The Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement has decided it's done working with the Catholic Church, whose parish network and years of experience has made it a strong resource to help victims of human trafficking. In a Sept. 30 letter, HHS informed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that it is cutting grants for those services-most often to aid under-age children subjected to sexual exploitation-after six years of collaboration. HHS will give the $4.5 million in grants for trafficking victims to three nonreligious organizations: Tapestri, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, and Heartland Human Care Services.
Earlier this year, HHS issued new grant guidelines that give "preference" to groups that provide "the full range of reproductive services," or contraceptives and abortion referrals; the Catholic agencies offer neither. The American Civil Liberties Union sued the government in 2009 for not requiring that the Catholics provide those services, but that suit hasn't been resolved. The Justice Department, arguing on behalf of the Catholic agency, said the agency's aid to trafficking victims had been "resoundingly successful." The Catholic agency's Office of Migration and Refugee Services, the agency that helps trafficking victims, also resettles about 30 percent of the refugees that enter the United States every year.