The Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops supports care for unaccompanied minors and efforts to reunite families separated by migration.
In 2015, 6,025 children entered Texas unaccompanied. Youth from Burma, Central America, Africa, Mexico and many other countries enter the United States in need of caring homes.
The United States Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program (URM), jointly sponsored by the US Conference of Bishops Migration & Refugee Services and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS), operating since the mid-1970s, is the only program of its kind in the world—unique in its fusion of child welfare and refugee protection by incorporating unaccompanied children into the United States’ existing child welfare framework through agencies with expertise in serving children and families with forced migration experiences. The URM program embodies the core ideals of U.S. domestic and foreign policies by offering protection to the most vulnerable and promoting the integration of unaccompanied children into local communities.
Currently, 23 URM programs operate in 15 states, including one operated by Catholic Charities in Richmond Texas. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and LIRS are the two national resettlement agencies that are authorized by the U.S. Department of State to place unaccompanied refugee minors throughout the national URM network.
In his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Bishop Seitz recommended that Congress:
- Address the issue of unaccompanied child migration as a humanitarian crisis requiring cooperation from all branches of the US government and appropriate the necessary funding to respond to the crisis in a holistic and child protection-focused manner;
- Adopts policies to ensure that unaccompanied migrant children receive appropriate child welfare services, legal assistance, and access to immigration protection where appropriate;
- Require that a best interest of the child standard be applied in immigration proceedings governing unaccompanied alien children;
Examine root causes driving this forced migration situation, such as violence from non-state actors in countries of origin and a lack of citizen security and adequate child protection mechanisms; and
- Seek and support innovative home country and transit country solutions that would enable children to remain and develop safely in their home country.
Texas bishops support these recommendations at the national level and urge state and local authorities, parishes, and individual Catholics to support them as well. For many years US immigration policy has given priority to the reunification of families. The bishops believe this is sound public policy that is particularly important to the welfare of unaccompanied immigrant minors.