Episcopal churches, ecumenical partners address crisis as asylum-seekers continue to arrive daily in Chicago

An asylum-seeker picks out clothing at St. Chrysostom’s Episcopal Church in Chicago. The church’s clothing ministry, Chrys’ Closet, provides clothes and other necessities for asylum-seekers in need of essentials. Photo/Dell Hall

By Shireen Korkzan

Episcopal News Service

Over the last year, more than 11,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in Chicago by private bus from Texas, and the numbers continue to rise as the city faces a humanitarian crisis because its shelters are over capacity.

For a year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been bussing asylum-seekers to Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and other cities that are designated “sanctuary cities” daily as a “protest against immigration policies.” These cities have passed laws that protect undocumented migrants from deportation or prosecution by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement despite federal law prohibiting illegal immigration.” Chicago designated itself a “sanctuary city” in 1985.

The first busload of asylum-seekers arrived at Chicago’s Union Station from Texas in late August last year.

“Most of the time, the asylum-seekers either have no idea where they’re heading, or they think they’ll arrive at their intended final destinations to reunite with families already settled in the United States, only to end up surprised that they ended up in Chicago instead,” said the Rev. Steven Balke, canon for outreach and pastoral care at St. James Cathedral in downtown Chicago.

Episcopal churches throughout Chicago are partnering with area faith-based and secular nonprofit organizations to assist asylum-seekers as they arrive in the city. Efforts include using churches as emergency housing sites and providing transportation for asylum-seekers needing to meet with immigration officials, among others.

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