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USCCB Working Group on Immigration Presents Update During Bishops’ Assembly

June 14, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS—The chairmen of the U.S. Bishops' Working Group on Immigration, and the Committee on Migration, presented an oral report to the full body of bishops on the work done to advance collaboration in developing spiritual, pastoral and policy advocacy support for refugees and immigrants. The presentation took place at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Spring General Assembly in Indianapolis, June 14.

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, respectively, spoke about the origins, activities and continued collaboration of the working group, which was established following the November 2016 General Assembly.

"There was a desire to express solidarity with and pastoral concern for those at risk, but also a desire to avoid encouraging exaggerated fears," Archbishop Gomez said.

Other group members include: Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Social Development; Auxiliary Bishop Nelson J. Perez of Rockville Centre, New York, chairman of the Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs; Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington, chairman of the Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants; and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace.

Activities carried out by member-chairmen of the working group included statements responding to executive orders on interior enforcement, sanctuary cities, and refugee resettlement; and on pieces of legislation including the BRIDGE Act, which would provide temporary relief from deportation to youth previously protected through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The group has also facilitated diocesan resources such as policy reports, prayers, educational materials, action alerts and pastoral accompaniment, and has held frequent communications among the members to discuss concerns and priorities. They have also shared episcopal guidance with outside partners such as Catholic Relief Services; Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.; Center for Migration Studies; and Catholic Charities USA.

Although this oral report concludes the formal work of the Working Group on Immigration, the coalition of USCCB committees will continue collaborating as needed under the leadership of the Committee on Migration.

"In short, it is to convey a comprehensive vision for immigration reform, to paint a fuller picture of what justice means, and what mercy means, with respect to migrants and refugees in our country today," said Bishop Vásquez. "Our purpose will be to move beyond simple reaction to the various negative proposals we have seen lately—and expect to see for some time to come, albeit at a slower pace—and to proactively raise and advance the issues that we would prioritize."

Bishop Vasquez also highlighted the importance to seek initiatives based on the five principles of the 2003 pastoral letter Strangers No Longer, which states:

  • People have the right to find opportunities in their homeland
  • People have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families
  • Sovereign nations have the right to control their borders
  • Refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection
  • The human dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected

More information on the work of the USCCB's Committee on Migration, recent statements and other resources are available at:

The U.S. bishops' Spring General Assembly is livestreamed and available at:


Keywords: USCCB, U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, June meeting, Spring General Assembly, Indianapolis, Committee on Migration, U.S. Bishops' Working Group on Migration, migration, migrants, refugees, Strangers No Longer, asylum, protection, human dignity

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Norma Montenegro Flynn

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