I join together with my brother bishop, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration in condemning the final rule published by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) relating to the care and custody of immigrant children under the Flores Settlement Agreement.
The agreement sets forth foundational principles and critical protections regarding the care, custody and release of immigrant children who are in federal custody, including the general requirements that they be housed in the least restrictive setting and in licensed facilities for child care. The new rule will drastically undermine existing Flores protections for immigrant children in federal custody.
As Bishop Vásquez’s comments, “This rule will have heartbreaking consequences for immigrant children – those whom Pope Francis has deemed ‘the most vulnerable group’ among migrants. It is an attempt by the Administration to circumvent existing obligations and undermine critical protections for these children. This rule will jeopardize the well-being and humane treatment of immigrant children in federal custody and will result in children suffering long-lasting consequences of being held for prolonged periods in family detention.”
As I have said previously, our country has always been a haven of hope where our hearts have been moved with great compassion for one another. The United States is a country built on the ideals of human dignity and the welcoming of immigrants. However, this policy change is again indicative that somehow we have lost our moral compass. I add my voice to that of Bishop Vásquez as he says, “We oppose this rule that we believe is unlawful and inhumane. Countless children will be harmed by this new rule and this is simply not acceptable.
USCCB also opposed this rule when it was initially proposed by DHS and HHS by submitting comments detailing concerns with the rule and urging that it be rescinded.