According to the UN Refugee Agency, 929,850 people in the United states are refugees and asylum seekers, fleeing persecution from their home country. What is Episcopal Charities doing for this marginalized group in the Diocese of New York? With the persecution of asylum seekers and immigrants by the current presidential administration, a great need has arisen for programs that can offer help to those fleeing their home country. One church that has taken up this mantel and created a program to specifically serve the undocumented community is Holy Cross / Santa Cruz, Kingston, and recently it has been getting some attention.
In 2017, not long after the new presidential administration was in place, there was a travel ban implemented impermanently on certain countries. This kickstarted a movement at Holy Cross / Santa Cruz which became known as the Ulster Immigrant Defense Network (UIDN). UIDN was formed in March of that year, to help the many immigrants in need throughout the Ulster community. The program includes translators, “Know Your Rights” training, connections to local schools that are willing to accommodate immigrant needs, transportation to and from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) meetings, as well as companionship and legal advice during both ICE meetings and any other court proceedings, and finally, sanctuary. Since then, UIDN has expanded well beyond Holy Cross / Santa Cruz, and now includes many other community organizations within Ulster. Last June, Episcopal Charities granted them a $20,000 Program Investment Grant.
All this positive work being done by UIDN has been getting attention in the press as well, especially after the abysmal practice of family separation at the border was instated this summer. A local television news station, Spectrum News, reported on the program, through the stories of some of its most at-risk clients. Eighteen different families seeking asylum from San Luis, Guatemala, where their community was damaged greatly by consistent gang violence, have recently come Kingston, and they are in great need of services. Several of the younger children only know K’iche’, their native language, and need assistance because they have enrolled in school. Many family members have been forced to wear security anklets so ICE knows where they are at all times, and also need chaperones to their meetings with ICE. UIDN is providing as much assistance as possible, with the help of grants from Episcopal Charities and other donors.
If you would like to watch a 2-minute video, and read the article from Spectrum News, click here
To learn more about UIDN and how you can help, click here.