As hundreds of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers from across the globe are seeking entry into the United States, churches on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border are providing the much-needed assistance and hospitality to their vulnerable brothers and sisters.
Last weekend, The Justice Conference hosted a conference on migration and refugees in San Diego, California. Glen Peterson, the Southern California Office Director for evangelical refugee resettlement agency World Relief, spoke as a panelist about how churches can and are responding to the crisis.
“Churches on both sides of the border are providing shelter,” Peterson told The Christian Post in an interview.
“I met a pastor on Saturday, who as we were talking to him about the migrants and asylum seekers corrected us. He said, ‘We don’t refer to them that way. We refer them to them as our guests.’
On June 1, Peterson and volunteer attorneys and paralegals who have partnered with World Relief, took a trip to Tijuana, Mexico to meet with migrants and asylum seekers there.
According to Peterson, Iglesia Cristiana Bautista Camino de Salvación in Tijuana is one church that has been at the forefront of providing for migrants and asylum seekers in the Mexican border town who have not yet approached the border to make a claim.
“They’ve set up rooms that would have been Sunday school rooms. But they’ve built bunk beds for men and another area for families,” Peterson detailed after visiting the church. “It is really cool that they’re stepping up to that. They are getting donated food and supplies to help folks out there.”
Over the course of the last 11 months, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals has led 24 trips to the southern border and has facilitated over 250 one-on-one consultations between potential asylum seekers and U.S. immigration law professionals.
On Saturday, the legal professionals brought to Tijuana by World Relief helped educate the “guests” on U.S. asylum law and instructed them on how to elevate the relevant facts of their cases should they decide to seek asylum in the United States.
Many of them have fled their homelands in Central America, Africa, and Asia out of fear of violence and persecution or have migrated for economic reasons.
World Relief has provided presentations on immigration and asylum law in churches, at migrant shelters, at a legal clinic, and outdoors where migrants gather to learn about how the process works.
While some migrants and asylum seekers have decided that it’s best for them to make an asylum claim with the U.S. government, others have decided it is best for them to apply for a humanitarian visa in Mexico instead of risking their claim being denied by the U.S.
A rejection could result in them being sent back to their home countries after traveling thousands of miles to escape danger in those places.
Peterson also met with a number of Haitian migrants in Tijuana who have been in Mexico for over a year.
“I had the opportunity about a year ago to start meeting with some of the churches. There’s a Baptist and a Nazarene and a Pentecostal church that had allowed some of the Haitian migrants to live with them in their church building and help them find jobs,” Peterson explained.
Much like Iglesia Cristiana Bautista Camino de Salvación, Peterson said that the First Baptist Church of Tijuana has set up a shelter for Haitian migrants.
“Out of that came a church plant,” Peterson stated. “So there’s now a worshiping community, a congregation meeting on-site in Creole at a Mexican church. And they’re also providing ongoing support. [The migrants] can go to Spanish classes, in some cases at the church.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith