National Migration Week
The theme for the 2013 National Migration Week was chosen to call to
mind the tenth anniversary of the joint pastoral letter
, Strangers No Longer: Together on a Journey of Hope
, issued by the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Conferencia del Episcopado
Mexicano in 2003. In the pastoral letter the bishops reflected on migration
between Mexico and the United States as a "sign of the times" that is necessary
and beneficial, with promises and challenges.
"Catholics have a responsibility
to welcome newcomers into our communities and parishes, help them integrate and
provide material and spiritual support that will allow them to flourish," said
Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the USCCB Committee on
Migration. "National Migration Week is an opportunity for the Church to
remember and reflect on these obligations."
From August 28 –September 13, 2013, a USCCB/MRS delegation traveled to Zambia,
Malawi, and South Africa to examine the situation of protracted refugee groups,
those soon losing their refugee status, asylum seekers, and unaccompanied
children. In recent years, migration and humanitarian actors have struggled
with how to respond to the complexities of mixed migration movements in the
Southern Africa region. Increasing numbers of migrants from the East, Horn, and
Great Lakes regions of Africa are moving south in search of physical protection
and better economic and livelihood opportunities. As a part of this fact-finding trip the bishops analyzed these trends and produced a report that
contains policy recommendations to address these issues. Central America
From November 16-23, 2013, a USCCB/MRS delegation traveled to southern Mexico
and Central America to examine and understand the flight of unaccompanied
migrating children and youth from the region. This trip was initiated largely
because since 2011 the United States has seen an unprecedented increase in the
number of unaccompanied migrating children arriving to the country,
predominately at the U.S./Mexican border. Whereas the number of children
apprehended averaged 6,800 between federal fiscal years 2004 – 2011, it
jumped to over 24,000 in 2013 alone.
Program HighlightsRefugee Resettlement: POWR program Our Parishes
Organized to Welcome Refugees (POWR) program's goal is to develop long-term,
sustainable programs. POWR offers small grants intended to assist parishes, and
other community-based organizations partnering with the dioceses, in the
mission of welcoming refugees. The positive impact of the POWR program has been
significant. Since its inception in 2010, the participating dioceses have
recruited thousands of parish and community volunteers to assist refugees in adjusting to life in the U.S. Highlights of the 2013 program cycle
- Tea with Nurses: The local POWR program at Catholic Charities in
Cleveland recruits volunteer nurses come weekly to check in on refugee clients,
who battle serious illnesses as a result of wars or displacement. Ever since
launching the POWR health professional program, Cleveland has seen a
significant reduction in emergency room visits and calls to caseworkers. The
agency also initiated a "Tea with a nurse" event series, in which Ursuline
Nurses come once a week to sit down with clients for tea and answer basic
health care related questions.
- YouTube Volunteer
Film: An excellent example of the empowering effects the
Parishes Organized to Welcome Refugees (POWR) program is now available on YouTube.
Catholic Charities in Jacksonville produced a documentary film with support of
the POWR program to intensify its volunteer recruitment efforts. The
production of the video itself is also of very high quality. Please take a look
at this terrific example of "positive storytelling" – at a relatively low cost.
- Refugee Mock Camp: With support of the POWR program, Catholic Charities
of Louisville published a Refugee Camp Simulation Guide, Seeking Refuge:
Forced To Flee. Students participating in the refugee camp immersion
project walk through a simulated camp, station to station to get an idea of what life in a refugee camp is
like. The simulation project is aimed to engaging students in refugee
service work, raising awareness for
the refugee cause and recruiting future donors and volunteers. We
encourage you to consider replicating a similar model in your diocese. You may
order hard copies of the Guide online.
- Launched the Amistad Movement, a peer education campaign for
immigrant community leaders and members. Trained over 125 community
members from four ethnically diverse parishes in New Jersey and Florida on
human trafficking: the risks, trends, and red flags in their communities; how
to access services for victims; how to form and work in coalitions; and how to
conduct outreach and peer education.
- Presented at the World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations
Regional Meeting for Latin America and the Caribbean on human trafficking
trends and working with at risk communities on prevention; participated in the
UN High Level Dialog on Migration through the Civil Society preparatory
- Continued our informational briefings to U.S. Customs and Border
Protection Agency on effective techniques for interviewing children and
identifying victims of trafficking in their work; the briefing was held at
Dulles International Airport for the Customs Inspectors and Agents.
- USCCB signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Department
of Homeland Security to pilot a one-year community based alternative to
detention for immigrants; the intent is to model a humanitarian and cost
effective alternative to detention for immigrants in immigration court
proceedings; the pilot is funded in large part by a private Catholic donor.
- Served 1,627 unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children in
2013 through its family reunification and foster care programs.
- 58% of the 1061
unaccompanied, immigrant children who received family reunification services were boys, and 42% were girls, and they were primarily
from Honduras (36%), Guatemala (31%), and El Salvador
(27%). Although most were between the ages of 15-17, 10% were under the
age 12 at the time of referral.
- Through its transitional and long-term foster care programs, served 414 unaccompanied immigrant children, who were in
immigration proceedings and pursuing permanency through immigration relief
and/or family reunification .
- Published the first-ever book on the
Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) program! MRS is one of two agencies in the
United States that administers the URM program which provides specialized
community-based foster care placements and services for unaccompanied refugee
and migrating children. MRS hopes the book will serve as a model for
countries on how to incorporate specialized community-based care for
unaccompanied children into their existing child welfare infrastructure.
- Through its partnership with Refuge Point, assisted with the
identification and protection of unaccompanied refugee minors from Eritrea
through an international deployment of one of its staff to Nairobi, Kenya for
one month and Shire, Ethiopia for two months. The MRS deployee conducted
Best Interest Assessments and Determinations and developed standard operating
procedures for interim care arrangements.
- Helped the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) implement its Child Protection Strategy in Mexico by developing and
presenting three on-site trainings for UNHCR's Mexico-based staff, government
officials, and NGO partners in Mexico City and Tapachula, Mexico. The
training focused on key areas in need of capacity building, as identified by
UNCHR Mexico, which included child-friendly interviewing techniques and working
with victims of gender-based violence and trauma and other vulnerable child migrant