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Jun 27, 2018

Episcopalians Continue to Respond to Border Crisis

Alyssa Stebbings, third from left, is headed to McAllen to deliver donations and learn
first-hand what impact the separation of families is having.

Donations, testimony and public witness are part of the way Episcopalians are responding to family separations at the border. News that more than 2300 children had been separated from their parents since April 19 when border guards put the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy into effect, public outrage was swift and loud. The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Bishop of Texas, Andy Doyle all encouraged Episcopalians to write their elected officials to denounce the practice.

Bishop Doyle was one of many faith leaders in the country to decry the separations as “immoral” and bishops from the neighboring Diocese of West Texas soon weighed in. Bishop Doyle said: "How we handle this crisis reveals if we are the great and civilized society our immigrant founding fathers dreamed or if that dream is over. This is a defining moment for America.”

Alyssa Stebbing, a staff member at Trinity, The Woodlands and diocesan representative for Episcopal Migration Ministries, will attend an interfaith dialogue in McAllen, Texas this week on Wednesday, June 27 to consider the legal and moral perspective of separating families at the border. Follow the journey on their Facebook page.

The event, sponsored by Tahirih and Willow Meadows Baptist Church is billed as “nonpartisan” and will bring together many faith leaders, a panel of attorneys and other experts to address the current law and its effect on children and families. The panel discussion will be moderated by immigration attorney, Anne Chandler, director of the Houston office of Tahirih Justice Center. It will take place at Las Palmas Community Center, 11921 25thSt., in McAllen.

Stebbing said that response to donations, which benefit Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley Humanitarian Respite Center, was overwhelming. “It was three times what we hoped for,” Stebbing said, noting that while in McAllen, she will also meet with representatives of the ACLU to learn as much as possible first hand to share with Episcopalians throughout the Diocese of Texas and the Church.

Additionally, General Convention deputies and bishops plan a prayer service outside of the T. Done Hutto Residential Detention Center in Taylor, TX on June 8 at noon, which houses women detainees. The detention center is operated for Immigration and Customs Enforcement by a private prison company, CoreCivic, a company that has received multiple accusations of mismanagement and abuse.

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations held a prayer vigil on June 21 from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. with a one-hour live Facebook event, at which prayers sent from around the world were read. They encouraged churches to hold their own vigils and to contact their elected representatives to voice their opinion of the policy and its effect on children.

For a backgrounder on detention and immigration, go here. This document will be updated by General Convention if necessary. Two advocacy history reports, one for families and young people and one for immigrants and refugees are also available from the OGR. Action items and other resources may be located on the OGR website.