U.S. Bishops Chair on Migration Responds to DHS Memoranda on Immigration Enforcement and Border Security

February 23, 2017 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—On February 20, 2017,the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued two memoranda implementingExecutive Orders 13768 and 13767, relating to border and interior immigrationenforcement. In response to thememoranda, the Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin and Chair of the USCCBCommittee on Migration, has issued the following statement:

"We recognize the importance of ensuringpublic safety and would welcome reasonable and necessary steps to do that. However, the two memoranda issued bySecretary Kelly on February 20th contain a number of provisionsthat, if implemented as written, will harm public safety rather than enhanceit. Moreover, taken in their entirety,the policies contained in these memoranda will needlessly separate families,upend peaceful communities, endanger the lives and safety of the mostvulnerable among us, breakdown the trust that currently exists between manypolice departments and immigrant communities, and sow great fear in thosecommunities.

The DHS memorandaeliminates important protections for vulnerable populations, includingunaccompanied children and asylum seekers. They greatly expand themilitarization of the U.S./Mexico border. Taken together, these memoranda constitute the establishment of a large-scaleenforcement system that targets virtually all undocumented migrants as'priorities' for deportation, thus prioritizing no one.  The memoranda further seek to promote locallaw enforcement of federal immigration laws without regard for the existingrelationships of trust between local law enforcement officials and immigrantcommunities. The engagement of local lawenforcement to enforce federal immigration law can undermine public safety bymaking many who live in immigrant communities fearful of cooperating with locallaw enforcement in both reporting and investigating criminal matters.

I urge theAdministration to reconsider the approach embodied in these memoranda, just asit should reconsider the approach it has taken in a number of executive ordersand actions issued over the last month. Together, these have placed already vulnerable immigrants among us in aneven greater state of vulnerability.

Moving forward, weremain steadfast in our commitment to care for and respect the human dignity ofall, regardless of their immigration status.  During this unsettling time, we will redoubleour work to accompany and protect our immigrant brothers and sisters andrecognize their contributions and inherent dignity as children of God."

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Keywords: U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Committee onMigration, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Secretary John F. Kelly,immigration enforcement, Trump Administration, memoranda, migration, vulnerablepopulations, asylum seekers, deportation, law enforcement, public safety,immigrant communities.

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Media Contact: Judy Keane 202-541-3200