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2019AC Offering: Asylum Seekers Relief Effort

by | Apr 17, 2019 | Annual Conference Sessions Committee, Asylum, Refugee, Immigration, Billie's Blog

By Billie K. Fidlin, Director of Outreach & Justice

“ICE (U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement) is dropping off 140 people sometime today… ICE is dropping off 90 today… Rumor has it there are another 100 at the bus station… Bus station no longer allowing people inside if they don’t have a ticket… ICE is dropping off at a location near the bus station as they can’t be in the parking lot any more… Can you find a church to let 90 people sleep for the night? Can you find a church to take 40? 140? 200?” “They only need shelter for one night, maybe two, three at the max.” CAN SOMEBODY HELP?           

We are so blessed as a Conference to be able to share that many of our churches throughout the geographic area of the Conference are responding. They are providing shelter and many other needs, such as food, clothing, backpacks, medical help, small stuffed animals, travel sized toiletries, interpretation, and transportation.

As you can imagine, the organization of these efforts takes a considerable amount of time, money, and energy. While the donations of the items mentioned above are needed and are coming in part from our churches, this Annual Conference offering is specific and unique from those requests. We want to provide funding for capital support to help with this emergency shelter and organizing effort. Your generosity will help to support someone to organize the multitude of details that are different each and every day, background checks, basic needs. Your generosity will help to support God’s creation who are seeking in a legal manner, entry to this country so that they and their family can experience the peace of being safe from predators. Your generosity will help to pay for a shower truck and so much more. Please give as your heart of prayer nudges you and me to do so.

About Asylum Seekers

  • Crisis level: Example: Up to 200 people are arriving daily in Phoenix (no stat found for NV)
  • Most common areas people are coming from as of now: El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico (Arizona); most common origin location(s) in Nevada besides these countries also include Cuba, DRC, Iran, Eritrea, China, Philippines, & Iraq. Both states receive people from other countries as well.
  • From December 2018 to March 2019 14,500 asylum seekers were dropped off in Arizona
  • Reasons for declaring a desire for asylum: persecution; unrelenting violence by gangs, criminals; death threats; organ trafficking of children/teens; human trafficking, labor trafficking
  • Refugee Act of 1980 stated that our policy was to welcome homeless refugees to our country which, is part of our national identity to offer shelter, safety and new life to the vulnerable
  • Children make up a large percentage of asylum seekers- at times more than 50%

Refugees vs. Asylum Seekers – US Overview

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines refugees as those out of their native countries and unable or unwilling to return because of a well-founded fear of persecution related to race, religion, nationality, belonging to a particular social group or having a political opinion.

That’s different from an asylum-seeker, who may have the same fear of returning to their country but who is actually in the United States while pursuing a claim to residency. Many of the Central American families who have turned themselves at ports of entry along the border in recent months are living in the U.S. while their asylum cases work their way through the courts.

The government expects more than 280,000 people will seek asylum in the coming year. Those are in addition to the more than 800,000 asylum seekers who are already in the United States and expect a response to their application.

How you can help: offer your church as temporary 1 – 3 nights shelter. Donate: food, clothing, health services, cultural orientation, transportation, a small toy or stuffed animal and travel lightweight backpacks with the following items:

  • plastic reusable water bottle
  • 5-6 sanitary napkins sealed in a ziplock bag for women
  • 5 diapers in a gallon ziplock with a sandwich bag full of baby wipes, labeled with diaper size
  • travel sized: deodorant/toothpaste & brush, tissues, chapstick, lotion, and snacks

Note: should you wish to compile a backpack – it will need to be delivered to a church that is sheltering asylum seekers. You MUST check with the clergy of that church first. We will NOT be receiving backpacks at Annual Conference. Contact Billie Fidlin for participating pastors. Contact Billie if YOU are a participating pastor ?

NOTE – Asylum seekers have met with ICE, and have a court date in the area of their sponsor, which is the beginning of the legal process which they are engaged in, per our country’s policy. Qualified sponsors are: a relative who is a US citizen or is a green card holder or, an employer.

Source:  NPR, TRAC Immigration, International Rescue Committee, The Nevada Independent, Catholic Charities – Nevada, Wikipedia, Las Vegas Defense Group, American Immigration Council

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About the author

Billie K. Fidlin

Billie K. Fidlin is the Director of Outreach & Justice for the Desert Southwest Conference. She is a graduate of Western Michigan University and attended Claremont School of Theology for religious studies. Ms. Fidlin currently serves as the President of the Arizona Faith Network in her second term. She is President & Founder of Whisper n Thunder Inc., and sits on various boards including the Justa Center and the Phoenix Police Department's Faith Advisory Council. Her awards include the UM Foundation for Evangelism 2004 Distinguished Evangelist; 2016 Church Women United / United Nations Human Rights Award; 2018 Servant Leader Award AZ Faith Network; 2022 Southern Poverty Law Center Certificate of Recognition; and 2022-23 Class of Who's Who in America.

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