UMCOR Responds to Immigration Crisis


 June 25, 2014—The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) responded today to a plea by the Southwest Texas Conference/Rio Grande Conference for emergency assistance to meet urgent needs of a “rising flow” of refugees crossing into the United States from Mexico.

In response to an appeal by Bishop James E. Dorff, who heads the joined conferences, Greg Forrester, UMCOR executive in charge of U.S. Disaster Response, expedited an emergency grant and told Bishop Dorff, “Our prayers are with you and the conference as you respond to this humanitarian crisis.”

Forrester indicated that UMCOR has been monitoring the situation at the border and the rising tide of need in its wake. He said he has been in contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Homeland Security, and White House Faith-based Initiatives to gauge an appropriate response.

According to the UMCOR executive, large numbers of women and children who have crossed the U.S./Mexico border and been apprehended by U.S. authorities there, have subsequently appeared on the steps of United Methodist border facilities and churches, and have received shelter, food, and other basic supplies. Read more here and here andhere.

News accounts cite official figures of some 39,000 adults with children who have crossed the border since last October. Another 52,000 refugee minors have made the crossing on their own, without adult accompaniment, the reports said.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama referred to the plight of the unaccompanied youths at the U.S. border as “an urgent humanitarian situation.”

‘A refugee crisis’

In a letter to UMCOR that detailed Bishop Dorff’s request, the Rev. Laura Merrill, a United Methodist district superintendent who oversees two districts at the border, described “a refugee crisis, with large numbers of women with children and unaccompanied children crossing our border in search of safe haven.”

Rev. Merrill said the communities of the districts she oversees “are all involved in interfaith response,” providing “welcome centers” that offer showers, a change of clothes, food, basic medical care and when possible, a place to sleep overnight.

“There is a great need for basic supplies for these sojourners,” she said. “We have no idea … how long this crisis will last, but there is every reason to believe it will extend through the summer.”

Rev. Edgar Avitia, Area Executive for Latin America and the Caribbean at the General Board of Global Ministries, of which UMCOR is a part, and a member of the affected conferences, reported that additional aspects of a broad response to the crisis continue to unfold.

These could include, he said, a partnership between First United Methodist Church of Laredo, Texas, and the Holding Institute, a United Methodist National Mission Institution, as well as efforts by Global Ministries and the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry.

In his message to Bishop Dorff, UMCOR’s Forrester recognized the work of United Methodists in the border area. “Thank you for being the church and offering UMCOR an opportunity to participate and meet the needs of those who have been relocated pending immigration appointments,” he wrote.

Your gift to UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response, Advance #901670, will enable UMCOR’s response to this and other emergencies.