Welcoming Refugees to Northern California

Welcoming Refugees to Northern California

Lynn Zender, left, listens to Wendy Grace, diocesan liaison for refugees in the Diocese of Vermont, at an EMM training in Hartford, Connecticut, earlier this year.

Photo by Lynette Wilson, Episcopal News Service

By Lynn Zender

The Episcopal Church has long supported a robust refugee resettlement program for those fleeing their countries to escape persecution, oppression, and war. Through the Episcopal Migration Ministries, our church has worked in public-private partnership with the U.S. government to resettle thousands of refugees since the inception of the program in 1980.

In our local diocese, our work has mainly focused on information and advocacy. With information supplied by Episcopal Public Policy Network, EMM and California Immigrant Policy Center, we have been monitoring and supporting legislation both at the state and federal level.  

At the hands-on level, St. Michael's, Carmichael, and St. Matthew's, Sacramento, have teamed up with the International Rescue Committee to work with refugee resettlement. These two congregations provide sponsorship and space for volunteer-staffed Mommy & Me classes (that include ESL and life skills) at St. Matthew's. A charter school for adults to learn English is also located at St. Matthew's.  A concentration of refugees are resettling in the Arden Arcade area, so this is a perfect match for these two congregations.

I recently attended a training conference led by Episcopal Migration Ministries and want to share some of what I have brought back to our Diocese. 

One of the questions a number of people asked me to explore was, "What can we do locally?" Here are some ideas:

• There are four agencies in the Sacramento area doing refugee resettlement. Two of them are Opening Doors and the Sacramento Chapter of the International Rescue Committee.   Both would welcome volunteers and donations.  Please take a look at their websites www.rescue.org/united-states/sacramento-ca and/or www.openingdoorsinc.org/.

•If you would like to be part of our legislative advocacy group, please contact me via email at LynnZender@sbcglobal.net.  As we continue, I will send you alerts along with background material on what is happening both in Sacramento and in Washington.

•Think about being a support person for refugees/immigrants who receive visits from ICE.  The concept is to be with the immigrant as they get visited by ICE to help make sure they are aware of their rights and resources. Training classes are being offered by Sacramento ACT (Area Congregations Together).

•Take some time to go on the Episcopal Migration Ministries website (www.episcopalmigrationministries.org/) to learn more about what is happening with refugees or go to the national Episcopal Public Policy Network (advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/) to get information about immigration.

•Convene a group at your church to talk about what you would like to do: hands-on activities, donation drives, financial contributions, legislative advocacy. Any and all are possible; once you decide I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. (And, if you are already doing something, I would love to hear about it so we can have a picture of activities around our Diocese.) My email is LynnZender@sbcglobal.net, and my home phone number is 530-756-4610.

Lynn Zender of Davis is the Northern California coordinator for Welcoming the Stranger Immigration & Refugee Ministries.

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