Presiding Bishop on the crisis of unaccompanied children at US border

Posted Jul 10, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued the following statement on the current crisis of unaccompanied children and families at the United States border.

The influx of vulnerable people from Central America, including unaccompanied minors as well as mothers with children, continues to challenge the United States to respond compassionately.  Like Sudanese or Syrian refugees, these people are fleeing hunger, violence, and the fear of rape, murder, and enslavement.  The violence in Central America has escalated significantly in recent months, particularly as a result of gangs and trafficking in drugs and human beings.  These people are literally fleeing for their lives. 

The United States has a checkered history in responding to refugee crises.  We shut our eyes and ears, as well as our ports, during the crimes against Jews and other vulnerable persons in the midst of the Second World War.  We have been more welcoming to Sudanese youths looking for survival in the last 20 years.

The Episcopal Church believes we have a responsibility to all our neighbors, particularly the strangers and sojourners around us.  We have been resettling refugees since 1939.  Today, Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) and Episcopal Relief & Development are working with churches and dioceses in areas where these Central American women and children are being served. 

Episcopalians are responding with prayers and concern, and asking how to help.  I urge you to remember these people and their difficult and dangerous position in your prayers – today, this coming Sunday, and continuing until we find a just resolution.  The Episcopal Church has established an account to receive financial contributions to assist Episcopal Migration Ministries in this work.  For details, please contact

I would also encourage you to contact your legislators, and ask them to support an appropriate humanitarian response to this crisis.  We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, and as a Church, we are asking the United States government to support such a response, grounded in justice and the fundamental dignity of every human being.  Our Office of Government Relations is submitting detailed testimony to a United States Senate hearing today, as that chamber prepares to consider a budget request from the President. 

You may read that testimony here, and I encourage you to share it with your own Representative and Senators here

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church


Comments (37)

  1. Carl Blenkin says:

    Dear Bishop Katharine, Thank you for your wonderful and powerful words of support for these people. I am a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Long Beach Ca. I am so glad I became apart of this denomination it speaks up and listens carefully to what is being done. I believe very powerfully power of Jesus becoming incarnate in our lives as we continue to do God’s work in the world. Peace Carl Blenkin

  2. Doug Desper says:

    …and in our response to the federal government, let’s not forget to urge relief for our own citizens living in border communities. They are experiencing documented incidents of increased crime including violence, criminal sexual offenses, and much more from unrestricted border crossings. The communities along the border are having their limited community welfare services drained without federal reimbursement. The humanitarian crisis has many faces.

    1. Katharine Thomas says:

      We should help all people in need, but I wonder if this statement, made here, is meant to imply that these women and children from Central America are the cause of increased crime? Our people vs them? Where did Jesus say that?

      1. Doug Desper says:

        Hi Katherine — before the notoriety of the children at the border there was – and remains – a humanitarian crisis of unsecured borders which includes US citizens and the border communities. Crime has spiked in those areas, including violence and murder of US citizens, also including border agents. Since December 2003 there have been 35 US border agents killed (according to the US Customs figures). If we are now concerned (and rightly so) about the very public face of the crisis we have to remember that the crisis was already ongoing. Attributing the crisis to children is not implied or intended, but let’s address the entire issue for those who face their security and lives under stress and threat. Let’s also address this government’s very reckless open border/no infrastructure/catch & release policy which has, in part, increased a stream of very vulnerable people to make or pay for escorts in an arduous trek.

    2. Martha Stafford says:

      I can only speak to the situation in El Paso concerning the refugees. No tax money is being used once they are released through ICE. All food, clothing, medical needs, bedding, shelter, and travel arrangements are being supplied through churches, volunteers, and donations. It is my understanding that ICE does release until it is determined that these families have a place to live with relatives. They are not just released onto the streets. They are housed in various centers throughout the city for one or two nights while travel arrangements are made. We then transport them to the bus station or airport to be united with their relatives elsewhere in the US while they await their hearings.

    3. Madonna Dougherty says:

      This is much more complicated than whether and how the borders should be secured. This refugee crisis is, in part, of our own creation. The violence is related to drug cartels that do so for money. The money is from American demand for the illegal drugs. Lets keep the focus on the current crisis and helping both the refugees and the border communities. The longer term issues should also be addressed but that is not the subject of our Bishop’s call to service at this time.

  3. Diana Kiser says:


  4. Mark Siegel says:

    Our Baptismal Covenant calls on us “to seek and serve Christ in all persons.” We need to give special attention to the most vulnerable among us. I hope our government can find a way to treat these refugees with love and compassion and not simply view them as pawns in a zero-sum game. After all, America is land of refugees.

    1. Rev Dr Helen Betenbaugh says:

      This is one of the things that is hardest for me to comprehend: ALL of us, unless of 100% Native American descent, which I believe is not 1 single person, are indebted to our own ancestors, once immigrants, refugees, Outsiders, the Other, in this land. How do we forget so quickly? Simply because it was not our particular pain, still vivid and sharp in memory? It so often sounds as if our national creed has become “I’ve got mine. Time to move on. Whether or not you get yours is your affair.” Are we truly so insensitive, so isolated, so deliberately dis-connected, that we’ve turned our backs on ALL that unites us? While “independence” may still be the American cardinal virtue, it’s a myth – no a lie. Those living in the border areas who employ “illegals” on a regular basis can confirm that without the inter-dependence that is real, without these workers, we’d all probably starve to death. They’re not disposable like the containers their farm produce and items they manufacture in our factories come in.

    2. Randy Patterson says:

      Not ‘refugees’ since that word means a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. They are economic migrants, and illegal ones at that.

  5. Doug Graham says:

    I agree that the vulnerable must be protected and helped. That is the short term need and it needs to be fulfilled. But what is the long term solution? Just opening our borders to every person in the world who claims despair is going to be an example of good intentions causing unintended negative consequences, the final result being that the quality of life in our country eventually deteriorates to a point where we are no longer a desirable destination either. It seems to me that our leaders need to work with other world leaders to find a solution to the SOURCE of the problem, rather than only put bandaids on the obvious victims.

  6. Chuck Wibert says:

    Very well spoken. Thank you, Bishop. And, yes, as Doug and others have pointed out, this crisis has many faces. Let us continue to see the Risen Christ in all people.

  7. Carol Justice says:

    Thank you Bishop Katharine for your statement. You have expressed the words that are in my heart and this makes me so glad that I joined the Episcopal Church. With the exception of our Native brothers and sisters, we are ALL descendants of refugees.

  8. Candy Buchcuski says:

    Dear Presiding Bishop Katharine
    THANK YOU for helping us all to seek love, Compassion and justice to all Gods people… To all ends of the Earth and especially those fleeing their homelands in fear.. I have been on mission trips to Mexico and to see such poverty and lack of basic needs that close to home is a great sadness.. Christ calls us to help the poorest of the poor and to be his hands and feet in this broken world.. I KNOW if I were a mother watching my children suffer I would do all I could also to help them get to get to a better life. Just to be able to survive.
    We will be adding prayers for these refuges and all those who are affected by and responding to this crisis.

    1. Randy Patterson says:

      Not the “poorest of the poor” since they can afford the thousands in fees charged by transporters. One billion people live on $2/day or less; that is the poorest of the poor. We can all assist the illegal alien by inviting a dozen into our homes for free room and board but should we?

  9. Joyce Berry says:

    I worked with the Lost Boys of Sudan who were refugees about the year 2000 and came to Erie. They were not violent in any way. We worried about them because they were so naive. I treasure my experience with them. I finally knew how little we actually need to live a quality life.

  10. The Program Group on Global Partnership in the Diocese of Los Angeles thanks you +Bishop Katharine, as does Foundation Cristosal. We are grateful for your continuing leadership, and especially, in this instance, as it pertains to unaccompanied minors from Central America.

    George Woodward

  11. The Program Group on Global Partnership in the Diocese of Los Angeles thanks you for your leadership and for this statement +Bishop Jefferts-Schori, as does Foundation Cristosal working in El Salvador.

  12. The Rev. Joe Parrish says:

    Undoubtedly the children are among the most vulnerable in this situation in Latin America and need our particular attention. Our news reports give us scarce facts as to why the major influx has recently begun since gangs and human trafficking have been ongoing for at least a decade or more. How to reunite these children with their families seems to be the big challenge, and of course if their parents are here in the US, we still have an obligation of bringing families back together. When we have perhaps more than ten to fourteen million adults who are undocumented in the US, including a majority from Latin America, and when only a maximum of about two million can be deported with the current ICE systems, and since perhaps that is about the same number as enter the US each year without documentation, the basic problem seems to require a revision of our current laws for finding reliable avenues to citizenship for the many already in the US. Indeed, the problem is being compounded by the lack of legislative action.

    1. Martha Stafford says:

      I’m working with refugees in El Paso. Those from the cities have said that the cartels have taken over neighborhood gangs. They are supplying the gangs with a steady supply of guns and drugs. Business owners have to pay the gangs for “protection” or face deadly consequences. Parents have to pay for protection for their kids to get to and from school. Young girls are particularly vulnerable. Kidnappings of professionals is a daily occurance. The rural areas are safer for now but we’ve had reports of gang violence there as well. Some are here in an effort to keep their children from gang involvement; others because family members have been killed and they fear they are next. My group is working solely with family units so I can’t speak to the unaccompanied minors situation.

  13. Kathleen Saville says:

    Thank you, Bishop….and Amen!

  14. The Rev. Nancy Pennekamp says:

    I am devastated by the treatment of children in the detention centers and intend to go help. Please direct me to a church or a center from where I can offer comfort and hope to those detained.

  15. Emilie Teresa Smith says:

    Gracias hermana y pastora . . .

  16. gary stanko says:

    Compassion is a CHURCH issue, not government issue. Border security/Immigration policy is purview of COngress. When my grandparents all come from europe, there was a definitive plan in place and they knew what it was such that they just could not “waltz across the border”. As a body of Christians, let`s treat those heer with compassion and pray for Congress to have wisdom to enact appropriate responses in short and long terms.

  17. Thank you for both your statement and your leadership in this humanitarian crisis. Let us hope that we follow your lead in seeking a compassionate solution to this terrible situation.

  18. Vance Mann says:

    These children are our brothers an sisters. Will we treat them as our children? Their presence in the USA is partly our fault. Who funds the violent drug gangs in Mexico and Central America? The people in our country who have an insatiable appetite for the drugs they sell. The USA is their #1 market.

  19. sam lopez says:

    maybe ms. jefferts schori should dialogue with the republicans?

  20. Rvd Mansita Sangi says:

    This is a confession of the church faith. The confession of the Church faith founds and builds a new community, and keeps alive a community of confessing. It is the mark of the Church and of belonging to the Church. As a testimony of faith, it refers to events and gradually explicit during certain situations that challenges the community. There are moments of strife, criticism, political repression, economic difficulties and crises. It is at this moment that the Church can stand up and takes a stand. Faced with such factors, the confession of faith is called to be updated. By updating, it takes account of situations and focuses on aspects which are the subject of debate and protests within the society.

  21. Irma Ramirez says:

    Dear Presiding Bishop Katharine, I am an immigrant from Mexico who came legally to the US, at the time I was not allowed to register in school unless I had a valid I-20 form indicating that I was legal in the county. I am also a school employee now, and was surprised to find out years ago, that it was illegal to ask for this form when registering incoming students, because we are to provide free education to all. I love this country, and I am all for legal immigration. The current influx of immigrants is just another serious indication that our immigration system is in need of some serious tweaking. The law of this country is enforced fairly, and I currently working and advocating towards assisting, in any way possible, for the government to do what it must due legally to handle this recent crises. But, we must also find a long term solution to this problem. We have advanced technology, the know how, and resources to implement a functional program to check and promote legal immigration. Having being born and raised in Mexico I can honestly tell you that in Mexico NOTHING is free! even a hospital stay must be paid in full BEFORE the patient leaves the hospital! and an immigrant gets less than nothing. I love this country, its generosity and beauty, but we should all contribute to its maintenance. It is only fair.


  22. Pamela Payne says:

    Thank you, Bishop Katherine. I fear that many Christians forget Jesus’ words in Matthew 25, and I am proud to belong to a church which strives to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and be with those who are sick or imprisoned. I agree with those here who remind us that all Americans are descendants of refugees and immigrants (and no human being is “illegal”!!).

    1. Randy Patterson says:

      Pamela, since the censors are eliminating contrary viewpoints you will probably not get my response. All Americans are not descendants of refugees because ‘refugee’ means “a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.” Most, including my great-great-grandfather, came 1. legally and 2. for economic opportunity.

  23. Madonna Dougherty says:

    Thank you Presiding Bishop Katherine. This is why I love the Episcopal faith and know that conversion was the right choice for me. As to the crisis, these are refugees, fleeing from drug cartel violence that we Americans, in part ,created. The motivation and money comes from American demand for such drugs. We have a responsibility even without this knowledge, but let it be known that the overarching issues, while complicated, can be solved, with resolve and compassion, yet the immediate need is to serve those in crisis now, both the refugees and the border town communities. I will donate. I will not go and provide other aid until the call is made as it might be not be helpful. But please continue to put out the call and let us know what we can best do to serve.

  24. ron davin says:

    So we worry about the immigration policy of the United States, that the country responds compassionately, even as the Church continues it’s policy of making religious refugees by going to court and having people evicted. We have invented illegal worshipers !So that is compassion from our Country, and eviction policy from the Church. Strange !

  25. Richard Bidwell says:

    The Episcopal Church Welcomes You. Does that include refugees?

    1. Randy Patterson says:

      Correct, the Episcopal Church welcomes ‘refugees.’ Status is important. Not ‘refugees’ since that word means a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. They are illegal economic migrants. At our church, we had a homeless person start sleeping in our unlocked chapel. Fair enough….until he started destroying the place. Someone walks in your house, opens the refrigerator, gets a Coke and sits down — status: different outcomes if the person is your son or a homeless person.

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