FOLLOW US  Click to go to Facebook.  Click to go to Twitter.  Click to go to YouTube.   TEXT SIZE Click to make text small. Click for medium-sized text. Click to make text large.  

Migration Issues


Highlights of recent U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Migration advocacy action, visits to the border, detention centers:

Visits to Family Detention Centers in 2014-2015

Members of the USCCB Committee on Migration have recently visited family detention centers in Texas, California, Illinois, Arizona, Florida and New Jersey, including a recent visit to the Detention Center in Dilley, Texas.[i]

Recent Congressional Testimonies

  • Testimony of Most Reverend Gerald F. Kicanas on Interior Immigration Enforcement Legislation, 2015.[ii]
  • Testimony of Most Reverend Mark Seitz on Unaccompanied Children, 2014.[iii]
  • Testimony of Most Reverend Eusebio Elizondo on the Ongoing Syrian Refugee Crisis, 2014.[iv]

Bishops on the Border: Mission for Migrants, 2014 [v]

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, joined by bishops on the border, traveled to Nogales, Arizona, March 30-April 1, 2014, to tour the U.S.-Mexico border and celebrate Mass on behalf of the close to 6,000 migrants who have died in the U.S. desert since 1998.

  • "We come here today to be a neighbor and to find a neighbor in each of the suffering people who risk their lives and at times lose their lives in the desert. Pope Francis encourages us to go to the periphery to seek our neighbor in places of pain and darkness. We are here to discover our own identity as God's children so that we can discover who our neighbor is, who is our brother and sister," said Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston, in his homily.[vi]

Participating bishops: Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston, consultant to the USCCB Committee on Migration; Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration; Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona; Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, member of the USCCB Committee on Migration; Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico; Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas; Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, bishop emeritus of Las Cruces, New Mexico, consultant to the USCCB Committee on Migration; Bishop Luis Zarama, auxiliary bishop of Atlanta, member of the USCCB Committee on Migration.

Bishops in Washington on a Mission for Migrants, 2014[vii]

On May 29, 2014, members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Migration who celebrated Mass at the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, travelled to Capitol Hill to pray for immigrants and urge lawmakers to act on immigration reform legislation.

  • "Yet, we resist this policy solution and instead accept the labor and taxes of our undocumented population without offering them the protection of the law. We also scapegoat them for our problems, and separate them from their families. As a nation dedicated to the rights of all, we cannot have it both ways. Our immigration system is a stain on the soul of our nation. As a moral matter, it must be changed," said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, in his homily.[viii]

Participating bishops: Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Policy; Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration; Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman-elect, USCCB International Policy Committee; Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, former chairman of the board for Catholic Relief Services; Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, bishop emeritus of Las Cruces, member of USCCB Committee on Migration; Bishop Martin Holley, auxiliary bishop of Washington, a consultant of USCCB Committee on Migration.

Mission Trips and Other Actions

Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Position:USCCB has endorsed the passage of comprehensive immigration reform. Any legislation should include 1) a path to citizenship for the undocumented in the country; 2) reform of the legal immigration system so that families can be reunited more expeditiously; 3) a program that permits migrant workers to enter legally and work in the United States with appropriate wages and worker protections; 4) the restoration of due process protections for immigrants, such as elimination of the 3 and 10-year bars to re-entry, the restoration of judicial discretion in immigration proceedings, and elimination of the one-year asylum filing deadline; and 5) policies which address the root causes of flight. USCCB also supported the President's executive actions creating the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and Deferred Acton for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs.


  • There are more than 11 million undocumented in U.S. (Source: Pew Research Center).
  • Over 2 million deported over past six plus years with 75,000 U.S. Citizen children separated from parents each year (Source: Department of Homeland Security).
  • 7-year wait for legal permanent residents to reunify with immediate family members from Mexico (Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service).
  • $18 billion spent per year on immigration enforcement, more than any federal law enforcement agency (Source: Department of Homeland Security).

Refugee Protection

Position: USCCB is the largest private refugee resettlement agency in the United States and the world, helping to resettle close to one-quarter of the number of refugees resettled in the United States each year (15-20,000 a year). It is also one of two agencies in the United States authorized by the Department of State to resettle unaccompanied refugee minors which is does through the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program, the only program of its kind in the world.Since 1975, the USCCB and the church nationwide have resettled one million refugees in the United States. USCCB advocates for increased funding for refugees in both the State Department (overseas assistance) and Health and Human Services (HHS) (domestic resettlement) budgets, plus for increased admissions to the United States as a refugee protection tool. USCCB supports the resettlement of 100,000 refugees per year to the United States and the resettlement of 65,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years.


  • Less than 1,000 Syrian refugees resettled in the United States to date out of a total of 3 million Syrian refugees; (Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration)
  • Less than 1% of the world's refugees are resettled to third countries each year; (U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees)
  • According to the United Nation's High Commissioner for Refugees, nearly 60 million persons are displaced in the world in 2015, the highest level since World War II.
  • The Unaccompanied Refugee Minor program expects to receive three times the number of referrals next year than this year (primarily, Eritrean, Rohingya, and Afghani unaccompanied refugee minors) (Source: Department of State).

Unaccompanied Children and Families from Central America

Position: The USCCB sent a delegation, led by the Committee on Migration, to Central America in November, 2013, to look at the plight of children and families facing violence in their communities. USCCB subsequently issued a report[xi] with recommendations and testified before Congress on the issue. USCCB opposes attempts to repeal protections for unaccompanied children arriving in the United States which allow them to tell their stories before an immigration judge, be placed in a least restrictive setting, and which prioritizes family reunification whenever safe and possible while children await the pendency of their immigration cases. The root causes of the violence should be addressed and the United States should not encourage Mexico to interdict these children without providing them protection as well. USCCB supports government-paid and appointed counsel for children. USCCB has also strongly opposed the detention of families from Central America.


  • Unaccompanied minors arriving in the United States in 2014: approximately 69,000. Family members arriving in the United States in 2014: approximately 69,000. Estimated for 2015: 40,000 in each category (Source: Department of Homeland Security, Office of Refugee Resettlement, Health and Human Services).
  • Deportations from Mexico to Central America have jumped 400% over the last year. 112% increase in asylum claims in other Central American countries. (Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama) (Source: U.N High Commissioner for Refugees, Jesuit Refugee Service)
  • 95% of unaccompanied children from Central America who have legal representation appear in court, while close to 80% overall appear. Over 90% with counsel receive some sort of protection. Syracuse University concluded that children with counsel are five times more likely to be granted legal status (Source: Kids in Need of Defense, Executive Office of Immigration Review, Department of Justice).

Immigrant Detention

Position: In May 2015, USCCB, in conjunction with the Center for Migration Studies, issued a report[xii] calling for the dismantling of the immigrant detention system in the United States. Immigrant detention is a growing industry in this country, with Congress allocating as much as $2 billion a year to maintain and expand it. Detention centers are being increasingly operated by for-profit companies. Due to mandatory detention laws and the improper use of discretion, persons who are not flight risks or risks to national security and are extremely vulnerable, such as asylum-seekers, families and victims of human trafficking, are being held in detention. USCCB favors alternatives to detention, particularly community-based programs that provide case management services to released detainees. USCCB strongly opposes the detention of families.


  • An average of over 400,000 persons are detained in immigrant detention centers each year, up from 95,000 in 2001. Congress has mandated that 34,000 beds are filled each day (Source: Department of Homeland Security).
  • Over 200 county and city prisons contract with the federal government to detain immigrants and account for 67% of the population (Source: Department of Homeland Security).
  • Community-based alternatives to detention programs cost as little as $12 per person a day, as compared to $164 a day per person for detention. These programs have ensured a 93% appearance rate at court hearings (Source: Detention Watch Network, Department of Homeland Security).

Human Trafficking

Position: USCCB was instrumental in supporting and enacting the original Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000 and its subsequent re-authorizations. USCCB supports legislation to increase care for trafficking victims, especially children, and to ensure that they receive legal protection in the United States. USCCB supports the passage of supply chain legislation, which requires that businesses monitor their supply chains for child or slave labor as well as policies that ensure that children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border are properly screened as potential trafficking victims. USCCB also supports the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report as a tool for forcing nations to improve their anti-trafficking efforts.


  • Although estimates vary, as many as 13,000 persons are trafficked into the United States each year (Source: Department of Homeland Security).
  • The two largest trafficking cases in the United States involved labor trafficking, in Guam and in New York (Long Island) (Source: Office of Trafficking in Persons, U.S. State Department).
  • Despite the large numbers, the Office of Refugee Resettlement served 913 victims of trafficking in 2013 (Source: Department of Health and Human Services).

Religious Workers

Position: USCCB supports a permanent reauthorization of the Special Immigrant Religious Worker program, which allows 5,000 religious and lay workers each year to enter the United States, work, live and provide pastoral duties for faith-based organizations. The program is set to expire on September 30, 2015.

For more information on the work of USCCB's Migration and Refugees Services and Catholic organizations aiding immigrants, please see backgrounder on Catholic Health Care, Social Services and Humanitarian Aid.

Additional information available at:, and

[i] USCCB/MRS, Unlocking Human Dignity. p.6; Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran Bishops Visit Texas Detention Facility, Call for an End to Detention of Families.

[ii] USCCB/MRS, Congressional Testimony. (accessed on 7-29-15).

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Bishops on the Border: Mission for Migrants. (accessed on 7-29-15).

[vi] Mass on the Border, homily, Cardinal Séan O'Malleyán-OMalley.pdf.

[vii] Bishops on the Border: Mission for Migrants.

[viii] Mission for Migrants, Mass in Washington, homily, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski.

[ix] USCCB/MRS. Child Victims of Human Trafficking: Outcomes and Service Adaptations within the US Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program. July 2015.

[x] USCCB/MRS, Refugee and Hope in the Time of Isis: The Urgent Need for Protection, Humanitarian Support and Durable Solutions in Turkey, Bulgaria, and Greece.

[xi] USCCB/MRS, Mission to Central America: The Flight of Unaccompanied Children to the United States.

[xii] USCCB/MRS, Unlocking Human Dignity: A Plan to Transform the U.S. Immigrant Detention System.

By accepting this message, you will be leaving the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This link is provided solely for the user's convenience. By providing this link, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops assumes no responsibility for, nor does it necessarily endorse, the website, its content, or sponsoring organizations.

cancel  continue