The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is funneling $4 million over the next two years to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Office of Refugee Resettlement to provide legal representation for 2,600 unaccompanied illegal minors.
“I think it’s a recognition that many of these children have valid protection claims and they need legal representation,” Kevin Appleby of the USCCB told MSNBC. “It is a result of advocacy and raising awareness about why these children are coming and why they’re fleeing.”
As Breitbart News reported Wednesday, a grant in a similar amount will be provided to the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants also to pay for legal services for unaccompanied illegal minors.
The U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) states that it is “the largest resettlement agency in the United States.”
According to the MRS’s most recent annual report, “Upwards of 90,000” young illegal immigrants were projected to arrive between October 1, 2013, and September 30, 2014.
Additionally, MRS showed a total budget of approximately $71 million, of which nearly $66 million – or about 93% – has come from federal grants and contracts.
Because the USCCB accepts federal contracts and funding, it may be subject to federal laws and, especially in the case of President Barack Obama, executive orders, that may conflict with Catholic teaching and from which there is no exemption.
For example, as Breitbart News reported in July, a recent statement from the USCCB asserted that Obama’s executive order barring federal contract recipients from any form of discrimination against LGBT employees “should be opposed.”
“As a result, even contractors that disregard sexual inclination in employment face the possibility of exclusion from federal contracting if their employment policies or practices reflect religious or moral objections to extramarital sexual conduct,” the bishops said, and added that the executive order “also needlessly prefers conflict and exclusion over coexistence and cooperation.”
Nevertheless, the bishops show no inclination to address whether they should be “coexisting” and “cooperating” with the federal government in the first place.
Phil Lawler, editor of Catholic World News (CWN), seemed to think the bishops’ call to “oppose” the executive order was unrealistic.
“[T]here is no point in a lobbying campaign,” he writes. “Maybe the bishops could organize a letter-writing campaign, hoping to change the President’s mind, but anyone who has been watching this show for the past six years realizes that would be a waste of time and energy.”
Lawler suggested instead that the bishops simply stop taking federal contracts.
“President Obama doesn’t want help from the Catholic Church. Say it’s a deal; don’t give him any.”
The bishops, however, have a history of “coexisting” and “cooperating” with the government.
In November of last year, Breitbart News reported that the bishops’ MRS had revised and expanded its training to workers in federally funded refugee resettlement programs to “address the needs of particularly vulnerable groups of children, including youth who may be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.”
Updated Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services (BRYCS) training manuals, published by the USCCB and funded with a grant from HHS, advise staff members on how to be sensitive to the sexual needs of LGBT young migrants while they make “no reference to moral law or the practice of virtue,” as CWN observed.
“Imagine the chaos that would ensue if ‘the largest resettlement agency in the United States’ – the bishops’ MRS office – withdrew from that effort,” Lawler wrote. “For decades, some concerned Catholics have warned that by accepting (and, more important, energetically lobbying for) government support, Catholic charities have compromised their independence. President Obama has now illustrated that point.”
Given that, from its annual report, the bishops’ MRS program would shrink down to almost nothing without federal grants, Lawler concluded, “What would be left would be a recognizably Catholic charity, not a federal program administered through the bishops’ conference.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) was critical of the Obama administration’s move to award the grants by circumventing Congress.
“To end the surge at the border, the Obama administration should instead focus its efforts on deterring future border crossers and enforcing the laws against illegal entry into the United States,” Goodlatte said. “Without such actions, the flood of people attempting to cross the border illegally will only continue.”
Additionally, some members of Congress said the move by the Obama administration is illegal, and pointed to provisions in federal law that say aliens going through immigration proceedings can hire lawyers “at no expense to the government.”
Analysts at the Congressional Research Service, however, observed that no court has accepted that argument, and claimed the language means that while immigrants are not entitled to a government-sponsored lawyer, the administration is not barred from making one available to them.