I write on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM) to reiterate our support for the swift enactment of a common sense and just legislative solution for Dreamers, young people without immigration status who were brought to the United States by their parents. As you know, the Senate is scheduled to take up legislation in the coming days to address Dreamers. We urge you to consider the following principles as you review that legislation and any proposed amendments to it:
(1) Provide Protection to the Dreamer Population- We agree with the proposal made by President Trump that protection should be given to the larger 1.8 million Dreamer population (instead of solely the 800,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) population), as there are many young people who were brought here as children but were prevented from obtaining DACA due to the program’s age cut-offs. We believe that this larger Dreamer population should be included in any legislative solution that the Senate takes up. We urge you to support amendments, if necessary, to accomplish this goal and to oppose amendments that would narrow the class of individuals who would obtain relief under the legislation.
(2) Provide a Path to Citizenship- We agree with the proposal made by President Trump to afford relief to Dreamers that permits them to apply for U.S. citizenship. Most of these young people know the United States as their only home and should not be denied the opportunity to obtain U.S. citizenship and fully participate and integrate into American civic life. We urge you to support amendments, if necessary, that would provide a path to citizenship for persons obtaining relief through this legislation and to oppose amendments that would deny them this opportunity.
(3) Promote Family Unity and Maintain the Family-Immigration System- Family immigration is the foundation 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 or its size, is vital to our faith and to our country. We are deeply disturbed by proposals that provide relief for Dreamers at the expense of dismantling our country’s rich tradition of family reunification and sponsorship of close family members and ending the diversity visa program. We ask you to reject provisions or amendments to this legislation that would threaten family-based immigration.
(4) Protect the Vulnerable Who Seek Refuge- A solution for Dreamers should not come at the expense of other vulnerable immigrants and refugees. It is vital to maintain existing protections for refugees, unaccompanied children, trafficking victims, and asylum seekers that help prevent abuse, ensure access to adequate care, and promote due process. We must continue to welcome and serve the vulnerable and ask you to reject provisions or amendments that undermine protections for refugees, unaccompanied children, trafficking victims, and asylum seekers.
(5) Ensure that All Border Security Measures Are Humane and Proportionate- The Catholic Church has long recognized the right of nations to secure their borders and control entry into their countries. At the same time, we believe that border security and interior immigration enforcement practices should be humane and proportionate; they should make the country safer, and they should not sacrifice the due process rights and human dignity of persons seeking protection.
We believe that the urgent, longstanding need to provide relief for Dreamers is a discrete matter that should not be delayed or hindered by unrelated, controversial provisions. Accordingly, we are concerned by a number of unrelated suggestions that have been proposed as a price for providing the just relief that Dreamers need. We would oppose the inclusion of such provisions in the legislation that the Senate is poised to take up. We urge you to reject such provisions and amendments. At a minimum, we urge you to consider the dignity of the human person and protection of the vulnerable when you examine any border security, interior immigration enforcement or large-scale reform amendments that are proposed to this legislation.
An overwhelming majority of Americans agree that Dreamers need a permanent legislative solution. We support these young people who are contributors to our economy and leaders in our parishes and communities. A legislative solution for Dreamers would further unite us as a country and advance the common good. We remain committed to work with Congress to achieve this goal.
Most Rev. Joe S. Vásquez
Bishop of Austin
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration
January 26, 2018
Dear Speaker Ryan,
I write on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM) to urge Congress to put forth a common sense and just legislative solution for Dreamers, young people who were brought to the U.S. by their parents. We believe that any legislation must be: (1) bipartisan, (2) provide Dreamers with a path to citizenship, (3) provide a solution for the largest possible number of deserving young Dreamers, (4) uphold the sanctity of families, and (5) protect the vulnerable. Several bipartisan legislative proposals have either been introduced or are under development in both the House and the Senate that we believe meet these criteria. However, we believe that one measure that has received increasing attention in the House, H.R. 4760, the “Securing America’s Future Act of 2018,” fails to meet the above criteria, and we urge you to reject it as a vehicle for House floor consideration. That is, H.R. 4760 significantly undermines the family immigration system, does not provide an acceptable solution for Dreamers, and upends existing protections for asylum seekers and unaccompanied children.
My brother bishops and I are troubled that H.R. 4760 does not provide a path to citizenship to Dreamers. An overwhelming majority of Americans agree that Dreamers need a permanent legislative solution. We have watched these young people work to support their families, attend and excel in school, and enlist in our military. They are contributors to our economy and leaders in our parishes and communities. Ensuring that they receive a path to citizenship would enable them to come out of the shadows, fully participate in daily civic life, and live without the constant fear of deportation. It would further unite us as a country and advance the common good.
Through its sweeping proposed changes to family-based immigration, H.R. 4760 also threatens the unity of the family – the cornerstone of our country’s immigration system and of our Church. As Pope Francis states, the family “is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation.” We steadfastly know that families are an essential element of our communities, parishes, and nation; they are what holds America together. Upholding and protecting the family unit, regardless of its national origins, is vital to our faith and to our country.
H.R. 4760 further seeks to close the door to the most vulnerable. H.R. 4760 proposes ruthless changes to existing protections for asylum seekers and unaccompanied children. It will eliminate protections for young children who are fleeing extreme violence and those seeking refuge will not be able to access due process. The Catholic Church’s work in assisting these vulnerable migrants stems from the belief that every person is created in God’s image and should be treated with compassion and dignity. Now more than ever, we must and will continue to welcome and serve the vulnerable.
Regarding proposals to strengthen border security, the Catholic Church has long recognized the right of nations to secure their borders and control entry into their countries. We believe that any border security provisions should be humane and proportionate.
We urge you to reject H.R. 4760, and instead, ask for timely consideration of common sense, bipartisan legislative proposals that would protect Dreamers. These young people of promise and their families depend on a solution. We remain committed to work with Congress to achieve this goal.
Most Rev. Joe S. Vásquez
Bishop of Austin
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration