I join with Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, and my fellow U.S. bishops in condemning the rule published late last week by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) relating to the care and custody of immigrant children. Recent developments will negatively impact the care, custody, and release of immigrant children who are in federal custody, including the requirements that they be housed in the least restrictive setting and in licensed facilities for childcare. The rule will drastically undermine existing protections for immigrant children in federal custody. “This rule will have heartbreaking consequences for immigrant children – those whom Pope Francis has deemed ‘the most vulnerable group’ among migrants,” said Bishop Vásquez. “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. 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.” The USCCB also opposed this rule when it was initially proposed by DHS and HHS by submitting comments detailing concerns with the rule and urging it be rescinded. As I have stated previously, we need the security and clarity of law to properly enforce our immigration statutes while ensuring human dignity. There are financially responsible and compassionate alternatives to the detention of mothers and innocent children. It is time for our government officials to pursue them.
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