WASHINGTON — As the U.S. House of Representatives prepares to vote on H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act of 2023, Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, sent a letter urging members of Congress to oppose the bill and “to support the drafting of bipartisan legislation that is more in keeping with our nation’s rich tradition of welcome.”
Bishop Seitz expressed concern that the bill would fundamentally weaken the decades-long commitment to humanitarian protection that the United States has demonstrated. He cited provisions that “would endanger unaccompanied children and inflict harm on other vulnerable persons, decimate access to asylum, mandate damaging detention and removal practices, restrict access to legal employment, limit—and potentially eliminate—federal partnerships with faith-based and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), undermine the rule of law, and more.”
“We do not question the good intentions of lawmakers who seek to enact legislation that would secure our nation’s borders. Indeed, we join in the call to enact effective and humane border management as part of a framework of comprehensive immigration reforms,” he wrote before adding, moreover, that the bishops “do not discount the challenges at our border with Mexico, nor the right of nations to maintain their borders.”
“However,” Bishop Seitz continued, quoting Pope John Paul II, “our faith also compels us to be ‘vigilant advocate[s], defending against any unjust restriction [on] the natural right of individual persons to move freely within their own nation and from one nation to another’ and to call attention ‘to the rights of migrants and their families and to respect for their human dignity, even in cases of non-legal immigration.’”
While acknowledging that there may be several provisions within H.R. 2 that members support, Bishop Seitz stated that “passage, on the whole, is beyond justification” because of the harmful measures it contains.
The letter describes many of those provisions in detail and may be read in its entirety here.