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Each day, millions of asylum-seekers and refugees flee their home countries to escape violence, religious persecution, and war. They leave behind the lives they knew, hoping to find safety and provide a better life for their families. The bible is filled with stories of exile, refugees, immigrants, and asylum-seekers, and the call to care for our neighbors is tied closely to the roots of the Christian faith. Our own salvation story begins with a migrant family refused shelter, who are then forced to flee to another country as refugees to save their newborn child.

In an effort to respond faithfully to the needs of our siblings-in-Christ, the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas established Immigration Ministries in 2019, to distribute factual information about the ongoing crisis at its southern border and to equip congregants with factual information and resources to welcome and embrace immigrants in our communities. The ministry strives to share the realities of the immigrant experience, to provide education around immigration laws and policies, to support partner organizations serving migrants in our communities, and to help individuals and Episcopal congregations walk in love as we endeavor to follow Christ and serve our neighbors.

The Rt. Rev. David M. Reed shares, "Wherever we might fall politically, as Christians there are always Christ-like responses available to us. Whether it’s advocacy, prayer, giving a blanket to an asylum-seeker getting on a bus, handing a taco to a border patrol agent, or heading south on a mission trip - there are things you and your church can offer as followers of Jesus to share his love with others. Just remember to 'walk in love,' don’t yell, listen, and be humble and kind as you go."

Immigration Ministries Brochure

How We Serve

The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas shares approximately 500 border miles with Mexico, along the Rio Grande River. Individuals and churches are responding to the needs of asylum seekers along the border, as well as individuals in local law enforcement, in a variety of outreach and pastoral care ministries. In addition, the diocese has sent mission teams for decades into the countries from which many are fleeing today, seeking to sustainably improve the health, education and living conditions of vulnerable populations. The following are two primary initiatives in which our churches actively participate.

Emergency Immigration Housing Fund

During the COVID-19 pandemic, after a family is released from detention centers as part of the legal immigration process, they must quarantine for fourteen days before traveling to join sponsors or family members, in Texas and all throughout the United States. If a family or individual does not have family or sponsorship contacts in the U.S. they do not have access to housing or basic necessities, leaving them incredibly vulnerable upon their release and unable to quarantine safely. In collaboration with local partner organizations, we provide short-term housing, spiritual support, and essential needs to these families through the Emergency Immigration Housing Fund.                                                                                                            

Border Ministries

Currently, migrant and refugee families seeking entrance into the United States must wait in Mexico for immigration courts to reopen and asylum hearing assignment dates to be announced. Court hearings could be scheduled as late as 2023. During this interim time, asylum-seekers do not have access to housing or basic necessities, having spent most of their resources traveling to the border; some families must wait this way for months, and in some cases, over a year. A number of organizations in the Valley, including Team Brownsville, Sendas de Vida, Acción de Gracia, and others provide housing, essentials, and legal support to these families and asylum-seekers as they wait their next steps. Immigration Ministries partners with these groups to help provide living essentials and spiritual support.

Team Brownsville

Team Brownsville crosses the Gateway International Bridge between Brownsville, TX and Matamoros, Mexico to serve asylum seekers waiting to cross the bridge. It provides supplies, like tents, food, and clothing to those at the Matamoros Tent Encampment, or Dignity Village. Team Brownsville also provides essentials and shoe laces or toys, to asylum seekers at the La Plaza Bus Terminal in Brownsville upon release from detention. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all  in-person volunteer opportunities have been halted to avoid health and safety risks.

If you or your church community would like to organize a donation drive for Team Brownsville, please contact immigration@dwtx.org or purchase items requested via Team Brownsville’s Amazon Wishlist. Financial donations to Team Brownsville may be made through their website, at teambrownsville.org/donate.

Get Involved

  • Join the Immigration Ministries Basecamp team for communication and collaboration among clergy and lay leaders involved in Immigrations Ministries in the Diocese.
  • Sign up to receive weekly newsletters from Immigration Ministries weekly newsletter, including ministry opportunities, prayers, immigration news, learning opportunities, and stories from the field.
  • Email immigration@dwtx.org to contact Flor Saldivar, Immigration and Refugee Ministries Coordinator for more information.

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Ministry Partners

Episcopal Migration Ministries

[National] Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) lives the call of welcome by supporting refugees, immigrants, and the communities that embrace them as they walk together in The Episcopal Church’s movement to create loving, liberating, and life-giving relationships rooted in compassion. EMM’s desire to honor the inherent value of human connection brings communities together to love their neighbors as themselves.

EMM acts in covenant with individuals and partners to ensure the equity of all voices as they work to serve, engage, and sustain the mission.

Interfaith Welcome Coalition (IWC)

[San Antonio, TX] IWC is an ecumenical, collaborative movement meeting the changing needs of asylum seekers, refugees and at-risk immigrants. Multiple Episcopal churches participate in its various ministries.

'Acción de Gracia Immigration Assistance

[Weslaco and McAllen, TX] Acción de Gracia Immigration Assistance provides legal consultation to migrants who cannot afford it, or those that are not serviced through other organizations, helping people get the documentation they need. This volunteer led, non-profit organization hosts a free, monthly legal clinic at Grace Episcopal Church, Weslaco, as well as providing individual follow up consultations and other support as needed to the surrounding communities. For more information, contact attorney Kenna Giffin, at info@accionimmigration.org.

Southwestern Texas Synod, ELCA

[South Texas]The Southwestern Texas Synod is proud to be one of the 65 Synods in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The Synod covers a wide area spanning from almost to the western edge of Texas to just north of Austin and down south to the tip of Texas, includes 130 congregations in 8 conferences with over 250+ rostered leaders. Our purpose statement is: God's grace transforms and connects us to learn, to love, to lead. The Southwestern Texas Synod and our partners offer a variety of places, spaces, and opportunities specifically designed to support and connect all people as they grow in faith and discover God’s mission in this world.

Texas Border Collaboration Network

[South Texas] A communication and collaboration network of organizations involved in providing direct service, legal aid, advocacy and hospitality for people migrating in the Texas, Mexico border zone.

City of San Antonio - Department of Human Services

The Department of Human Services (DHS) coordinates a Migrant Resource Center with IWC, and other non-profit organizations, across from the downtown Greyhound Bus Station to support legal migrants arriving inSan Antonio as they continue their journeys to sponsors across the country.

World Missions Initiatives

Pray, Give, Go! For decades, the diocese has sent mission teams into the countries from which many are fleeing today, seeking to sustainably improve the health, education and living conditions of vulnerable populations. For information about supporting and participating in ongoing World Mission initiatives and sustainable development projects in Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico, as well as other countries world-wide, visit the World Mission Department web page.

Serve

COVID-19 Update: Due to the ongoing pandemic, all in-person outreach services have been temporarily suspended. Contact immigration@dwtx.org for more information or to be notified upon the return to in-person outreach. Various ministries are taking place throughout the Diocese. Below is a list of those ministries grouped by convocations (geographical regions within the diocese).

If your ministry is not listed, please send ministry details, including its primary focus, support needs, and a contact person from your congregation, to immigration@dwtx.org. Want to start a backpack or lunch assembly ministry at your church? Inquiries may be sent to immigration@dwtx.org.

St. Barnabas' Episcopal Church - Backpack Ministry

[Fredericksburg, TX] St. Barnabas' assembles backpacks for distribution to asylum seekers traveling through San Antonio, in partnership with the Interfaith Welcome Coalition. For more information, contact Nancy Cook, at ncook1001@gmail.com, or call St. Barnabas', Fredericksburg at (830) 997-5762.

Primary Needs:

  • Volunteers to serve in Fredericksburg: to assemble backpacks once a month at St. Barnabas' (601 W Creek Street; Fredericksburg, TX 78624-3117).
  • In-kind donations: backpack items should be delivered to St. Barnabas', Fredericksburg. Click here for a list of needed items, updated June 2019.

St. Mark's Episcopal Church - Refugee Response

[San Antonio, TX] St. Mark's partners with the Interfaith Welcome Coalition, the City of San Antonio, and other partners (social services and faith-based groups) to help arrange travel and to provide for the immediate needs of asylum seekers as they travel through San Antonio. For more information, contact the Rev. Ann Fraser, Associate Rector for Outreach, Pastoral Care, and Parish Life at St. Mark's, at afraser@stmarks-sa.org.

Primary Needs:

St. Philip's Episcopal Church - Backpack Ministry

[Uvalde, TX] St. Philip's assembles backpacks for distribution to migrants, primarily infants to seventeen year old youths being released from the detention center and traveling through Uvalde. The congregation also prepares and serves weekly outreach meals for local Border Patrol officers. For more information, contact the Rev. Mike Marsh, Rector of St. Philip's, at marshmk@stphilipsuvalde.org.

Primary Needs:

  • In-kind donations: backpack items should be delivered to St. Philip's (343 N Getty Street; Uvalde, TX 78801-4690). Click here for a list of needed items, updated June 2019. For information about ingredients needed for outreach meals, contact the Rev. Mike Marsh.

St. Francis by the Lake - Serving with Team Brownsville

[Canyon Lake, TX] St. Francis gathers small mission teams to serve with Team Brownsville, providing meals to asylum seekers on the Gateway International Bridge between Brownsville, TX and Matamoros, Mexico and serving at La Plaza Bus Station in Brownsville. For more information, contact Patricia Perea, at pereasearch@gmail.com.

Primary Needs:

  • Volunteers to serve in Brownsville: to prepare meals, serve meals on the bridge, or distribute shoe laces, toys, etc. in La Plaza Terminal with Team Brownsville. A current passport is mandatory to serve meals on the bridge.
  • Financial support: to help St. Francis purchase ingredients and supplies for the meals served with Team Brownsville. Checks should be made out to "St. Francis by the Lake" with "Team Brownsville donation" on the memo line, and then sent to St. Francis by the Lake (P.O. Box 3031; Canyon Lake, TX 78133-0023). An online donation form is available, via PayPal, for direct contributions to Team Brownsville at teambrownsville.org.
  • In-kind donations: donations of clothing, toiletries, and other supplies should be delivered to St. Francis (13250 FM 306; Canyon Lake, TX 78133). Click here for a list of needed items, updated June 2019.

St John's Episcopal Church

[New Braunfels] St. John's is working with Interfaith Welcome Coalition to provide lunches for asylum seeking families traveling through San Antonio and partnering with Team Brownsville and St. Francis by the Lake, Canyon Lake to feed asylum seekers in Matamoros, Mexico.

Primary Needs:

  • Financial support: to help purchase ingredients and supplies for the meals served with Team Brownsville and IWC.

Episcopal Church of Reconciliation - Backpack & Meals Ministry

[San Antonio, TX] Reconciliation assembles traveling lunches and backpacks for distribution to asylum seekers through the Interfaith Welcome Coalition in downtown San Antonio. For more information, contact Ron Graham, at ronnbetty@gmail.com.

Primary Needs:

  • Volunteers to serve in San Antonio: to make lunches, meet at Reconciliation every other Saturday at 9:45 a.m. Contact Ron for the next lunch packing date. To assemble backpacks, meet every Monday and Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at El Divino Salvador UMC (1701 W Woodlawn Avenue; San Antonio, TX 78201).
  • In-kind donations: backpack items or lunch supplies should be delivered to the Church of Reconciliation (8900 Starcrest Drive; San Antonio, TX 78217-4741). Click here for a list of needed items, updated June 2019.

St. Philip's Episcopal Church - Backpack Ministry

[Uvalde, TX] St. Philip's assembles backpacks for distribution to migrants, primarily infants to seventeen year old youths being released from the detention center and traveling through Uvalde. The congregation also prepares and serves weekly outreach meals for local Border Patrol officers. For more information, contact the Rev. Mike Marsh, Rector of St. Philip's, at marshmk@stphilipsuvalde.org.

Primary Needs:

  • In-kind donations: backpack items should be delivered to St. Philip's (343 N Getty Street; Uvalde, TX 78801-4690). Click here for a list of needed items, updated June 2019. For information about ingredients needed for outreach meals, contact the Rev. Mike Marsh.

COVID-19 Update: Due to the ongoing pandemic, all in-person outreach services have been temporarily suspended. Contact immigration@dwtx.org for more information or to be notified upon the return to in-person outreach.

If your ministry is not listed, please send ministry details, including its primary focus, support needs, and a contact person from your congregation, to immigration@dwtx.org. Want to start a backpack or lunch assembly ministry at your church? Inquiries may be sent to immigration@dwtx.org.

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