Each day, individuals and families seeking asylum flee their home countries to escape violence, religious persecution, and war. 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 humanitarian needs at its southern border and to equip congregants with resources to welcome and embrace migrants in our communities.
Immigration & Refugee Ministries strives to share the realities of the migrant 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 Episcopal Diocese of West Texas and Mexico share approximately 500 border miles along the Rio Grande. Individuals and Episcopal congregations 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.
Episcopal Migration Ministries, the refugee resettlement and migration ministry of The Episcopal Church, is currently working in partnership with the U.S. government to assist our Afghan allies with resettlement and direct services through a network of twelve affiliates across the U.S.
Click here to learn how to help Episcopal Migration Ministries support our Afghan Allies.
In collaboration with neighboring border dioceses, all West Texas congregations are invited to submit prayer squares, sharing messages of hope and love with migrants in our community as part of the Episcopal Prayer Square Initiative. Each completed prayer square will be part of a travel kit, including shelf-stable food and PPE, distributed to migrants throughout their travels in the Diocese of West Texas.
Click here for more information about joining the Episcopal Prayer Square Initiative.
After a family is released from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody as part of the immigration process, they travel to join sponsors or family members 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. Diocesan Immigration & Refugee MinistriesIn collaborates with local partner organizations to connect individuals and families with short-term housing, spiritual support, and essential needs.
Migrants traveling to their families across the United States have shared a sincere need for food and personal protective equipment (PPE) for their journey with local volunteers this year. Immigration & Refugee Ministries has partnered with the Interfaith Welcome Coalition (IWC) and Team Brownsville to provide Food and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Kits in one-gallon Ziploc bags to asylum seeking families and individuals.
The San Antonio Food Bank has committed to supplying shelf-stable food for these kits, and so in-kind food donations are no longer needed. Congregations can help by hosting a PPE Kit Donation Drive or receiving kits assembled by individuals at their church.
Additionally, Immigration & Refugee Ministries needs donations of adult-size, solid color backpacks to give to individuals and families with these Food and PPE Kits.
Plaza de Paz Respite Center will provide day-time welcoming services for individuals and families including meals, assistance with travel arrangements, personal hygiene care, and transportation within Bexar County to the airport or bus station. At this time, it cannot provide overnight accommodations and is coordinating with local partners to provide overnight respite for travelers unable to secure same-day departure from San Antonio.
During the preliminary stages of opening the Respite Center, the Diocese utilized funds granted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Episcopal Relief and Development to purchase a 15-passenger van and provide safe transportation for families to the San Antonio bus station, airport, and to overnight shelter arranged by San Antonio partners. A seasonal, part-time Driver for Immigration Ministries has been hired, in addition to the several volunteer congregants serving as drivers. Individual volunteers are needed to drive families and individuals seeking asylum to appointments and errands throughout San Antonio.
Volunteer with the Interfaith Welcome Coalition (IWC) to provide a warm San Antonio greeting and invaluable resources to families and individuals seeking asylum, who have been released from American detention centers and processing centers along the border. Volunteer shifts can be different amounts of time, with openings every day of the year between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.
As immigration policies continue to evolve, the need is growing for congregations and community groups to serve as short-term home hosts for migrant families and individuals. Currently, diocesan Immigration Ministries is seeking families who live in the San Antonio area, with a spare room or safe rental property to host a family for anywhere from one night to one month.
Team Brownsville crosses the Gateway International Bridge between Brownsville, TX and Matamoros, Mexico to serve asylum seekers. It supplies food, clothing, and other essentials to asylum seekers at the La Plaza Bus Terminal in Brownsville upon release. To support Team Brownsville, visit the links below or donate using their Amazon Wishlist.
Bus Station Volunteers (Brownsville): Individual volunteers who live in the Rio Grande Valley region, or are interested in traveling to serve on the border, are needed to welcome asylum-seeking families and individuals at the Brownsville Bus Station.
Baby Kits & Child Items (Brownsville): Asylum-seeking families often include babies and young children. Immigration Ministries has partnered with Team Brownsville and the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition (VVBHC) in Del Rio to provide Baby Kits and child items to these families as they travel throughout the diocese. All supplies will be distributed by Team Brownsville and VVBHC volunteers.
Financial donations to Team Brownsville may be made through their website, at teambrownsville.org/donate.
The Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition is a group of local citizens and agencies that haveunited to develop an efficient way to transition refugees to their destinationsupon release of federal custody through a unified and coordinated effort.
Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition Respite Center (Del Rio): Volunteers who live in the Del Rio area or are interested in traveling to serve on the border are needed to welcome asylum-seeking families and individuals at the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition (VVBHC) respite center.
Baby Kits & Child Items (Del Rio): Asylum-seeking families often include babies and young children. Immigration Ministries has partnered with Team Brownsville and the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition (VVBHC) in Del Rio to provide Baby Kits and child items to these families as they travel throughout the diocese. All supplies will be distributed by Team Brownsville and VVBHC volunteers.
The Mission: Border Hope Resource Center is a non-profit organization that provides a safe haven for arriving CBP processed families in Maverick County. When they arrive we give them all an orientation, so they know where they are located, what to do next, and of course, explain that they have arrived in the United States. We offer phone calls, wifi, and translators so they can call their families after being detained for hours, days or even months and provide options for them to travel safely to their final destination.
Volunteers who live in the Eagle Pass area or are interested in traveling to serve on the border are needed to welcome asylum-seeking families and individuals at Mission Border Hope.
Partner information coming soon. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
Catholic Charities Respite Center Volunteers (McAllen): Volunteer with Catholic Charities Respite Center in McAllen. Individuals who live in the Rio Grande Valley region or are interested in serving along the border are needed to welcome asylum-seeking families and individuals in McAllen.
There is a great need for local congregations, community groups, and congregations across the U.S. to host individuals and families seeking asylum. In response, the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas and Southwestern Texas Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have partnered to host a monthly forum for congregations and community groups seeking to learn more about long-term sponsorship and local short-term homestays. On the first Tuesday of each month from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. CST, join Immigration Ministries, the Southwestern Texas Synod, and sponsorship and legal experts to learn more about how to serve asylum-seeking migrants in this way.
Click here to register for the next forum and learn more about sponsorship.
[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.
[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.
[San Antonio] Afghans in San Antonio is a new non-profit that gives individuals, congregations, organizations, businesses, and other organizations opportunities to serve Afghan Refugees well by working with San Antonio's refugee organizations guiding the way. People who have received refugee status will be eligible for government benefits, others will come in need of even more goodwill.
[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 email@example.com.
[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.
Click here to subscribe to the bi-weekly Immigration Ministries Update, featuring events, volunteer and giving opportunities, news, and prayer requests.
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Click here to view Immigration Ministries blog articles and events.
Director of Immigration and Refugee Ministries: Flor Saldivar