In a letter to the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) urged for a metaphorical “circle of protection” to be placed around appropriations for U.S. programs serving the poor and vulnerable both at home and abroad. The letter, signed by Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, pressed the newly elected Congress “to protect poor and vulnerable people, promote human life and dignity, and advance the common good.”
- November 20, 2014
“As pastors, we see every day the human consequences of budget choices. Our Catholic community defends the unborn, feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, educates the young, and cares for the sick, both at home and abroad. These voices are too often missing from public policy debates, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources,” wrote Bishops Wenski and Cantú, who serve as chairmen of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and the Committee on International Justice and Peace, respectively.
They highlighted several domestic programs that are in jeopardy of being cut, including nutrition, affordable housing, healthcare and workforce development. The prelates also stressed the importance of preserving international humanitarian assistance, global disaster relief, long-term development, and international agriculture programs.
As Bishop Richard Pates of the Diocese of Des Moines said on behalf of the USCCB in July, “We cannot separate the humanitarian crisis of migration from the fundamental ‘root causes’ existing in these countries … violence, gang activity, narcotics, weapons and human trafficking, inadequate institutions of law enforcement and corruption/impunity, poverty, as well as unequal and inadequate economic development. These factors mutually reinforce one another.”
In an attempt to curb this vicious cycle, the Obama Administration and the Inter-American Development Bank recently announced that they are scaling up their investments in Central America over the long term and providing migration processing for some child refugees in their home countries. This plan also includes collaboration initiatives with faith-based organizations to provide at-risk youth with life skills, job training, and recreation activities, as well as a strategy to improve 900 schools.
“The announcement for a long-term strategic investment in Central America is critical to address the root causes of the economic, social, and political crises in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala,” said Bill O’Keefe, vice president for Government Relations and Advocacy for Catholic Relief Services (CRS). “For far too long, children and youth have borne the brunt of these crises.”
CRS and the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services plan to advocate for an expansion of these programs to serve even more Central American children in need. “Too often, so called economic development has not reached the poor and marginalized,” O’Keefe said. “Economic success in Central America will be measured in job creation, educational improvements and school attendance, and strengthening of families.”