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UMCOR’s Work on the U.S.-Mexico border

UMCOR’s Work on the U.S.-Mexico border

By Jack Amick 
May 4, 2021 | ATLANTA 

As with all of its work in global migration the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s support of migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border centers around these foundational principles: the biblical mandate to “welcome the stranger,” UMCOR’s mission statement of 80 years to “alleviate suffering without regard to race or creed,” and the desire to work with local partners wherever possible. We believe that both humanitarian assistance and policy change are required in this current moment of transition and confusion on the U.S.- Mexico border. 

UMCOR has been actively working with shelters and other programs on both sides of the border since 2016. Currently, UMCOR has grants with 17 such entities totaling over $670,000, including emergency grants that have provided shelters with the means to place those who test positive for COVID-19 in hotel quarantines, assist with transportation, and provide food and clothing for the recent uptick in arrivals. 

We affirm moves by the Biden Administration to rebuild a humane immigration policy that is consistent with international law but recognize that much remains to be done before the few strands of policy improvements enacted to date can be woven into the full fabric of a comprehensive immigration policy. In the meantime, there are some serious gaps that must be filled. 

One of these gaps is the lack of a solid plan for processing asylum seekers in ways that do not cause additional trauma and harm. It is our hope that the U.S. Government will develop a system that provides services similar to that of the Refugee Admissions Program administered by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the Department of State, in conjunction with the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the Department of Health and Human Services. We encourage United Methodists and others to amplify the suggestions offered by the General Board of Church and Society, the advocacy and justice agency of The United Methodist Church, and by Church World Service (CWS), a longstanding ecumenical partner in refugee resettlement and other migration work. 

In a major lift that will increase the collective ability of various agencies to process and welcome newly arrived migrants, UMCOR approved a $1.1 million grant to CWS that will help launch a substantial program to resettle asylum seekers. This will include case management at several Methodist-affiliated border shelters, a national call center for asylum seekers, connection with local resettlement affiliates throughout the U.S., assistance in filing for asylum and many other services.

Our work with National Justice For Our Neighbors (NJFON) includes support of their efforts to provide legal assistance for those seeking asylum as well as their increasing advocacy efforts. 

As the situation on the border evolves, UMCOR will continue to explore opportunities to offer welcome, care and a new sense of belonging to refugees and migrants from around the world.

To support UMCOR’s work in global migration, give online or send a check to Global Ministries/UMCOR, GPO, PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068 with #3022144 in the memo line. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Why are so many people coming to the United States through Mexico? 

There are many reasons people leave their homes. The impact of government corruption, gang violence and natural disasters, like hurricanes, in developing countries can be devastating. Climate change, too, is impacting agriculture in many regions. Crop failures in multiple years, for example, can lead to food insecurity. These reasons and more motivate people to start new lives in new places. 

What are the four rights of migrants? 

UMCOR supports the four rights of migrants consistent with various international conventions, including and dating back to the 1951 Refugee Convention. These include the 

  • RIGHT TO STAY – to facilitate an enabling environment in countries of origin to encourage people to stay in their homes. 
  • RIGHT TO SAFE PASSAGE – if people have absolutely no choice but to leave, to support their ability to travel safely along the migration corridors. 
  • RIGHT TO WELCOMING AND BELONGING – to support a process through which the migrant and the receiving community work together to meet the needs of welcoming, integration and belonging. 
  • RIGHT TO SUPPORT FOR THE RETURNED – to support in whatever way possible the dignified reintegration of the deported and those voluntarily returning to their countries of origin. 

What is UMCOR doing about the situation at the U.S.-Mexican border? UMCOR is working closely with partners such as Church World Service (CWS) and National Justice for our Neighbors (NJFON) to assist refugees and migrants coming to the United States. 

In addition, UMCOR is supporting shelters and other programs on both sides of the border Right now, UMCOR has grants with 17 such entities totaling over $670,000, including emergency grants that have provided shelters with the means to place those with COVID-19 in hotel quarantines, assist with transportation, and provide food and clothing for recent arrivals. 

Should I go to the border to help? 

In most cases, your assistance is needed most wherever you currently reside. Helping refugees at the border is complicated because conditions and policies change daily. Right now, it is best to support those already serving at the border who are familiar with the area, have local and national partners and know the immediate needs of the refugees and migrants hoping to enter the country. 

What can I do to help? 

There are many ways to help refugees and migrants. Pray for those who have fled violence and natural disasters leaving everything behind in hopes of finding safety and new life in a new place. Consider supporting or assisting at a program in your local community that is supporting refugee or asylee resettlement. Invite staff from the program to speak at your local church or civic organization to learn more about their work and what would be helpful to refugees in your area. Support the global migration work done through the United Methodist Committee on Relief by giving online or by mail to Global Ministries/UMCOR, PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068. (“Advance #3022144” should be written on the memo line.) 

The Rev. Jack Amick is director of Global Migration at the United Methodist Committee on Relief