rhetoric that seeks to portray all immigrants as criminals. We also are very concerned that the bill would prohibit the operation of the Office of Public Advocate within ICE. We note with appreciation our engagement with ICE at the national and the field office level and believe that such engagement with civil society is essential to ensuring that DHS policies are just and humane.

Finally, H.R. 2407 would make the E-verify system permanent. USCCB/COM believes that the overarching goals of E-Verify are meritorious but that improvements to the program are needed. Such improvements include complimentary labor and employment protections to ensure that E-Verify does not become a tool to undermine workplace rights or take advantage of workers’ vulnerabilities.

For the reasons stated above, the USCCB/COM believes that H.R. 2431, H.R. 2406, and H.R. 2407 are not viable ways to progress border security and internal immigration enforcement. We ask that you not support these bills and instead work to create a comprehensive immigration bill that reforms all aspects of our immigration system in a common-sense and humane manner and which promotes the common good.



Most Rev. Joe S. Vásquez

Bishop of Austin

Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration


USCCB Committee on Migration Letter to House and Senate on Sensitive Locations

On April 24, the USCCB Committee on Migration Chair, Rev. Joe S. Vásquez, sent letters to both the United States House of Representatives and to the United States Senate asking for both chambers of Congress to look at the way that Enforcement Actions occur at Sensitive Locations. Read the letters below.

USCCB Committee On Migration Sensitive Locations Letter (House)

USCCB Committee On Migration Sensitive Locations Letter (Senate)


U.S. Bishops Migration Chairman Bishop Joe Vásquez Responds to New Executive Order

WASHINGTON—The Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin and Chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration, says that President Trump’s latest Executive Order still puts vulnerable populations around the world at risk. In a statement issued after the announcement of today’s travel suspension, Bishop Vásquez says that while we seek to maintain our values and safety, we must also exercise compassion in assisting and continuing to welcome the stranger.

Bishop Vázquez’s full statement follows:

“We remain deeply troubled by the human consequences of the revised executive order on refugee admissions and the travel ban. While we note the Administration’s efforts to modify the Executive Order in light of various legal concerns, the revised  Order    still leaves many innocent lives at risk.

The removal of one of the original seven predominantly Muslim countries temporarily barred from entering the United States is welcome, but we are disappointed that the revised order maintains the temporary shutdown of the U.S. refugee admissions program, continues the more than 60 percent reduction in the number of refugees who can be resettled into the United States this year, and still temporarily bars nationals from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

The U.S. Catholic Bishops have long recognized the importance of ensuring public safety and would welcome reasonable and necessary steps to accomplish that goal.

However, based on the knowledge that refugees are already subjected to the most vigorous vetting process of anyone who enters the United States, there is no merit to pausing the refugee resettlement program while considering further improvement to that vetting process.

The United States has long provided leadership in resettling refugees. We believe in assisting all those who are vulnerable and fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion, including Christians, Muslims, and all others. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith and “welcoming the stranger” as Jesus has challenged us to do.

Today, more than 65 million people around the world are forcibly displaced from their homes. Given this extraordinary level of suffering, the U.S. Catholic Bishops reaffirm their support for, and efforts to protect, all who flee persecution and violence, as just one part of the perennial and global work of the Church in defense of vulnerable persons. 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 have the ability to continue to assist the most vulnerable among us without sacrificing our values as Americans or the safety and security of our nation.”


U.S. Bishops Chair on Migration Responds to DHS Memoranda on Immigration Enforcement and Border Security

February 23 2017

WASHINGTON—On February 20, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued two memoranda implementing Executive Orders 13768 and 13767, relating to border and interior immigration enforcement.  In response to the memoranda, the Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin and Chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration, has issued the following statement:

“We recognize the importance of ensuring public safety and would welcome reasonable and necessary steps to do that.  However, the two memoranda issued by Secretary Kelly on February 20th contain a number of provisions that, if implemented as written, will harm public safety rather than enhance it.  Moreover, taken in their entirety, the policies contained in these memoranda will needlessly separate families, upend peaceful communities, endanger the lives and safety of the most vulnerable among us, breakdown the trust that currently exists between many police departments and immigrant communities, and sow great fear in those communities.

The DHS memoranda eliminates important protections for vulnerable populations, including unaccompanied children and asylum seekers. They greatly expand the militarization of the U.S./Mexico border.  Taken together, these memoranda constitute the establishment of a large-scale enforcement system that targets virtually all undocumented migrants as ‘priorities’ for deportation, thus prioritizing no one.  The memoranda further seek to promote local law enforcement of federal immigration laws without regard for the existing relationships of trust between local law enforcement officials and immigrant communities.  The engagement of local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law can undermine public safety by making many who live in immigrant communities fearful of cooperating with local law enforcement in both reporting and investigating criminal matters.

I urge the Administration to reconsider the approach embodied in these memoranda, just as it should reconsider the approach it has taken in a number of executive orders and actions issued over the last month.  Together, these have placed already vulnerable immigrants among us in an even greater state of vulnerability.

Moving forward, we remain steadfast in our commitment to care for and respect the human dignity of all, regardless of their immigration status.  During this unsettling time, we will redouble our work to accompany and protect our immigrant brothers and sisters and recognize their contributions and inherent dignity as children of God.”