EHF’s Congregational Engagement team is excited to announce a partnership with UTMB in Galveston to co-host a special conference examining the health barriers migrants face in Texas. The Who Cares for the Health of Migrants? conference will explore health outcomes, accessing health services, and the role that different sectors ranging from government to faith organizations can play to make an impact.
The conference will be held October 11-12 at UTMB in Galveston. Additional hosts include Oxfam American and the Pan American Health Organization. Click here for information on how to register for the event.
The hope is that the convening will include a diverse set of groups and organizations, including churches across the Episcopal Diocese of Texas that are involved in migration and refugee work. The conference is designed to help foster deeper knowledge of the health situation facing immigrants, build new relationships among people and groups concerned with immigrants, and lay the groundwork for future work together. EHF will also use the conference as an opportunity to determine the Foundation’s future work in the area of immigration in partnership with churches.
The Episcopal Church has a long history of serving immigrants new to the United States. Since the late 1800s, the church opened chaplaincies in port cities on the east and west coasts to minister to newly arriving immigrants. Local parishes collected funds to help those fleeing from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Currently, Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) is one of only nine national agencies through which all refugees enter the United States for resettlement.
The Episcopal Diocese of Texas is an active participant with EMM and many congregations in the Diocese have hosted refugee families. St. Michael’s, Austin was featured in this recent Texas Tribune article describing the ordeal of a Syrian family attempting to reach the US during the recent travel ban.
In June, Bishop Andy Doyle wrote a letter to Governor Greg Abbott and issued a strong statement condemning Senate Bill 4 that would allow state, local and campus police to serve in an immigration enforcement role which has traditionally been the responsibility of federal immigration enforcement. The law is scheduled to take effect on September 1, 2017.
Congregations such as San Pedro Pasadena, San Pablo Houston, St. Alban’s Houston and St. James’ Austin (Proyecto Santiago) have been organizing events to support the immigrant community, including “know your rights” seminars to help immigrants understand their rights when interacting with public officials and helping to prepare legal documents in case a family member is deported. They are also helping legal residents apply for citizenship.
At the Who Cares for the Health of Migrants? conference, interested congregation members will have the opportunity to connect with public health authorities, leading academics and other community organizations to learn about the unique barriers immigrants face when accessing health services. Participants will discuss both challenges and opportunities for solutions, and they will lay the groundwork for working together on policy solutions that could address some of the underlying barriers.
A recent New York Times article describes how recent increased immigration enforcement is causing some immigrants to avoid accessing the health system. It describes some of the many potential public health impacts on the wider community such as the spread of infectious diseases that could result should this trend continue.
Let us know if you are interested in attending the conference. You can learn more about the conference and register here. EHF can support registration and travel costs for parishioners or clergy interested in attending the conference.