Central Texas religious leaders form immigration network

  |  Source: Baylor University

Jon Singletary, dean of Baylor University's Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, speaks to the inaugural gathering of Central Texas religious leaders and community organizers who want to build a network of support for families separated by and affected negatively by the United States' immigration policies. (Photo courtesy of Baylor's Garland School of Social Work)

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WACO—More than 30 religious leaders and community organizers from all over Central Texas met at Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work to take the first steps in building a network of support for families separated by and affected negatively by the United States’ immigration policies.

At the July 18 meeting, representatives from multiple Waco-area churches began conversations with participants from organizations such as Greater Waco Legal Services, Waco Immigrants Alliance and the Catholic Charities of Central Texas. The group explored practical ways to help with the crisis at the border and beyond.

Passion to protect families

Pastor Jaime McGlothlin of Valley Mills United Methodist Church shared her passion for working to protect families and children.

“I am so grateful for the ways we are working together knowing they are relying on us, brothers and sisters in Christ, to support them,” she said.

McGlothlin wrote a letter to Rep. Bill Flores (R-Bryan) in late June when the Attorney General’s Zero-Tolerance Policy captured national attention for separating families charged with the misdemeanor crime of crossing the border to seek asylum.

When she asked other local pastors to sign her letter, she ended up with almost 75 signatures and a rally with more than 200 people who joined to deliver the letter.

Later that week, President Trump signed an executive order shifting his policy, which would stop separating families, but would still send them to detention centers for seeking asylum.

After other gatherings and conversations, a group of Baylor faculty and local pastors asked religious leaders from all around the region to gather to hear updates about immigration policy and practice and to learn how to support children and families at the border.

Group explores pitfalls of immigration system

Anali Gatlin Looper, director of Waco’s chapter of American Gateways, an immigration legal services entity, described what has been happening to families and children who are immigrants in Texas and the overwhelming maze and “pitfalls” of the U.S. legal immigration system.

Victor Hinojosa, Baylor Honors College faculty member, presented his research to help the local leaders understand what has been happening in Central America to force families to flee the region and why so many have sought asylum in the United States.

Jon Singletary, dean of the Garland School of Social Work, helped to host the event. He expressed his gratitude for religious leaders across faith traditions who want to work together to offer care and compassion for their neighbors.

“Brothers and sisters in Christ whom we have served on mission trips and with whom we worship as part of the global church trust that the faith community in the United States practices hospitality in welcoming strangers, so they come to us seeking God’s grace. How will we respond?” Singletary asked.

The gathering of diverse Christians and other faith leaders is a welcome sign in working together to demonstrate God’s love, some participants agreed.

“I invite the congregations and the people of Central Texas to understand and hear the deep and abounding grace and love of God at work in these families’ lives, through their struggles and their stories,” said Kent McKeever, founder of Greater Waco Legal Services.

The emerging network is planning other educational events on the Baylor campus for the fall as well as partnerships with organizations directly serving children and families seeking to be reunited at the border.

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