“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
We, the bishops of the Episcopal Church in California, write to express our opposition to the inhumane conditions in which our government is holding migrant children. Our commitment to our Christian faith compels us to speak out for justice and care for the most vulnerable.
The recent news stories of lawyers visiting detained children in an overcrowded facility in Clint, Texas underscore the humanitarian crisis at our southern border. Lawyers sent there to assess the conditions found traumatized children, many of whom have relatives waiting for them in the United States. They were untended by adults, fending for themselves, and sleeping on concrete floors with no blankets. The lawyers described filth and stench due to a lack of basic sanitation supplies such as soap, toothbrushes, and showers. Our practice of separating migrant children from their families and neglecting them in detention centers not only threatens their physical health; it also creates serious emotional and spiritual trauma.
We who follow Jesus Christ know that he showed a special love for children. Jesus reminds us that children are to be welcomed, nourished, and cherished. As Christians, we honor the image of God in all human beings. The inhumane treatment of these children violates our most basic Christian values.
We thank Congress for their passage of an emergency aid bill, and we ask our representatives and senators to continue to work on immigration reforms, especially the reuniting of children with their loved ones.
We also call upon our elected leaders to recognize the need to welcome refugees who flee from danger, and to follow international law regarding those seeking refuge and asylum.
Finally, we ask all Episcopalians to offer whatever financial, practical, and spiritual aid you can to care for those seeking refuge. Our dioceses will publish a detailed guide of ways you can help migrant families.
Meanwhile, please pray with us that God will move the hearts of all in our land to respond with love and compassion for those who seek safety, liberty and justice.
The Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus – Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of California
The Rt. Rev. Diane Jardine Bruce – Bishop Suffragan, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles
The Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves – Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real
The Rt. Rev. David C. Rice – Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin
The Rt. Rev. Susan Brown Snook – Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of San Diego
The Rt. Rev. John Harvey Taylor – Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles
The Rt. Rev. Megan Traquair – Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Northern California
What Can I Do?
Ways to Help Immigrants Seeking Refuge and Asylum
The bishops of the six Episcopal Dioceses of California urge us to speak out and act on behalf of immigrants seeking refuge and asylum in the United States, and especially detained children. Many people are understandably concerned about the welfare of migrants and seek ways to help. Here are some suggestions for ways you can help.
- Speak out to your Congressional representatives as well as local officials. Tell them you oppose the threatened ICE raids and want them to be called off. Urge them to advocate for better conditions in detention centers, the end of child detention centers, and the reunification of families torn apart by family separation policies. If you don’t know who your elected representatives are, find out here.
- Work with Immigrant Families Together, which has branches through the nation.
- The Episcopal Public Policy Network offers this suggestion: “Ask your members of Congress to co-sponsor the GRACE Act: The Guaranteed Refugee Admissions Ceiling Enhancement Act, S.1088 & H.R.2146. This bill would ensure that the U.S. maintains its historic commitment to resettling refugees by requiring that the President set the number of refugees the U.S. will resettle in a given fiscal year at a floor of 95,000. The average number of refugees that U.S. presidents have authorized to be resettled in a fiscal year between 1980 and 2017 has been 95,000. Over the past few years, this number has dropped dramatically, such that this year, the President authorized only 30,000 refugees to come to the U.S. The bill would also mandate quarterly reports on refugee admissions, increasing transparency, accountability, and oversight.”
March in Protest
Search for protests in your area, such as the many locations worldwide for the international protest on July 12, Lights for Liberty.
Provide Legal Assistance
- Contact your local ACLU, which advises immigrants of their rights and helps them navigate asylum applications as well as other immigration matters.
- Inform both migrants and citizens of their rights regarding searches and raids by asking the ACLU to host a Know Your Rights workshop. Pass out Know Your Rights cards.
- Volunteer with and donate funds to organizations doing immigration law work at the border:
San Diego: Jewish Family Services, Casa Cornelia, San Diego Rapid Response Network
Los Angeles: CHIRLA, CARECEN, Immigrant Defenders Law Center, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), Episcopal Sacred Resistance – Los Angeles
New Mexico: Immigration Advocates Network
Arizona: Catholic Charities works to unite families separated by deportation. The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project offers free legal representation to asylum seekers and others. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Phoenix is helping asylum seekers and needs donations and volunteers.
- Provide transportation to immigration court hearings.
- Accompany people to their ICE check-ins.
- Help arrange for legal services and advice.
- Sponsor an immigrant: Some immigrants can be released from detention as they await their asylum hearing if they have a sponsor. The sponsor must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and they must provide housing, food, clothing, and other basic necessities as immigrants await their final hearing, which may take 3-12 months. If you are interested in sponsoring someone, contact one of the organizations above that offer legal assistance.
Donate Goods and Money
In addition to giving money all the organizations listed above, you can also donate desperately needed clothing and some food items at the San Diego shelter for asylum seekers, contact Good Samaritan Episcopal Church. To donate money for clothing, phone cards, or travel funds for asylum seekers, send a check to Good Samaritan with “refugee relief” in the subject line, or donate online with “refugee relief” in the Tribute field.
Build Relationships with Local Department of Homeland Security Office
U.S. citizens can nurture relationships with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Field Offices and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) community relations officers. This may help to provide important contacts when advocating for individuals, and that is a long-term benefit for one’s work with migrants.
Pray daily for immigrants and for all the agencies and volunteers working with them. Pray for local, state, and national leaders, for law enforcement agencies, and for immigration courts. Pray for the news media and for the safety and integrity of journalists.