EL PASO, Texas — Thousands of undocumented migrant children wait, detained, at the southern border of the U.S. Many of them will never make it further than these makeshift detention centers; they face being deported back to their home countries.
However, for the lucky few that obtain asylum in the U.S., another tough journey unfolds — the journey of finding a new home. Fortunately, these children and others migrants like them have the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service to help them.
Since 1939, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, in cooperation with the U.S. government and international aid groups, has strived to welcome immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers to America. LIRS aims to see these people “protected, embraced and empowered” and hopes to spread these goals to other nations and communities.
Founded before the start of World War II, the initial function of LIRS was to service refugees fleeing violence in Europe. Since that time, the organization has welcomed and aided more than 379,000 refugees to the U.S., with a special focus on helping children and immigrants fleeing violent persecution.
In the late 1970s, LIRS began co-administering a Joint Volunteer Agency in Hong Kong and Macau in order to assist over 75,000 Vietnamese boat people. For 15 years, LIRS worked in the region in order to provide legal services and assistance with resettlement.
In 1999, LIRS took part in a humanitarian evacuation program in order to give a new home to 1,700 ethnic Albanians ousted by violent conflict in their home region.
LIRS acts on a series of core principles, five hallmarks and human rights to which they believe all refugees are entitled: basic human needs, protection & justice, children & families, integration and leadership & influence.
Volunteers, donors and partners of LIRS are united primarily by their Lutheran faith and by their American citizenship. But, through the program they grow together in their dedication to social service by sharing a sense of immigrant identity with the refugees they service.
Twenty eight offices in 26 states work to resettle refugees as painlessly as possible, while eight foster care programs are tasked with finding the best homes available for migrant children who arrive without guardians. Another 23 LIRS partners provide legal services to migrants who have been detained by U.S. officials.
LIRS is working hard to acclimate many of the migrant children currently being held in the American southwest and to enter those they can into the foster care system. Only about five percent of the children who have entered the country stand to obtain asylum, but for this five percent, there still remains an arduous legal process and period of adaptation.
It is LIRS’ hope that this process is an easy one, and that life in the U.S. will be welcoming for the children.
– Patricia Mackey
Sources: Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service 1, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service 2, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service 3, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service 4, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service 5, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Cape Cod Times