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