The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration Chairman urges the U.S. Administration to “respect the rights and dignity of persons urgently seeking safety at our border” amidst new regional migration mitigation efforts. ICMC asserts its readiness to support increased refugee resettlement.
On Thursday, 27 April, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State announced new migration policies set to replace the expiring Title 42 and address increased migration at the U.S. southern border. These measures include doubling the number of refugees resettled from Latin America and the Caribbean, establishing regional processing centers in key locations along migration routes to the U.S. in Latin America, and intensifying immigration enforcement efforts.
Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)’s Committee for its Migration and Refugee Services, which serves as ICMC’s national member for the United States, has welcomed the announcement, stating “[w]e strongly support increased refugee resettlement from Latin America and the Caribbean as a reliable pathway to lasting safety for those who have been forcibly displaced.” Through its Department of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), and in partnership with over 50 affiliate offices across the country, the USCCB resettles approximately 18% of refugees that arrive in the U.S. each year.
Implemented in March 2020, Title 42 was presented as a public health order that allowed for the immediate expulsion of migrants arriving at the U.S. southern border due to the pandemic of COVID. The policy has been widely criticized by humanitarian groups and Catholic organizations, including USCCB, for its harmful treatment of populations with a wide range of vulnerabilities, and has led to the expulsion from the U.S. of over 2.5 million people. It is set to expire on 11 May with the end of the national COVID-19 public health emergency.
While welcoming the end of Title 42 and increased resettlement of refugees from the Western hemisphere, Bishop Seitz also expressed reservations regarding the new policies.
“While we are relieved that the Administration does not plan to detain vulnerable families, given the unjustifiable and immoral harms of doing so, we are greatly concerned that such families, including those with young children, and others will be subjected to rushed proceedings without meaningful due process. We remain equally concerned that the Administration is still committed to coupling its reliance on expedited removal with severe restrictions on asylum eligibility and access.”
The USCCB’s concerns regarding the announcement were echoed by many Catholic and refugee resettlement organizations across the U.S. On 28 April, Karen Sullivan, director of Advocacy at the Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), stated that “fast-track credible fear interviews while in Border Patrol custody and without adequate counsel will lead to wrongful decisions and unjust deportations.”
Earlier this year, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security proposed new conditions for asylum in an effort to discourage irregular border crossings. The proposal would require adult asylum seekers to book an appointment with U.S. officials upon arrival at the border to evaluate their request and establish the credibility of their fear of persecution. It would also require asylum seekers to claim asylum in another country they are traveling through before reaching the U.S. Should they fail to do so, their requests would automatically be refused.
ICMC is ready to support increased resettlement efforts
ICMC Secretary General, Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, expressed thanks “to Bishop Seitz and all the Catholic Bishops of the United States for their constant and strong advocacy for just and fair policies related to migrants who are forced to leave their homelands and who, in accord with international humanitarian policies, should have the opportunity to make asylum in countries that are signatories to such policies and global agreements.’ He also affirmed that ‘ICMC stands ready to assist the U.S. government and UN agencies to facilitate such asylum procedures, as it has done throughout its 72-year-old service to refugees and forced migrants in many parts of the world.”
Since the 1970s, ICMC’s operations abroad have facilitated the resettlement of over one million refugees to the U.S. ICMC operates the Resettlement Support Center in Turkey and Lebanon for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, with whom it has its long-standing partnership. The Center is one of the largest of its type in the world. Moreover, for over 25 years, ICMC’s deployment scheme has provided experts to collaborate with offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) throughout the world in order to facilitate refugee status determination and to identify refugees with particular vulnerabilities that makes return to their countries of origin or long-tern integration into countries of first asylum impossible and thus to recommend permanent resettlement in third countries as the only “durable solution” to such persons. ICMC deployees also assist UNHCR and UNICEF to provide protection to refugees with special needs, such as elderly, sick, and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
Further recommendations regarding the new announcement
Bishop Seitz concluded his statement by calling on the Administration to adopt a comprehensive approach to migration policy. “Only through a long-term commitment to addressing root causes and promoting integral human development throughout the Americas, combined with an overhaul of our immigration system, will we be able to achieve the conditions necessary to sustainably reduce irregular migration,” he said in his statement.
Communications officer, ICMC