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UMC, Church World Service launch $2 million project to help asylum seekers

UMC, Church World Service launch $2 million project to help asylum seekers

A group of evangelical pastors pray with a group of 22 migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and Salvador underneath the Paso Del Norte Bridge where they are being held for processing in El Paso, Texas, on March 28, 2019. | Christ Chavez/Getty Images

The United Methodist Church and the humanitarian group Church World Service have announced the beginning of a $2 million project aimed at helping asylum seekers.

CWS, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, and National Justice For Our Neighbors, a United Methodist network that aids immigrants which was founded by UMCOR, will collaborate on the project.

The project was introduced during the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries meeting, held in Atlanta, Georgia, on Oct. 10-12.

During the business meeting, UMCOR leadership approved an $820,000 grant to CWS and a grant of approximately $1.03 million to NJFON.

New York Area Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, president of UMCOR, explained to United Methodist News in an interview published Tuesday that the grants were key to their mission.

“In the midst of these challenging days for so many, whether it is due to a natural disaster, a life-threatening disease or the ongoing threats of persecution, we take seriously our role to make our name come alive for anyone anywhere that needs the United Methodist Committee on Relief,” Bikerton told UM News.

For its part, CWS will assist asylum seekers with enrolling in language classes, housing, registering children for school, and gaining access to community, state, and federal programs.

“None of us can do this alone and we felt that establishing a partnership with UMCOR and Justice for Our Neighbors was the right way to address this,” said Erol Kekic, executive director of the CWS Immigration and Refugee Program, as reported by UM News.

“We all bring to the table different assets and capacities, and we certainly can do more together than we can do alone.”

Last month, the Trump administration announced that it plans to resettle a maximum of 18,000 refugees in fiscal year 2020, which goes from Oct. 1, 2019, to Sept. 30, 2020.

This marks the lowest refugee resettlement cap since the passage of Refugee Resettlement Act of 1980 and is lower than the previous record of 30,000 for fiscal year 2019.

“This proposed ceiling takes into account the ongoing security and humanitarian crisis on our border and the massive asylum backlog, which now includes nearly 1 million individuals,” the White House said in a fact sheet released in September.

“The overwhelming backlog is completely unsustainable and needs to be addressed before we accept large numbers of refugees.”

On Tuesday, CWS joined other faith-based and human rights groups in protesting the newest refugee resettlement cap, with police arresting 18 individuals.

“Risking handcuffs pales in comparison to what refugees risk every day to live simple lives in peace and freedom,” said CWS President the Rev. John L. McCullough. “As a representative of the faith community, I could not in good conscience sit idly by as Secretary Pompeo came to Capitol Hill to get a rubber stamp on his woefully inadequate and cruel proposal,” he added.

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