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Jun 22, 2018 | Carol E. Barnwell

Prayer Service, Pro Bono Work at Border Among Responses to Family Separations at Border

“Episcopalians are outraged and frustrated at the separation of children from their parents on our southern border,” said the Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, Bishop of Texas. “Breaking up families who are already suffering from poverty and violence—taking children from their mothers and fathers—is indefensible and immoral,” he said.  

Bishop Doyle has called for comprehensive immigration reform for more than a decade and said the current crisis at the border has heightened the need for legislators to renew their work on reform. He noted the current need for pro-bono legal aid donations to organizations working with children and families whose children have been taken from them at the border as a result of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy. Bishop Doyle also encouraged church members to participate in a prayer service at the T. Don Hutto Residential Detention Center in Taylor, Texas on July 8 at noon.

The service was planned in response to calls from Episcopalians across the Church to act on behalf of families seeking asylum at the southern U. S. border. A team of concerned leaders heading to General Convention planned a prayer service outside the detention center with the help of a local community organizing group and several clergy and parishioners from the Diocese of Texas. A former medium security prison, the Hutto center was originally a family detention center, but, since 2009, has housed female immigrants and asylum seekers.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies will attend the prayer service. The event is open to all who are committed to praying for an end to the inhumane treatment of those seeking asylum in the United States.

In a letter to their diocese, bishops in the Diocese of West Texas said they believed the zero tolerance policy, “with its stated aim of deterring people from crossing into the United States illegally … grieves the heart of Jesus.”

More than 2300 children have been separated from their families since the policy was enacted in April. On Tuesday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner vowed to fight the opening of a proposed detention center near downtown Houston, saying: “We stand as one opposed to the unjust and immoral policy of ripping apart immigrant families … it violates decency and is not representative of our American values.” Gathered at the press conference were representatives of many community organizations and different faith communities. On Thursday, El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles prohibited his deputies from working off-duty at a temporary shelter housing migrant children, refusing to support what he called an “unjust” policy.  

What Can You Do?

  • Pray for the children and families affected by the current policy.
  • Pray for law enforcement people and our elected leaders.
  • Do not become complacent.
  • Write and call your state and national elected officials: Representatives and Senators
  • Charitable organizations and legal advocacy groups need volunteers, especially those with legal and/or language skills. Training is available for non-immigration attorneys. More information on the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project is here.
  • Donate to organizations providing aid: the Texas Tribune has a list here.
  • Donate to Episcopal Migration Ministries

Allyssa Stebbing, the Diocese of Texas representative for Episcopal Migration Ministries, will travel to McAllen on June 28 with members of the Tahirih Center and the ACLU to visit Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and deliver donations gathered at Trinity, The Woodlands. Stebbing is also working with the Houston Refugee Consortium regarding the separation of children from their families at the southern border and will continue to be engaged.

For more information and links to statements by faith leaders and scholars as well as videos, please visit the diocesan website here.