National Migration Week

The theme for the 2013 National Migration Week was chosen to call tomind 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 Highlights

Refugee 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 included:
  •  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.

 Human Trafficking

  • 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 meetings.
  • 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.

 Children's Services

  • 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 populations.