Bishops in all six Episcopal dioceses in the state of Texas have joined in issuing a statement calling on state and national leaders to swiftly address the inhumane conditions in the detention centers at the border.
The bishops’ statement
To our state and national leaders,
We are bishops of the six Episcopal dioceses in Texas. All but 700 miles of the almost 2,000 miles of the US-Mexico border are in Texas. All of Texas feels the impact of anything that happens on our southern border.
We feel it through our families, many of whom have ancient deep roots in lands south of the United States. We feel it in our economy, as Mexico is Texas’ biggest trading partner. We feel it in our culture, since Texas was part of Mexico before we were part of the United States. Most of all, we feel it in our souls, for these are our neighbors, and we love them.
We write to decry the conditions in detention centers at our border because we are Christians, and Jesus is unequivocal. We are to pray without ceasing for everyone involved- refugees, elected officials, and law enforcement- while also advocating for the humane treatment of the human beings crowding our border as they flee the terror and violence of their home countries.
We call on our state and national leaders to reject fear-based policy-making that targets people who are simply seeking safety, and a chance to live and work in peace. The situation at the border is, by all accounts, a crisis. Refugees come in desperation; border personnel are under stress.
We call on our leaders to trust in the goodness, generosity and strength of our nation. God has blessed us with great abundance. With it comes the ability and responsibility to bless others.
We do this because Christians are commanded to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. And how we are to treat our neighbors, especially the children, could not be any clearer than it is in Matthew 18:2-6:
“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
We are to care for the children, cherish them, protect them and keep them safe.
But what if they are strangers, foreigners? The message of God in the Hebrew Scriptures, Leviticus 19:33-34, also is very clear: “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
And again, in Matthew 25: 31-40. “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” And, in Matthew 25:40: “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.”
This is not a call for open borders. This is not saying that immigration isn’t complicated. This is a call for a humane and fair system for moving asylum seekers and refugees through the system as required by law. Seeking asylum is not illegal. Indeed, the people at our border are following the law when they present themselves to border authorities.
Asylum is “a protection granted to foreign nationals already in the United States or at the border who meet the international law definition of a ‘refugee,’ which is ‘a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future ‘on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.’”
Congress incorporated this definition into U.S. immigration law in the Refugee Act of 1980. The Refugee Act established two paths to obtain refugee status—either in the United States as an asylum seeker or from abroad as a resettled refugee.
As Christians, we seek to follow the biblical and moral imperatives of our Lord. In addition, the United States has legal obligations through international law as well as our own immigration law to provide protection to those who qualify as refugees.
And while the border authorities can detain asylum seekers, courts have ordered them to do so in “safe and sanitary conditions.” Credible news reports documenting unsafe conditions, especially for children, have made it clear this is not happening in consistent and sustained ways, as resources and personnel are overwhelmed by the situation.
This nation has the resources to handle these refugees humanely. We call on our leaders to find the will to do so swiftly.
The Episcopal Diocese of Dallas
The Rt. Rev. George Sumner
Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth
The Rt. Rev. J. Scott Mayer
The Rt. Rev. Sam B. Hulsey
The Rt. Rev. Rayford B. High Jr.
Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas
The Rt. Rev. J. Scott Mayer
The Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande
The Rt. Rev. Michael Buerkel Hunn
Episcopal Diocese of Texas
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Doyle,
The Rt. Rev. Jeff W. Fisher
The Rt. Rev. Kathryn M. Ryan
Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
The Rt. Rev. David Reed
The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Brooke-Davidson
We commend to you the following article regarding The Episcopal Church’s response to the crisis that continues to unfold at our southern border.
July 2, 2019
Read it on episcopalchurch.org
Over the past several weeks, The Episcopal Church has responded to the reports of inhumane conditions for children and other asylum seekers in government custody in a number of ways. This response includes calls for donations and goods from Episcopal dioceses on the border, prayers for those seeking safety, efforts to engage in advocacy, and pastoral messages from bishops around the Church.
“We are children of the one God who is the Creator of us all,” said Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. “It is our sisters, our brothers, our siblings who are seeking protection and asylum, fleeing violence and danger to children, searching for a better life for themselves and their children. The crisis at the border is not simply a challenge of partisan politics but a test of our personal and public morality and human decency.”
The Episcopal Church, through the Office of Government Relations (OGR) and Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), has compiled a list of resources, bishop statements, and information in response to the ongoing humanitarian situation at the southern border.
“Reports of poor care for children in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody and continued policies to limit access to asylum are extremely concerning to people of faith. We must remember these children are here because they cannot find safety anywhere else,” stated Rebecca Linder Blachly, Director of The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations. “The U.S. has an established system to process asylum seekers, who are coming to the U.S. legally. The response to asylum seekers who are desperate and afraid should not be deterrence or detention. We have the capability to respond in a humane and compassionate manner, and I am grateful for everyone in The Episcopal Church who is responding to this crisis.”
The list of resources for education and support is available on the EMM website at episcopalmigrationministries.org/response-to-the-border-education-and-advocacy/ and will continue to be updated with ways to learn more and take action. The OGR and EMM webinar with Bishop Michael Hunn of the Diocese of Rio Grande will be made available on-demand through this website as well.
“The enormity of the challenge is daunting. It is easy to feel helpless to make a difference. While we cannot do everything, we can do something,” said Curry. “The links to resources of bishops and dioceses on the border, the Office of Government Relations and Episcopal Migration Ministries offer practical suggestions for how we can each and together do something.”
The Office of Government Relations represents the policy priorities of The Episcopal Church to the U.S. government in Washington, D.C. This office aims to shape and influence policy and legislation on critical issues, highlighting the voices and experiences of Episcopalians and Anglicans globally. All of its work is grounded in the resolutions of General Convention and Executive Council, the legislative and governing bodies of the church. Connecting Episcopalians to their faith by educating, equipping and engaging them to do the work of advocacy through the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) is a key aspect of this work.
Episcopal Migration Ministries is a ministry of The Episcopal Church and is one of nine national agencies responsible for resettling refugees in the United States in partnership with the government. Episcopal Migration Ministries currently has 13 affiliate offices in 12 states. To directly support EMM and its life-changing work, visit www.episcopalmigrationministries.org/give or text ‘EMM’ to 41444 (standard messaging and data may rates apply).