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Jun 19, 2018 | Carol E. Barnwell

Bishop Urges Pressure on Congress to Stop Family Separations at Border

“Separating children from their parents is not biblical in any circumstance and what is happening now on our border, in our names, is inhuman and immoral,” said the Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, Bishop of Texas. “We have been calling for full immigration reform for more than a decade, the issue of separation has escalated the need for action by our elected representatives.”

As a priest in McAllen, Texas, the Rev. Jim Nelson agrees. The rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in McAllen said, “Ratcheting up pressure on Congress to act is what is most needed.” He spoke with the Diocese’s Archdeacon, the Rev. Russ Oechsel, regarding the children who have been forcibly separated from their families as they cross the southern border of the United States.

Between April 19 and May 31, nearly 2000 children were taken from parents who were incarcerated for crossing the border, and the practice continues. In April, the Justice Department announced a “zero tolerance” policy, which seeks prosecution for any person crossing the southern border of the United States illegally. The practice continues and several tent cities have begun to house hundreds of these children. A former warehouse in Houston is currently under consideration for housing additional children.

A number of Episcopal clergy, including Bishop Hector Monterroso, Bishop Assistant for the Diocese, attended a press conference with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, July 19, at which the Mayor protested the consideration of a Houston warehouse for a detention center for children.

“The ripping apart of immigrant families violates decency and does not represent American values,” the Mayor said. “As the mayor of the fourth largest city, the most diverse and welcoming city in the country, I join others to speak out against the current policy, especially when plan is to put them into a warehouse [near downtown Houston] … I’ve done my best to avoid national politics, but this issue is different. There comes a time when Texans have to say, ‘This is wrong.’ If we don’t say ‘No,’ then these type policies will continue. Good people can no longer be quiet in our society. I do not want to be an enabler in this process. I do not want the city to participate in this process. I would ask the state not to move forward to license this facility.”

Bishop Doyle rejected Attorney General Jeff Sessions reading of scripture to support the separation of more than 2000 children from their parents since the “zero tolerance” policy was activated. “These actions do irreparable harm and betray our covenant with God in both the Old and New Testaments,” Bishop Doyle said in a statement released June 14. Calling this a “defining moment for America,” Bishop Doyle called on government officials to halt the policy. “Superior orders will not be an ethical defense for the legacy of pain being inflicted upon these children or the violence to families being woven into the fabric of our future,” he said, adding, “How we handle this crisis reveals if we are yet the great and civilized society our immigrant founding fathers dreamed of or if that dream is over.

He encouraged church members to contact their representatives in protest. “We must let our lawmakers know how we feel about this immoral miscarriage of justice and make our voices heard,” Bishop Doyle said.

Trinity, The Woodlands and Palmer Memorial Episcopal Churches in the Greater Houston area are locations to drop off donations for organizations serving families at the border, among them: Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen TX. Requested donations include: Pampers (sizes 3, 4, 5); Baby wipes, Nido1+ Kinder Milk Formula; deodorant (for men/women); Baby Tylenol/ibuprofen and feminine products.

What's happening in the Diocese of Texas:

Alyssa Stebbing, the diocesan representative for Episcopal Migration Ministries, plans a visit to the detention centers along the border with an ecumenical group of organizations in the coming days.  

Episcopalians in Bryan/College Station held a prayer vigil on June 18 at Representative Bill Flores’ office.

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations will hold a prayer vigil Thursday, June 21, from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. in their chapel on Capitol Hill in Washington D. C. They will also feature a virtual vigil for one hour on Facebook Live (11 a.m.-noon CST) and encourage people to join in and submit prayer requests on family separation, asylum and immigration by email to and on social media.

Churches across the country are being asked to participate in or hold vigils as well.

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