The Episcopal Church continues to respond to the breadth of immigration issues across the United States. In addition to the ongoing work of Episcopal Migration Ministries resettling refugees, Episcopalians are engaging on supporting children and other people seeking asylum at the southern border, assisting immigrants who are undocumented, and continuing advocacy for comprehensive immigration reform.
In a recent video, The Episcopal Church: Walking with Immigrants, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry introduces five bishops whose dioceses are actively engaged in immigration ministries. Each bishop shares ways individuals or groups can support this work. Aiming to inspire action, the bishops highlight the many ways people can engage with and deepen their understanding of immigration issues.
The video ends with an overview of the advocacy and refugee resettlement work done by The Episcopal Church at the national level. The Rev. Canon C.K. Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Ministry Beyond the Episcopal Church, speaks to the Church’s 80-year commitment to immigrants and displaced persons, which continues today through Episcopal Migration Ministries, the Office of Government Relations, and the tremendous work being carried out in parishes, dioceses, and in ministries around the country and world.
Read on to learn more about current immigration issues and how to take action!
On August 14, 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a rule that changes the definition of public charge, making it harder for people to be approved to enter the U.S. The rule expands the criteria for someone to be considered a public charge. This means that an immigrant may be determined to be ineligible for entry to the U.S. or may be denied a green card based on their potential or actual use of government benefits. Immigration officials will now consider additional public benefits programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, housing assistance, and all levels of cash assistance when making immigration determinations. It is clear that this rule is designed to further restrict legal immigration and to deter legal immigrants and foreign residents from utilizing programs they may need.
If allowed to come into effect, these changes will punish people for using benefits to help themselves and their families in times of need. If litigation does not prevent the rule from taking effect, the policy will become effective on October 15, 2019.
Action: Educate Your Community
Episcopal Migration Ministries has released a blog post detailing what you need to know about the new public charge rule, as well as resources you can share.
Family Detention Update
On Wednesday, August 21, the Trump administration announced a change in policy that will allow the government to detain migrant children indefinitely in family detention centers while families wait for their asylum cases to be heard. This reverses decades of policy: in 1997, the courts set standards on the conditions and length of detention for children, known as the Flores Settlement Agreement. The agreement established necessary guardrails for children in detention.
We oppose this change in policy and call for an immediate end to the unnecessary practice of family detention in response to families legally seeking protection through the asylum process. Detaining children who are escaping violence should be an absolute last resort and allowing children to stay in detention for longer periods of time would only expose children to further trauma. Even with current legal protections, there has been significant documentation of the harm children are already exposed to in our current detention system.
Through official policy from General Convention, the Church deplores conditions found in immigration detention centers, the overreliance on a costly prison-like detention system for immigrants, and urges the use of alternatives to detention. The Church calls for accountability and oversight to ensure detainees are provided with humanitarian treatment, adequate food and medical care, and sanitary conditions.
Action: Read our Statement on Family Detention
Take action to oppose proposed United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Tip Form
In February, USCIS proposed a new form which would allow the public to submit reports - even unsubstantiated reports - of alleged immigration fraud. The Episcopal Church is concerned about the potential for abuse: the form does not provide a definition of immigration fraud and allows reports to be submitted anonymously. There are already mechanisms in place to report immigration fraud, and we are concerned that the addition of this form will only serve to exacerbate targeting of immigrant communities in an already tense and divisive climate.
On August 8th, USCIS reopened the public comment period for 30 days. Please write today in opposition to this proposed tip form using the information below. Full information on the form and submitting comments can be found by following this link and a summary of how you can submit your comment can be found below.
Summary of information:
-Your comment must be emailed to the OMB USCIS Desk Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org using the information below.
-Subject: USCIS Tip Form; OMB Control Number 1615-NEW; Docket ID USCIS-2019-0001
-Deadline: September 9th
**We encourage you to modify the text by sharing your own thoughts and story as well**
"I am [Insert Name Here] writing in opposition to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proposal to implement the new Form G-1530: USCIS Tip Form, OMB Control Number 1615 - NEW, Docket ID USCIS-2019-0001, published in the Federal Register on February 15, 2019.
This tip form risks exacerbating tensions with immigrant communities, and I am concerned this could be abused as it does not provide a definition of fraud nor requires a name or contact information for those reporting. Additionally, as there are already other existing mechanisms in place to report fraud, such as the Homeland Security Investigation Tip Line and USCIS fraud reporting emails, I do not believe that this tip form is necessary and will create an enormous administrative burden."
Additional information: General Convention Policies on Sanctuary
Becoming a Sanctuary Church
Recommit to Giving Sanctuary to Immigrants
Take Action to Oppose the Elimination of Medical Deferred Action
The Administration recently announced that it will end all non-military deferred action policy, including medical deferred action. Medical Deferred Action stays the deportation of immigrants with serious medical conditions, allowing them to remain in the U.S. for two-year periods to receive life-saving medical treatment. This policy change will lead to serious negative outcomes for immigrants with a range of chronic and complex illnesses including HIV and cancer. These individuals have 33 days from the date they receive the government’s notice to leave the country or they will face formal deportation proceedings.
Our faith in Christ calls us to extend compassionate care and concern for all people facing serious illness. Please urge your members of Congress today to defend Medical Deferred Action to ensure these individuals continue to receive the life-giving care they need.