The US Conference on Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration sets broad policies and direction for the Church's work in the area of migration. The Committee oversees and provides guidance to Migration and Refugee Services, which is comprised of five offices:
- Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs
- Justice for Immigrants Campaign
- Office of Resettlement Services
- Children's Services
- Anti-Trafficking Program
These offices represent the bishops' interests in policy formulation and communication, advocacy, education, refugee resettlement, and other specialized services to at risk and vulnerable populations, such as victims of trafficking and unaccompanied minors. The Committee actively promotes migration-related interests with public policy-makers at the national and international levels. Committee members and staff periodically testify before Congress and meet with Administration officials to advocate the bishops' positions. Among the high priority policy concerns of the Committee is refugee protection and finding durable solutions to their plight. In this context the Committee occasionally arranges site visits to refugee areas of the world to witness the conditions of the refugees and to call for adequate responses on the part of the international community.
Definition of Problem
The summer of 2014 witnessed a significant uptick in the number of unaccompanied migrant children and families who originated in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America. While an average of 6,800 unaccompanied children were apprehended in each year from 2004 – 2011, the number jumped to roughly 13,000 children in Fiscal Year 2012 and rose to just over 38,000 in 2013. 68,541 unaccompanied children were detained in FY 2014 and, although a decrease was evident the following year (39,970), the numbers again increased in FY2016 (59,692). Family units experienced a similar ebb and flow in total numbers during this same period.
Although an array of Catholic, non-Catholic religious, and secular immigrant welcoming centers function throughout Mexico, the number of Catholic centers is the largest. The institutional Church alone coordinates seventy-five welcoming centers and, in addition, there are the number of centers run by religious orders and local Catholic institutions. Determining how many there are, where they are located, what services they provide, to whom they provide it, etc., is not entirely clear.
Initial Ideas & Options
Due to the size and complexity of the network, important advocacy and service-oriented efforts are constantly evolving; getting a better handle on where these centers are and efforts they are engaged in in support of migrants will provide much needed information to fill existing gaps in our knowledge.
Definition of Success
This effort will help to respond to the challenges of (1) ensuring enduring communication with what is an extremely mobile population; (2) the need for institutional mapping; and (3) scaling up capacity of the existing network. It would also be of interest to find out how the Mexican government is responding to these efforts, and whether policies are in place that would either support or inhibit their work.