Atlanta, Ga.—Recognizing that the situation at the United States-Mexico border requires immediate and dramatic action, the United Methodist Committee on Relief has awarded new funding to Church World Service (CWS) that will be used to help asylum seekers on their journey to safety. Thanks to the grant from UMCOR, CWS will be able to hire additional staff at some UMC border shelters, provide case management services to asylum seekers and advance its efforts to advocate for rebuilding a humane immigration system in the United States.
“This grant will serve as a vital lifeline for families seeking to build new lives free from persecution and danger,” said Rick Santos, president and CEO of Church World Service. “Asylum seekers don’t just want to come to America, they want to be a part of it. With this support they will be able to become active participants and contributors to our communities.”
On January 20, 2021, President Biden ended the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, which had required asylum seekers to remain indefinitely in unsafe communities along the northern border of Mexico until their cases could be processed. To date, 16,000 individuals have registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and more than 3,000 have already crossed the border. This change in federal policy, combined with significantly increased traffic at the border of non-MPP-affected asylum seekers, has challenged the existing asylum services infrastructure.
UMCOR’s past support of CWS, an agency focused on helping refugees, immigrants and other displaced individuals, helped create the Leading With Welcome program operated in partnership with Justice for our Neighbors (JFON) in Jersey City, Miami and Houston. Through this program, JFON provides legal assistance to asylees, and CWS provides critical case management that helps people seek psychosocial support, health care and other key services.
With the new $1.1 million grant, approved by the UMCOR board at its Spring 2021 meeting, CWS will have additional resources to assist individuals from the moment they are welcomed into a United Methodist Church (UMC) border shelter until they are integrated into a new community in the United States.
“People who have undertaken the long and dangerous journey to seek safety in the United States should be welcomed with compassion and dignity,” said Erol Kekic, senior vice president for the Immigration and Refugee Program of Church World Service. “This partnership and the generosity of UMCOR will allow us to expand the number of asylum seekers we serve across the country to meet the growing need, providing them with resources and support to navigate the complicated asylum system and rebuild their lives.”
“UMCOR and Church World Service have a historical and shared commitment to serving vulnerable displaced persons, something that has been at the core of our respective missions since our agencies were founded in the 1940s,” said Roland Fernandes, general secretary of United Methodist Global Ministries and the United Methodist Committee on Relief. “UMCOR is pleased to provide this significant, additional support to Church World Service’s Leading With Welcome program and enable it to meet the dramatically increasing need for services.”
“There is a pressing need for a coordinated, holistic program to welcome asylum seekers and support their integration in communities in the United States,” said the Rev. Jack Amick, director of global migration for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). “UMCOR’s support of this CWS program not only benefits clients. It demonstrates to an even wider and more diverse audience the importance the faith community plays in standing up for the right to seek asylum in this country.”
The UMCOR grant will enable Church World Service’s Leading with Welcome program to:
- Hire additional staff members to support operations at some UMC border shelters
- Increase protection of 10,000 asylum seekers at UMC border shelters through improved shelter operations, infrastructure, transportation and bed capacity
- Provide case management services to 450 asylum seekers in South Florida and Jersey City
- Provide case management to 150 asylum seekers throughout the United States through the CWS network
- Provide legal services to 200 asylum seekers in South Florida, Jersey City, and throughout the United States
- Improve referral systems and access to services for 1,000 asylum seekers nationwide.
Founded in 1940, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is the global humanitarian relief and development agency of The United Methodist Church. UMCOR, a unit of UM Global Ministries, works in more than 80 countries worldwide, including the United States and its territories. Our mission, grounded in the teachings of Jesus, is to alleviate human suffering — whether caused by war, conflict or natural disaster — with open hearts and minds to all people. UMCOR responds to natural or civil disasters that are interruptions of such magnitude that they overwhelm a community’s ability to recover on its own. UMCOR works through programs that address disaster response and recovery, sustainable development and migration. Learn more at www.UMCOR.org, www.Facebook.com/UMCOR and www.twitter.com/UMC_UMCOR.
Since 1946, Church World Service has supported refugees, immigrants and other displaced individuals, in addition to providing sustainable relief and development solutions to communities that wrestle with hunger and poverty. Learn more about our work and join our global homebase for refugee solidarity at cwsglobal.org.