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More Humane Repatriation - USCCB,  El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala (Fall 2019)


More Humane Repatriation - USCCB, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala (Fall 2019)

Project Background:

The U.S. government has apprehended and deported more unauthorized migrants from the Northern Triangle countries of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) than those from Mexico in the last five years, according to the latest 2019 report released by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI). In 2017 alone, there were 163,000 apprehensions of migrants from the Northern Triangle countries, compared to 128,000 apprehensions of Mexicans, a pattern that continued into 2018. With this shift in the country of origin the demographics and migration patterns of individuals crossing the southern border have also changed. In the past, migrants coming across the border were over- whelmingly single males. More recently, far more families, members of the LGBTQ community, women and unaccompanied children comprise these migration streams. And while in prior periods the migrants were crossing mainly for economic reasons, the recent arrivals to the border include sizable numbers of migrants seeking asylum or humanitarian protection, straining the U.S. and Mexican asylum systems and intensifying political debates on immigration policy.  According to the U.S. Department of Justice data, migrants from the Northern Triangle countries filed approximately 40,000 asylum claims in U.S. immigration courts in 2016, nearly five times as many claims as those submitted in 2012. 

The US Conference on Catholic Bishops has traditionally helped resettle more refugees in the United States than any other organization.  The Department of Migration and Refugee Services works closely on issues of migrants in all dimensions of their journey. The Office is interested to look systematically at issues of deportation (repatriation -- forced migration and voluntary as well) to El Salvador, Honduras, and/or Guatemala from the US. The USCCB would like to examine the threats, challenges, and gaps in services related to the situation of people deported from the US, during the repatriation process, and following their return to their home countries.  In particular, the USCCB is interested in understanding more about the systems, strategies and mechanisms in place to help support individuals during this often arduous process. 

Definition of Opportunity: This project will be in partnership with Notre Dame’s Initiative for Global Development (NDIDG) that has a project working to strengthening research capacity in countries in the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador). 

Initial Step: 

Review and build on initial research done by USCCB/MRS on this topic. 

Review relevant policy statements from the region, including statements by Episcopal Committee in Honduras and NDIGD policy brief.

What Success Looks Like:

Begin to build a partnership among Notre Dame, USCCB/MRS and the IGD, on bringing research capacity to bear on this important issue. The hope is this background work will provide the foundational research for a team of Integration Lab (i-Lab) Master of Global Students who will work for the full 2020 calendar year on this issue, including travelling to the region.


Accompanying the Migrant through Mexico - USCCB (Fall 2017)

Accompanying the Migrant through Mexico - USCCB (Fall 2017)

Client Profile

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: 

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.

Development Advisory Team