Social Justice

St. Andrew’s is now a Sanctuary Church

In a press conference on February 9, St. Andrew’s announced that it is now a sanctuary church. Sanctuary churches provide refuge to people who are under threat of being taken into the custody of the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

Here are links to more coverage:

KVUE (Austin area ABC affiliate)

NPR (National Public Radio)

Univision (en español)

And here is the text of the statement St. Andrew’s minister, Jim Rigby, read at the February 9 press conference:


Hilda’s story did not begin when she arrived at The U.S. border.

In 1954, the democratically elected government of Guatemala was undermined by the CIA and replaced with a brutal dictator who would be more cooperative with the business interests of the United States. This coup d’etat crushed the hopes of the Guatemalan people for peace and justice, and plunged that nation into decades of violence, torture and political oppression. To this day, the violence in Guatemala is still considered “critical” by the State Department. In 2013, the people of Guatemala suffered 101 murders a week.

A few weeks ago, a survivor from that violence named Hilda contacted our church seeking sanctuary. Our church had to ask the age old question, “Are we our sister’s keeper?” In other words, can we listen to Hilda’s painful story of escaping from the violence of her nation, and not take responsibility for the role our own nation played in producing the violence from which she is fleeing? Could we be silent as Hilda is sent back to almost certain death, and still call ourselves followers of the Christ who loves her?

A sanctuary is not just a fancy room with velvet pews and stain glass windows. A sanctuary is a place where God’s love and protection is a living reality. Our faith demands that we treat refugees as our neighbors. Our faith demands that we open our doors even when others are shutting theirs. Our faith demands that we recognize Hilda as our sister, and that we offer her sanctuary from those who would harm her.

This church is not alone in recognizing our responsibility to provide sanctuary. The Sanctuary Movement emerged as a network in the 1980’s to protect Central American refugees fleeing the results of destabilized nations: gang violence, human trafficking, extreme poverty, domestic violence and political oppression. We walk in the footsteps of over 300 courageous congregations throughout this nation working together to offer hospitality and justice to those storm tossed souls caught in the power play between nations.

Over the last 18 months, the Sanctuary Movement has worked on 13 sanctuary cases winning relief from deportation for 11 people in 9 cities throughout the country. We join our voices with other faith traditions here in Austin, and across our land, calling upon the America we love to take responsibility for the violence we have brought into the lives of millions of people just like Hilda. We are asking that the raids, deportations and imprisonment of families stop until the nations we helped shatter can be healed, and people can live there in peace.

Hilda’s story did not begin when she showed up at America’s border. Hilda was born into a nightmare. We would be renouncing our responsibility as Americans to treat Hilda as a stranger. And we would be renouncing Christ by not opening our doors to a desperate sister whom Christ loves.

Yes, Hilda, you are our sister, and we are each other’s keeper. We open our doors to you as a place of sacred sanctuary.

Rev. Jim Rigby,
St. Andrews Presbyterian Church

Update on Family Detentionurl

from Grassroots Leadership

Finally, family detention has been declared illegal! On Friday night, Judge Dolly Gee released the long-awaited decision in the case against family detention. She ruled that the Administration’s family detention policy violates the terms of the Flores settlement, which lays out minimum conditions for children held in federal immigration custody.

You can read the reaction from Texas advocates here.

In the decision, Judge Gee excoriates the government’s reasoning for maintaining family detention in language that display the same outrage felt by immigrant advocates. “It is astonishing that Defendants [ICE] have enacted a policy requiring such expensive infrastructure without more evidence to show that it would be compliant with an Agreement that has been in effect for nearly 20 years or effective at achieving what Defendants hoped it would accomplish,” Gee wrote.

Watch a quick video here by AILA attorneys with the main points of the decision and what happens next.

The decision is clear that children, even if with a parent, cannot be held in secure, unlicensed facilities. This covers all three family detention camps: Dilley, Karnes, and Berks. The government has until August 3 to provide arguments to why the decision should not be enforced, but Grassroots Leadership and other advocates are urging the Administration not to appeal this decision and to immediately close all three family detention camps.

Please sign the petition against the appeal here.

Advocates are also calling on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to stop the practice of placing electronic ankle monitors on parents released from the facilities and to fully educate families on the terms of their release. Judge Gee’s decision is clear that the Flores settlement requires children to be released first to their parents, as long as they do not provide any flight risk or threat to national security. Accordingly, we are urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials to ensure that no child is separated from their parents.

We want to take this opportunity to celebrate this victory with you, and thank you for all your work to end family detention! Though we’re not finished yet, this decision is the beginning of the end for family detention.

After Dilley

We had a good experience with the bus trip to protest Dilley on May 2nd. Your Social Justice Committee hopes you enjoyed the chance to make a stand against family detention.
There are a number of articles published after the trip describing what is happening to family detention in our legal system.  There is reason for encouragement.  U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee issued a tentative ruling that the present detention policy violates the 1997 Flores v. MeeseSettlement Agreement. Attorneys for both sides have until May 24th to reach an agreement before Judge Gee makes a final ruling.  So we shall see….
Please keep informed on this issue.  Here are references (links) to read more on this important human rights issue:
On a “local” note our own Jim Comer has written a wonderful Letter to the Editor, which appeared in the Austin American Statesman.  This has been posted to the St. Andrew’s Facebook page.
More updates will follow.  For now, peace!
Your Social Justice Committee




Protest at Dilley, TX Family Detention Center

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To learn more about Family Detention Centers, please click HERE.

Articles about the protest:

Texas Tribune

San Antonio Express-News


Volunteer for a Good Cause

The Workers Defense Project is a local organization that works to achieve Justice, Fairness and Safety for construction workers in Austin. They have made some remarkable progress in empowering low income workers in achieving fair employment.  St. Andrews has had a working relationship with them for several years. For more information about them see their website: They have some very specific volunteer opportunities. We encourage you to look over the list and see if there’s an opportunity to help that matches your abilities, interests and schedule.

  • Case intake volunteer (Must speak Spanish): 
  • Monitoring volunteer (2-5 hrs/wk):
    • Revising documents received from contractors in order to ensure that standards are being met on Better Builder sites.
    • Putting information from payrolls in a designated Excel spreadsheet for quick use by monitors.
    • Organizing documentation, so that it is easily accessible by monitors.
  • Special event volunteer (2-4 hrs/wk)
  • Data entry (2-4 hrs/wk)
  • Sunday through Thursday in the evening.
  • Tuesday night 6-9pm

If you are interested contact Brigid Hall, WDP volunteer coordinator at or 512-391-2305 x8303.  The WDP office is located at 5604 Manor Rd in Austin.   Brigid will forward your information along to the appropriate staff person. Thanks for your help in making the world a better and safer place!

Social Justice for Immigrants

Almost 50,000 children are currently being held in disease-ridden, filthy facilities as prisoners.  They are fleeing unbearable violence from drug cartels in their home countries.  They do not need to be sent back to this violence, nor do they need to be treated as criminals.  They are refugees.  Sending them back to these countries should not be an option. Continuing to imprison them is a tragedy and a stain upon American integrity and honor.  If you would like to sign a petition to ask our representative to stop this action click HERE! Is Travis County Really ‘Immigrant-Friendly”? You can notify Sheriff Greg Hamilton that you do not want our elected officials to support the dubious practice of ‘detaining’ immigrants based on requests from ICE. 1.  Select “Sample Letter 1” and “Sample Letter 2”. Sample Letter #1 is better if you’re not a resident of Travis County.  (Sample letters below) 2.  Choose a letter with which you’re more comfortable, insert current date, and type your name on the bottom so that your signature will fit above. 3.  Save your letter on your computer as a “word.doc”. 4.  Print out the letter. Sign your signature. 5.  Mail your letter to: Sheriff Greg Hamilton 5555 Airport Blvd. Austin, TX 78751 6.  If possible, send a short email to all of the Travis County Commissioners, attaching the “word.doc”, stating that you don’t agree with ICE “detainers”, and have mailed the attached letter to Sheriff Hamilton. Email addresses of the Commissioners are listed below. You certainly may change or hand-write the letter to suit your comfort. The important thing is that we send Sheriff Hamilton as many letters as possible. We hope to exert “pressure” on Sheriff Hamilton to stop cooperating with ICE “detainers”. Many other groups have also sent many letters. These include Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, Texas Civil Rights Project, Grassroots Leadership, Texas Civic Engagement Table, University Leadership Initiative, and many local religious organizations. Also you might be interested in signing an online petition from Grassroots Leadership.  They will be delivering this petition to City Council and County Commission in the coming weeks – More Facts:ACLU link / NYTimes Article 2014 Sample Letter 1 Sample Letter 2 Email Addresses—Travis County Commissioners,,,,

Overture Non-sexist Language

Allowing congregations to use non-sexist language in any or all aspects of the church’s life Download the Overture Non-sexist Language Download our policy on Inclusive Language Listen to Jim Rigby’s sermon “Moving Beyond Sexism”

A Few of Our Past Events to Promote Social Justice:

AssaHuman Rightsult on Human Rights Conference – February 15 & 16, 2013 Watch presentations by the following speakers: “The Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement” presented by Jim Taylor  (retired Rhetoric Professor – Auburn University) “Immigration Rights & Mass Incarcerations” presented by Bob Libal “Human Rights Through an Indigenous Lens” presented by June Lorenzo  (Attorney) “Workers Rights” presented by Greg Casar  (Workers Defense Project) “Marriage Equality – No Second Class Relationships” presented by  Rev. Janie Spahr & Rev. Ray Bagnuolo (That All May Freely Serve) “Gender-based Discrimination” presented by Susan Hays (Attorney) “Why Grassroots Political Organizing & Activism Matters”  presented by Robert Jensen (Professor – University of Texas)

Social Justice Speakers:

Speech by James Galbraith

Speaker – James Galbraith 2011-04-03 from St. Andrew’s Church on Vimeo.   Robert McChesney, professor, speech communication.

Speech by Robert McChesney

Speaker – Robert McChesney 2011-02-06 from St. Andrew’s Church on Vimeo.

Work for Social Justice at Home: Buy Fair Trade Goods

When you buy FaFair Tradeir Trade goods, you help farmers and other local producers earn a fairer share of income. In the kitchen at St. Andrew’s, we serve only Fair Trade coffee from Texas Coffee Traders.  But check many local suppliers to see their wide selection of gourmet coffees that are Fair Trade Certified. Equal Exchange is one of these companies that works with small farmer cooperatives in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. In addition to offering their partners a fairer price, Equal Exchange helps them get credit, offers them technical support, and provides a trading partner they can trust.Fair Trade Certified Equal Exchange offers many Fair Trade items— check out their selection of teas, chocolates, cocoa, clothing, and other goods.  All goods offered by Equal Exchange are traded fairly.

Social Justice in Action

With the Texas State Legislature in session, there’s a lot going on at the Capitol regarding Social Justice.  Here are some local websites that provide action information and upcoming events: GLBT Rights:

Workers’ Rights/Immigration Policy:

Election Campaign Finance Reform:

Prison Reform & Capital Punishment Reform:

Healthcare Access/Medicaid Expansion:

Domestic Violence: