National Conference of Catholic Bishops
May 2, 1977
Men have a native right to use the material and spiritual goods that allow relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment (Gaudium et Spes) but if a state suffers from poverty combined with great population and cannot supply such use of goods to its inhabitants, or where the state places conditions that offend human dignity, people possess the right to emigrate, to select a new home in foreign lands and to seek conditions of life worthy of man. (Paul VI Pastoralis Migratorum)
Many who have sought, out of direst necessity, to exercise that right described by the Holy Father and affirmed repeatedly by the magisterium of the Church, have encountered particularly grave obstacles in recent years. Among those groups of immigrants who have lately sought refuge in our country, few have met as much official opposition, hostility and discrimination as have the refugees from Haiti.
Some have been deported, some are presently being held in American jails, and the majority are still denied refugee status and the right to work and move freely within this society. Virtually all live in daily fear of being arrested and forcibly repatriated.
We urge the officials of our government in the executive, judicial and legislative branches to consider the matter of the Haitian refugees a priority concern that requires speedy, just and compassionate resolution.
Specifically, we urge immediate cessation of all deportation proceedings against Haitian refugees, release of all Haitian refugees now imprisoned solely for reasons of immigration, and the granting of amnesty or full refugee rights to all such Haitians now in this country.
We urge that the United Nations convention and protocol relating to the status of refugees be scrupulously adhered to by our government and not be restrictively interpreted as applying only to persons fleeing from particular kinds of repressive societies.
We urge that the appropriate committees of the House and Senate hold full and extensive hearings on the status of human rights in Haiti, given the expressed dissatisfaction of many in the Haitian community with both such hearings as have been held in the recent past and the report issued on December 31, 1976 by the Department of State on Human Rights and U.S. Policy.
Finally, we recognize that several of the local churches, especially in areas where there are concentrations of Haitian immigrants and refugees, have reached out in fraternal solicitude to these recent arrivals, extending to them the hand of welcome and the opportunity to incorporate themselves into the life of the Church in the United States. We urge these churches to continue this pastoral care, and we also urge those churches which have not inaugurated such programs to do so as soon as practical.