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."
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 primary initiatives in which our churches actively participate.
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.
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 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. If you or your church community would like to organize a donation drive for Team Brownsville, please contact firstname.lastname@example.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.
Click here to view a list of in-person and virtual volunteering opportunities as well as ministry partner giving needs. For more information about these opportunities, interested individuals or churches may contact Flor Saldivar, Immigration and Refugee Ministries Coordinator, at email@example.com, or click here to schedule a meeting with Flor through her online calendar.
Click here to view a list of congregations engaged in local outreach to help migrants and asylum seekers in our communities.
[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.
[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.
[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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
[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.
[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.
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.
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.