For decades, people in the CST community have supported migrants. Our students, alumni/ae, staff, and faculty continue to advocate through civic engagement, calls for immigration reform, and by supporting migrants spiritually, emotionally, physically, and even in the courtroom. Last year, CST officially denounced US immigration policies that divide families and abuse children and opposed the leaders who advocated such actions – calling special attention to the reprehensible distortions of scripture touted by public officials.
Comprised of religious leaders representing diverse faith perspectives, the CST community continues to unite in our concern for the flourishing of all humanity. As the refugee crisis and the mistreatment of immigrants in the US continues to escalate, we give thanks to so many of you who are putting your hearts, minds, and bodies on the line, and we call your attention to just a few people joining you in that sacred work.
Feeding the Spirit
CST alumnus, Rev. John Fanestil, ‘92, an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church, along with Pastor Guillermo Navarrete of the Methodist Church of Mexico, convene a weekly binational Border Church in Friendship Park. Over the years, they have been met with resistance by US Border Patrol and cited several times for trespassing on Federal property, but they continue to show up anyway. The bi-lingual worship service provides a place for families and friends to connect and helps community members recognize the sacredness of Friendship Park – a place that the US government has pursued closing.
Caring for the Body
CST distinguished alumna, Dottie Escobedo-Frank, ‘97, also an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church, started The Inn in 2016 when ICE asked for help getting children out of detention centers. Named for the Bible story where there was no room for Mary and Joseph at the inn, the program has served thousands of asylum seekers and refugees by providing safe spaces in churches for temporary housing, transportation, a hot meal, shower, and phone calls to family. Rev. Escobedo-Frank is also involved with Arizona Justice for Our Neighbors (AZJFON) a hospitality ministry that welcomes immigrants by assisting low income families with free and/or affordable legal services, engaging in advocacy rights, and offering education to communities of faith as well as the public on being an advocate. Learn more.
Advocating for Children
Willamette University Law Professor, Warren Binford, founded Willamette’s Child and Family Advocacy Clinic to provide pro bono legal support for children and families in crisis. The clinic offers workshops and lessons on legislation and public policy. For years, she has fiercely advocated for unaccompanied minors who are mandated to represent themselves in their removal proceeding hearings. This past June, Dr. Binford and a group of lawyers visited the facility in Clint, Texas to interview children and monitor the conditions of the facilities. She said in a recent NPR radio interview, “If you look at the historical numbers of immigrants coming to the United States, we are nowhere near the highest number…But what we’re seeing with this population is that over 70% of these children have sponsors in the United States. And most of those sponsors are parents or other family members. And instead of placing these children with their family immediately, they are detaining these children unlawfully. So really, what the government’s supposed to be doing is moving the children through these facilities in a matter of hours, moving them through the other facilities in a number of days and then placing them with their families immediately. But that’s not what this administration is doing. They’re holding on to these children at a cost of $775 a day per child.”
Seeking Interreligious Coalitions
CST Professor Najeeba Syeed is a justice and peacemaking activist using her platform in interreligious education and law to make people aware of the urgency for immigration reform in this country and the world. Examples of her work include traveling to Tijuana with CLUE this year to offer spiritual care services to Haitian immigrants, helping organize rallies that challenge the US administration’s Muslim ban policies, and most recently speaking at a press conference that called for the administration to reinstate higher levels of refugee admissions. With other clergy she accompanied families to immigration court when they were being separated from their children. In addition to serving communities, she is a prolific public scholar with outlets like Sojourners where she writes about these issues and is a frequent lecturer around the nation on human immigration policies. Professor Syeed sees the intersection of ending mass incarceration, human migrant policies, and recognizing the role of faith leaders on the front lines of sanctuary work as a key to America’s vision of religious, racial and ethnic pluralism.