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A few hours ago, Yabberz contributor Denice Patrick told me about the news from Seattle and as a fellow Episcopalian I have a certain sense of joy to share this press release:
Episcopal Diocese of Olympia Joins ACLU Lawsuit to Challenge Executive Order on Refugees
The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia has joined with the ACLU to file a lawsuit against the federal government in response to President Trump’s executive order banning refugees and immigrants from seven predominately Muslim countries. While the words Muslim and Islam are never specifically mentioned in the executive order, references to ‘honor killings’ and ‘radicalization’ evoke the worst stereotypes of the Islamic faith. The addition of sections that make exceptions for religious minorities makes it clear that this is executive order is a ban on Muslims in all but name. The purpose of this lawsuit is to block President Trump’s executive order that intentionally discriminates against refugees based on their nationality and religion.
In a statement issued on the day President Trump signed the executive order, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, Greg Rickel, said, “This executive order is a violation of the foundational principles of our nation. As a member of the Jesus movement, I believe the United States has a moral responsibility to receive and help resettle refugees from the more than 65 million people who have been displaced by war, violence, famine, and persecution. To turn these vulnerable people away and limit the flow of refugees into our country is to dishonor the One we serve.”
The Diocese of Olympia’s Refugee Resettlement Office (RRO) assists in the resettlement of 190 individuals each year. Many of these refugees come from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and Libya – all countries that fall under President Trump’s executive order. The RRO assists refugees by meeting families at the airport, providing cultural orientation, helping families find and furnish an apartment, and helping them find employment. The office also provides English classes, helps refugees achieve financial stability with a matched savings program, and provides loans for refugee micro-enterprises. The parishioners of St. James, Kent and Saint Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle have worked with the RRO to sponsor two families who arrived from Syria in the last year.
Since the executive order has been in place, six families (12 individuals) the RRO had been prepared to resettle were stranded in an airport somewhere outside of the United States, while 50 refugees who had been interviewed by an immigration judge and granted visas were not allowed to leave their country of origin. Three refugees entering the country from El Salvador were detained with only one allowed to enter the country. 90% of the RRO’s clients stuck outside of the country are from one of the seven countries affected by the executive order.
The executive order has created chaos in airports across the nation and exacerbated an already fraught humanitarian crisis. The administration’s policy on refugees has created an additional stress and burden on the staff and clients of our Refugee Resettlement Office. The consequences of this executive order have also been felt by members of our community, parishioners who are legal residents of the United States that have been subjected to detainment and questioning simply because they fled from one of the seven countries specified by the executive order. Although courts in Washington State and around the country have granted temporary restraining orders, the Diocese of Olympia has joined with the ACLU in this lawsuit because many of the existing class actions do not help the refugees who are stuck outside of the country.
About the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia
The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia was founded in 1853. We are also known as the Episcopal Church in Western Washington. Admitted by General Convention in 1910, the Diocese of Olympia is made up of more than 26,000 Episcopalians in more than 100 worshiping communities through Western Washington. Our geographic area stretches south from Canada to Oregon and west from the foothills of the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
About the Refugee Resettlement Office
The Diocese of Olympia's Refugee Resettlement Office (RRO) helps refugees and asylum seekers achieve economic self-sufficiency through resettlement, job placement activities, and business development programs that promote self-sufficiency. The Refugee Resettlement Office, an affiliate of Episcopal Migration Ministries, was founded in 1978, serving refugees and asylum seekers living in the Seattle area. The RRO’s clients can come to us from anywhere in the world seeking guidance and assistance in building a new life in America. The RRO offers the following services:
- English as a Second Language Classes
- Employment Assistance
- Individual Development Accounts
- Micro-Enterprise Programs
- Citizenship Classes
- Business Training
- Financial Literacy Training
- STARS Training
While I am a YUGE fan of the Separation of Church and State, I appreciate the actions of the Episcopal Bishop Gregory Rickel, leader of the Diocese Of Olympia.
Denice Patrick serves on The Diocesan Council whose focus is primarily in three areas: fiduciary responsibility; public relations, to include outreach, facilitated conversations and connectedness; and program administration and support; prayerfully responds to the needs of congregations; and serves as a sounding board for the bishop.
On Saturday 4 Feb 2017, the Bishop called the Council to discuss the filing of this lawsuit jointly with the ACLU and was strongly supported by that esteemed body in a conference meeting on Monday 6 FEB 2017 after the Council had the opportunity to review the proposed filing. (Denice has written about her experiences with one of the refugees before):
I personally thank Denice and her fellow Council members for their powerful show of faith.
It was not just from the sense of right or wrong, but from a direct connection to those faced with extreme hardship at the actions of the current Administration that created the sense of urgency that inspired Bishop Rickel to reach out to these Stewards of the Church. There was an immediate need.
The Diocese has operated the Refugee Resettlement Office (RRO), an affiliate of Episcopal Migration Ministries, since 1978 and according to the Director of the RRO Greg Hope, six families the RRO is supporting had their entry into the USA disrupted by the travel ban enacted through the Executive Order signed by Trump.
The Staff of the Diocesan Refugee Resettlement Office (Director Greg Hope 4th from right 2nd row)
These families that have the misfortune of hailing from a few of the nations on the list had already obtained refugee status, having been previously vetted through their interviews with immigration judges who travel to the camps and typically physically meet those who are applying for entry into what will become their new home.
The people that the Episcopal Migration Ministries assist come from diverse backgrounds, are not selected by their religion, but by their need. About 190 souls are brought in annually through this process, relocated into the areas surrounding Seattle and provided assistance for typically about a year, though many of them are off any form of assistance before then.
Just a few of the over 15,000 new residents of the USA that the Diocese has helped resettle over the 40 years that the RRO has been in operation.
Currently with the Executive Order in abeyance, four of the families are expected to arrive on Wednesday 8 Feb 2017. We wish them safe voyage and welcome them to their new homes.
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