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Bishop Ely Explains Participation in Amici Curiae Briefs Opposing Trump Immigration Orders

Bishop Ely Explains Participation in Amici Curiae Briefs Opposing Trump Immigration Orders

Dear people of the Episcopal Church in Vermont,

Many of you have seen reports of my joining with other bishops in the recent signing of two amici curiae briefs, each related to one of the two Executive Orders on immigration issued by President Trump earlier this year. Links to both amicus briefs can be found here:

Episcopal Bishops Motion for Leave to File Amicus Brief – 4th circuit

Episcopal Bishops Amicus Curiae Brief – 9th circuit

I recognize that not all members of the Episcopal Church in Vermont agree with my decision to join these amici curiae briefs, and some disagree with the perspective expressed in the briefs. I respect that different perspective, and yet still think it is important for you to know why I joined the other bishops in signing on to these amici curiae briefs. My reasons for joining with other bishops in the filing of these briefs is best stated in these words from the 2nd amicus curiae brief:

Among the central tenets of the Episcopal Church (the “Church”) are “to welcome the immigrant and the stranger,” especially those who are poor, sick, and most in need of help, to provide a safe haven for those seeking freedom from oppression, and to uphold the dignity of every human being.[1] 

At a recent clergy day on the topic of refugees held at Trinity Church, Rutland, we heard from refugee resettlement leaders in Vermont about the impact of the Executive Orders on their capacity to do their work, work that many in our diocese have been part of for a very long time. During that gathering, I mentioned my pending participation in these amici curiae briefs and received strong support from my clergy colleagues. As the amici curiae briefs note, the President’s executive order has:

…slammed the door on people who have suffered some of the greatest atrocities in recent times, and it does this solely on the basis of their religion. From its earliest inception, the United States has been a safe haven for followers of all religions in part because religious tolerance is a value enshrined in the Constitution through the Establishment Clause. The President’s Original Executive Order and his Revised Executive Order directly contradict these values, and in doing so undermine America’s longstanding and special status as a place of refuge for the world’s most vulnerable populations.

I am particularly concerned about the impact of these Executive Orders on the people most directly affected by these decisions, the people seeing refuge. And I am also concerned about the impact on the agencies who work to welcome and incorporate refugees into their new life here in the United States, including Episcopal Migrations Ministries (EMM) and the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program. As the amici curiae briefs point out:

Prior to these Executive Orders, these agencies and many like them invested substantial resources in preparing to welcome hundreds of refugee families—including families from Syria, Iraq, and Somalia—into communities across the county, (including Vermont… The chaos surrounding the implementation of the Executive Orders has also required EMM to expend additional, unplanned-for resources… In addition, many of EMM’s resources devoted to these refugee families over the past months have now been wasted. The Revised Executive Order further exacerbates the harm to EMM and the many people it serves.

Furthermore, as the amici curiae briefs describe:

Both Executive Orders have caused and continue to cause significant additional harm to the very vulnerable people that EMM serves. These refugees are fleeing persecution in their countries of origin, and because of the President’s Executive Orders, they now face persecution in the safe haven they had been promised in the United States. The dramatic reduction in the overall number of refugees allowed will not only rob families of hope and a future, but will also cost some of them their lives. 

I want to be clear that I support efforts to have good security and background check measures in place as we process refugee requests for a new and safer home. I believe those precautions and safeguards are sufficiently in place and that those who are granted refugee status in the United States have been more than adequately vetted.

According to Episcopal Migration Ministries, “At current rates of resettlement, less than 1% of refugees will ever be resettled.” The other 99% continue to live in isolated Refugee Camps, where life is anything but safe and secure. I am hopeful that compassionate hearts and minds will support efforts to continue the generous hospitality of the United States to those seeking a safe haven from the dangerous situations they face. Our Baptismal Covenant promise to “respect the dignity of every human being” remains my strongest motivation in support of refugees.




[1] Episcopal churches issue statement ‘of shared values about immigration and refugees’; encourage others to sign, Episcopal News Service (Mar. 16, 2017),

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