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World Refugee Day, A Day to Proudly Practice Solidarity

By Giovana Oaxaca

World Refugee Day is observed annually on June 20th.

This is a time to honor the courage and resilience of refugees worldwide. Because of growing displacement due to conflict, climate change, and insecurity around the world, it’s more important than ever before to raise awareness about the plight of refugees, to advocate for justice, and to show solidarity with refugees and those seeking legal recognition as refugees, such as asylum seekers.

You can show solidarity with refugees by expressing that you believe in a world where refugees are welcomed. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” (Matthew 25:35) powerfully underscores biblical call to show hospitality. Lutherans have a long history of extending hospitality to refugees, having welcomed and assisted refugees through resettlement agencies for almost a century. The work of welcome continues.

Since the 2016 adoption of the ELCA Accompanying Migrants with Protection, Advocacy, Representation, and Opportunities (AMMPARO) strategy, more individuals have gotten involved in the work of welcome as Welcoming Congregations. Across the country, there are 254 welcoming and sanctuary congregations and 35 synods with organized groups involved in AMMPARO. Altogether, there is activity involving accompaniment in 59 of the 65 synods in the ELCA. Significant developments around the world served as a catalyst for AMMPARO to connect globally with ELCA companions and partners to further accompany, protect, and advocate for migrants, displaced people, and refugees living outside of the Western Hemisphere.

Legacies of Welcome

At the base of the Statue of Liberty lies an inscription that reads as a statement of the nation’s values. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” Emma Lazarus’ poem created a contrast to a sentiment of exclusion and prejudice against people from other countries that was manifest in anti-immigrant legislation adopted in those times. Emma’s poem was dedicated to the Statue of Liberty just a year after the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in Congress, becoming the first federal law that limited immigration from a particular nationality.

This year marks the 100-year anniversary of the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924. The Johnson-Reed Act, or National Origins Act, severely limited immigration through percent country quotas that strongly favored Northern Europeans, disfavored Eastern and Southern Europeans, and excluded Asians for immigrant visas entirely. The 1924 law, writer Jia Lynn Yang says, changed the country forever.  Anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia fueled a strong attention to preserving the United States’ ethnic and racial homogeneity. At its essence, this is what the 1924 law did. The parallels with the rhetoric used then, and the rhetoric used today to justify restrictions, often by individuals who lack a comprehensive understanding of the arduous journey it takes to emigrate ‘the right way,’ are deeply concerning.

The 1924 quotas remained unchanged even as Jewish refugees, and other minorities, began fleeing Nazi persecution. The Jewish passengers of the M.S. St. Louis, desperate to find sanctuary in 1939, were refused by the United States under the system of quotas and forced to sail back to Europe.

The Displaced Persons Act of 1948 was eventually passed, for there was growing concern about displacement of people of all faiths from Europe. The Displaced Persons Act of 1948 worked by borrowing against future quota allocations. American Lutherans, other Christians, and Jewish Americans played a key part in appealing to President Truman to pass this law.

Refugees did not gain distinct international legal recognition until the United Nations adopted the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The convention created a new international legal framework to define and protect the rights of refugees. The convention defined a refugee as, “a person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.” The U.S. was not a signatory, but later joined the 1967 protocol which together with the 1951 convention, form the basis of refugee protection to this day. Watch this Video Explainer  to understand who refugees are.

While the national origins quotas were done away with in 1965 and replaced with higher visa caps with priority given to family and skills-based immigration, the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act that ushered this change was the culmination of robust civic dialogue and intense geopolitical pressures. The civil rights movement was highly influential in the American public rejecting ethnic and racial discrimination. Furthermore, internationally, the U.S.’s restrictionism was more and more at odds with foreign policy objectives.

It was not until passage of the 1980 Refugee Protection Act, however, that U.S. efforts to resettle refugees became systematized and formally aligned with international frameworks. The Refugee Protection Act established the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

To this day, very few people understand how the immigration system came to be, much less the important victories that won the refugee protections we have now. Or consider the enduring legacy of hospitality woven throughout U.S. history. Fewer understand that it is mostly major pieces of legislation, passed in the 1990’s, that undergird most modern immigration discourse. This makes it even more important to vigorously defend refugee protection and champion immigration reforms that bring the immigration system into alignment with the principles of fairness and generosity (ELCA Social Message on Immigration, Pg. 7)

Everyday individuals continue heeding the call to welcome. Welcoming new neighbors has opened new channels of dialogue, raised mutual awareness of each other, and fostered a deeper sense of community. Were it not for the bold steps of the leaders before us, the U.S. would not be a place where, centuries on, the Statue of Liberty still stands as a beacon of hope and opportunity.


Broadening our shared awareness of the challenges faced by those displaced from their homes leads to more effective support and advocacy. The UNHCR’s Global Trends Report indicates that at the end of 2023, an estimated 117.3 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced due to persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations and events seriously disturbing the public order. Based on projections, the number of displaced is likely to have exceeded 120 million by the end of April 2024.

Listen to the podcast series “Living as Neighbors” shared by the Lutheran World Federation amplifying stories of welcome.

In their own words, these refugee storytellers recall their memories of home, reflect on what solidarity means to them, and share their dreams:

The news of people seeking asylum at the southern border dominates the headlines. Who are they? These are individuals who have a legal and human right to seek asylum.

  • Read this fact-sheet to understand the basics of asylum and who asylum seekers are.
  • Since May 2024, a slate of new policies and legislative proposals have threatened the legal and human right to seek asylum. Read this briefing about the latest asylum restrictions.


Supporting generous refugee and immigration policies responds to the biblical call to seek justice, peace, and protection for all of God’s people, including those uprooted from their homes. Take Action by calling on your elected representatives to support:

  • The Afghan Adjustment Act: This bipartisan bill would provide stability and security to Afghans in the United States. Take Action here.
  • The Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act: This bill would help asylum seekers meet their basic needs while their asylum claims are adjudicated. Take Action here.
  • Robust Refugee and Immigration Funding Next Year: In Fiscal Year 2025 Congress must robustly fund domestic and overseas programs that promote stability and human dignity and expand U.S. communities’ capacity to successfully welcome refugees and other newcomers. Accounts such as Refugee and Entrant Assistance (REA) account and the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) are essential to expanding this capacity. Funding for the International Disaster Assistance account (IDA) is key to save lives and prevent internally displaced people from needing to flee their home countries and become refugees.
  • Join the Welcoming Refugees 2025 campaign to show welcome to refugees by asking your local or state elected leaders to support a robust refugee admissions goal. Join the campaign here.

Share Your Story

Share a video, quote, or audio message about your experience being welcomed to the U.S. and how you are working to make your community more welcoming and inclusive for others. Raed AbuJries, AMMPARO program manager for U.S. Network, education, and communications shares an example of a transformative immigration experience being an immigrant from the occupied West Bank to the United States. Read his story here.


Pray for justice for refugee and migrant children and families. Here are some examples.


¿Cómo va a saberlo la gente?

Por Elizabeth Eaton, Obispa presidente de la ELCA, columna de septiembre de 2016 en Living Lutheran

El miércoles 10 de agosto, los miembros con derecho a voto de la Asamblea General de la ELCA de 2016 recibieron el documento “Declaration on the Way” (Declaración sobre el camino). De entre nosotros, más del 99 por ciento afirmó esta importante declaración ecuménica en la que los luteranos y los católicos romanos han alcanzado acuerdos sobre 32 puntos relativos a la comunión, el ministerio y la iglesia, declarando que éstos ya no dividen a la iglesia. Cincuenta años de diálogo ecuménico en los Estados Unidos y en todo el mundo llevaron a este punto.

Cuando se le preguntó si la declaración nos situaba un paso más cerca de compartir la eucaristía entre luteranos y católicos romanos, el obispo Denis Madden, copresidente católico del grupo de trabajo para el diálogo, respondió afirmativamente. Hubo lágrimas de alegría. La asamblea respondió con una ovación en pie.

Más tarde ese mismo día, esa pregunta se hizo durante la conferencia de prensa sobre la decisión de la asamblea relativa a la declaración: “¿Cómo se daría a conocer este acuerdo histórico y cómo afectaría a la vida de los feligreses ordinarios?” ¿Cómo se convierte el trabajo de teólogos y la decisión de una asamblea nacional en parte de la experiencia de vida de los feligreses luteranos y católicos romanos? ¿Cómo se puede prevenir que esta decisión importante se convierta en sólo uno de los momentos felices compartidos por los miembros con derecho a voto de la asamblea de agosto de 2016?

¿Y qué pasa con todas las demás decisiones importantes que se tomaron? ¿Qué pasa con la iniciativa AMMPARO y con la creación de una lista unificada de la palabra y el servicio? ¿Qué pasa con los memoriales que llaman a la ELCA a profundizar en sus relaciones con las Iglesias Negras Históricas; a repudiar la doctrina del descubrimiento; a trabajar por un futuro energético responsable, por la paz con justicia en Tierra Santa; a dar la bienvenida a los refugiados; a apoyar al personal militar, los veteranos y sus familias; a recibir generosamente los dones de los miembros afroamericanos de la ELCA, y a mirar las estructuras dentro de esta iglesia que levantan barreras a la plena inclusión?

¿Y qué pasa con todos los demás maravillosos eventos no legislativos en la asamblea: un llamado a que la ELCA lea unida el Catecismo Menor de Martín Lutero a partir de ahora y hasta el 31 de octubre de 2017; el llamado a la acción de Leymah Gbowee, luterana galardonada con el Nobel; los informes del Programa de la ELCA para Aliviar el Hambre Mundial y de la Respuesta Luterana ante Desastres; las vidas a las que estamos alcanzando y que estamos cambiando gracias a Siempre siendo renovados: la campaña por la ELCA? ¿Y la conversación que estamos manteniendo en la organización nacional sobre las prioridades en el proceso de Called Forward Together in Christ (Llamados a avanzar juntos en Cristo)?

La asamblea no era una convención política nacional, sino que era el pueblo de Dios unido diariamente alrededor de la palabra y los sacramentos, participando en la oración y abierta al movimiento y guía del Espíritu.

Pero regreso a las preguntas que se hicieron durante la conferencia de prensa: ¿cómo conocerán las personas lo que sucedió durante esta asamblea y cómo se convertirán estas acciones y experiencias en parte de nuestra vida juntos?

No es la primera vez que he oído esta pregunta u otras similares. Es como si la gente quisiera, necesitase o esperase algún tipo de directiva o programa, o incluso permiso, de alguien (¿la obispa presidente?) o de algún sitio (¿la organización nacional?) para sacar estas cosas a la luz y a la vida de sus congregaciones. No tiene por qué ser así. Asistieron a la asamblea aproximadamente 960 miembros con derecho a voto y casi 500 participantes en la Asamblea de la Gracia, junto con visitantes, presentadores y miembros del personal. Cerca de 2,000 personas, la mayoría de las cuales son miembros de congregaciones de la ELCA, miraron y escucharon lo que sucedió en Nueva Orleans. Miles de ustedes han leído lo que se contaba de la asamblea en esta edición de la revista en inglés Living Lutheran. Movilícense.

Si tu pasión es explorar la Declaración sobre el Camino con la parroquia católica romana local, únete a un par de miembros de tu congregación y ofrezlo a tu pastor: “Pastor, creemos que es importante y queremos trabajar con usted. Organizaremos el evento, la logística, las invitaciones, la publicidad, los conferencistas, el formato, ¡hasta los refrescos!” Pueden hacer lo mismo en su conferencia o sínodo.

El punto es que todos somos la ELCA. La labor nos pertenece a todos nosotros.

¡Pongámonos a trabajar!

Mensaje mensual de la obispa presidente de la Iglesia Evangélica Luterana en América.



El poderoso testimonio de Rachel Birkedal a favor de #AMMPARO en #ELCACWA

Por Noticias de la Asamblea General del 2016

Esta declaración fue hecha por Rachel Birkedal, miembro con derecho a voto en la Asamblea General de la ELCA en representación del Sínodo de Carolina del Norte. Rachel compartió este mensaje durante el periodo de conversación en la Asamblea General de la ELCA (#ELCAcwa) antes de la aprobación de la estrategia #AMMPARO de la ELCA.

“Serví como Adulta Joven en la Misión Global – ELCA en México y más tarde como miembro del Cuerpo Luterano de Voluntarios (LVC, por sus siglas en inglés) con un proveedor de servicios legales gratuitos para los solicitantes de asilo en la zona norte del Medio Oeste. En México, mis compañeros de Adultos Jóvenes en la Misión Global (YAGM, por sus siglas en inglés) han prestado sus servicios en refugios para migrantes a lo largo de las rutas de tránsito en México. Hemos sentido miedo mientras mirábamos a los migrantes y a nuestros amigos viajar por México, al acercarse a la frontera y pedir asilo.

Al regresar a los EE.UU., he trabajado principalmente con mujeres y niños que huían de la violencia en el triángulo norte de Centroamérica y con las redes que los apoyan. Mis compañeros de trabajo y yo nos hemos sentado a la mesa y hemos escuchado las historias de los solicitantes de asilo. Hemos escuchado las historias vitales de mujeres que escaparon de la violencia doméstica, de niñas que han sido violadas por pandilleros como castigo para familiares que no pagaban la “renta” impuesta por las pandillas, y de niños que son perseguidos por ser jóvenes y no estar dispuestos a unirse a una de las pandillas que gobiernan en su país. Una y otra vez hemos escuchado historias aterradoras y una y otra vez hemos mirado la resistencia y la lucha que, de alguna manera, les han llevado a nuestro país para pedir seguridad.

Existen innumerables obstáculos que enfrenta esta población vulnerable en sus países de origen, en tránsito y una vez que entran a los EE.UU. Quienes se encuentran en mitad del proceso de migración o que solicitan asilo en nuestro sistema judicial migratorio necesitan que la comunidad y la Iglesia sigan diciéndoles que son humanos; que son valorados; que sus vidas tienen significado, y que no los dejaremos solos en un sistema migratorio por el que es casi imposible navegar sin nuestro apoyo.

El trabajo no es nuevo. Ya se está haciendo. Quienes trabajan con migrantes y solicitantes de asilo han sido tocados por las vidas de aquellos con los que se han encontrado y espero que si no han encontrado ustedes una forma de sentirse conectados, que esta estrategia implementará programas y una incidencia que les permitirá ser afectados por la vida de su prójimo como yo lo he sido, y que el espíritu nos hará avanzar juntos para seguir proporcionando refugio y “amparo” a quienes lo necesitan desesperadamente. Por estas razones y más, yo apoyo la estrategia AMMPARO. Que dios les bendiga. Gracias”.

Aprendan más sobre cómo la ELCA está Acompañando a Menores Migrantes con Protección, Incidencia, Representación y Oportunidades:

La asamblea –la más alta autoridad legislativa de la ELCA– se reunirá en el Centro de Convenciones Ernest N. Morial en Nueva Orleans. Reunidos en torno al tema “Freed and Renewed in Christ: 500 Years of God’s Grace in Action” (Liberados y renovados en Cristo: 500 años de la gracia de Dios en acción) entre los asuntos de la asamblea se encuentran los preparativos para celebrar el 500 aniversario de la Reforma en 2017.

Sobre la Iglesia Evangélica Luterana en América:La ELCA es una de las mayores denominaciones cristianas en los Estados Unidos, con más de 3.7 millones de miembros en más de 9,300 congregaciones en los 50 estados y la región del Caribe. Conocida como la iglesia de “La obra de Dios. Nuestras manos”, la ELCA enfatiza la gracia salvadora de Dios por medio de la fe en Jesucristo, la unidad entre los cristianos y el servicio en el mundo. Las raíces de la ELCA se encuentran en los escritos del alemán Martín Lutero, reformador de la iglesia.




From accompaniment to advocacy: Reflections on Central America migration

The reflections you will encounter are from Gettysburg seminarians who traveled to Honduras and Guatemala earlier this year in order to better understand the conditions driving so many to leave their communities. The words you will read are excerpts from reports the students wrote as part of the class that brought them on this trip. The videos were recorded for ELCA Advocacy. Each entry highlights something the author learned when they met individuals from communities the ELCA accompanies or is in relationship with. We hope these reflections show the amazing power that individuals have to move from accompaniment to action by walking and advocating alongside affected communities.

We would like to thank Gettysburg Seminary and all of the students who shared their stories with us. 

(All names and locations referred to in these reflections have been changed to protect community members.)

A call that all Christians have – by Chris SchaeferChris Schaefer2

The power people of faith have to connect and listen12227638_10103242770848189_7953080954390039971_n

A reflection by Alaide Vilchis Ibarra, Assistant Director for Migration Policy

As a new(ish) U.S. citizen, I am always curious about what drives so many of us to be advocates in this country. These reflections remind me that when people of faith spiritually connect and truly listen to others, even those whose language we might not speak, God gives us an amazing power for good.

I am humbled that these seminarians chose to share faithful reflections about their trip to Central America, and I am proud that they viewed advocacy as part of their responsibility as faith leaders. I also know that there are thousands
of others who are out educating friends and neighbors about issues affecting their communities, visiting their elected officials to discuss their concern for brothers and sisters who live in poverty, and work in ministries that provide hope and support for people throughout the world.

As you read these reflections, I hope you take with you a sense of the amazing power that exists in sharing what we learn through accompaniment with others in community and with those in power so that we may live in a world where everyone is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

In the final reflection of this series, we will hear again from Chris Schaefer. Chris traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak with his elected officials about his experience in Central America. His movement from accompaniment to advocacy serves as a great example of the impact people of faith can have in affecting positive policy change.

Protecting our environment and protecting each other – by Kayla Edmonds

La lucha” “The struggle”

…The most surprising part of our trip to Central America was the massive impact that climate change plays in migration. Due to climate change the communities that had two growing seasons now only have one…If the crop doesn’t come through then they either have to go without or take out loans.

What exactly does accompaniment mean?

A friend of mine explained it to me by using the story from the bible the Road to Emmaus. In the road to Emmaus story, two of Jesus disciples are walking along the road to Emmaus when Jesus appears to them and walks alongside them. We are not Jesus in this story. I don’t think I can emphasize this enough. We. Are. Not. Jesus. We are one of the disciples and our neighbors in Central America are the other disciple. And as we are walking along together, Jesus comes and walks along beside of all of us.

Statistics vs. the real story

We see statistics all the time on migration. Rarely though do we ever hear the stories of those who have migrated or tried to migrate. These people are not numbers; they are real people who are simply trying to provide for themselves and their families a better life. I wasn’t sure what to expect from our trip to Central America, I had never been out of the country or even on a plane for that matter…

Through this trip I realized just how small my world and my view of the world truly was. And for that I am truly grateful. I am more aware of the world outside of my little world and of the need to walk beside of our brothers and sisters in Central America and beyond. Nothing has ever impacted me as much as this trip did, and I look forward to seeing how this experience will shape and change my future ministry.

“I knew how much they were giving up” – by Ariel Williams


He wanted to be home – by Patrick Ballard

Reflexiónes de una peregrina – Reflections from a sojourner – by Jennifer Crist

“El sacrificio” “The sacrifice

We began [our visit] by watching families and jovenes arriving at the end of their attempt to migrate…As we waited outside for the buses of deported migrants to arrive… I wondered who might arrive on the bus that had just been deported from the US due to increased ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids…

There were many more families traveling together than I expected… One could transport these families to somewhere like Disney World, stepping off of the shuttle bus after a long day of lines and rides and eating; carrying backpacks and sweaters.  But these families were not returning from any vacation. Instead of their backpacks carrying all that they needed for one day at the park, their backpacks were carrying all of their possessions, everything they needed to traverse multiple countries.  I wonder what I would put in my backpack?  What if my backpack got stolen?  What would I do?  Unfortunately, I imagine most of these families have faced these questions…

Our final visit of the day was to … a neighborhood claimed as a territory of the MS-18 gang… A twenty-five year old woman, named Luz, spoke about her journey north to Mexico, where she worked until she felt she could no longer be separated from her baby who remained in Honduras.  As she talked, she often paused, expressing her gratitude to God.  She spoke of the reasons she left, as being intimately interwoven with the violence of the neighborhood: “Here the colonia is very dangerous.  Living here limits us.  There is not work, because when they hear we are from this area, they don’t hire us.  We can’t get a loan, because of our address here.  One doesn’t LIVE like this, with insecurity and fear.”…Despite all of her negative experiences, she spoke of the hope she had felt when CASM [the Comisión de Acción Social Menonita] connected with her.  She said, “Thank God….No one ever helped me like that before.”

Arroz Blanco” “White rice”

Despite being tired from a long day and food preparation in the hot, dark kitchen, I was pleasantly surprised by a migrant passing through, named Marco…Both of our childhood families were very poor.  My mother would prepare white rice with a little bit of milk and sugar for us for dinner; Marco’s mother would prepare arroz blanco with a little bit of coffee and sugar for him for dinner.  We both only realized as adults that this was because our mothers were poor and couldn’t afford better dinners.  To this day, he and I both adore white rice prepared the way our mother’s had prepared it when we were children.  White rice is our comfort food.  As I watched Marco depart the next day, I embraced him and whispered, “¡Te cuidas!” as I thought of his mother and of my oldest Guatemalan sons.  Though our experiences had been similar in childhood, I was born in a different geographical location, not needing to make a perilous journey to a better future.  While I could freely travel into and out of his country, he had to endure violence and hardship in order to enter mine.  A wave of guilt washed over me as I watched him depart with his backpack…

“La Lucha “The struggle”

[I] found myself reading about Jesus in the desert being tempted by Satan.  As I read about Jesus enduring many things (hunger, humiliation, etc.), I was reminded of stories that I had heard of hardship in traveling to El Norte….stories of hunger, violence, and violation of basic human rights.  After Jesus endured the temptation, Luke’s version simply has Jesus returning home.  And that is the reality of many migrants as well.  I imagine when Jesus returned home, he was tired from his journey in the desert, but he was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.  According to the writer of Luke, Jesus did not go home to rest from his journey in the wilderness, but instead he began his public ministry of teaching.  And as Jesus stood up in his “home congregation” and revealed his authority from God, he also announced his job description to those who were gathered: to bring good news to the poor and to liberate the oppressed.  Jesus was focusing on justice and mercy.

After returning home…

As I finish this [reflection], the community I have been gathering as a mission developer, Communities of Hope, is preparing to gather in a coffee shop in Harrisburg, PA.  We will sing, hear God’s Word, and share a meal together.  However, we also intentionally decided that at every worship service we would have an advocacy component within our liturgy.  I will share one of the stories from Honduras (listed below) with the community tonight.

¿Por qué están aquí? – by Chris Schaefer

On our first full day of travel in Honduras, we had the opportunity to visit with a small Lutheran community that gathered regularly at a home in [a] small village. While there, several gentlemen shared their stories of attempts to migrate north to Mexico and the United States. They demonstrated great candor in relating many of the trials, hardships, and set-backs they had experienced before leaving their families and friends behind… After the gentlemen wrapped up their accounts, a patriarch of the village stood up and asked our group, “¿Por qué están aquí?” or, “Why are you here?”  

He continued by expressing some confusion as to our purpose because after all of the questions and answers exchanged between our groups he was still unsure why we would come all this way to ask about information that we already knew, particularly regarding why folks were migrating and what faced them on their journeys. Many of us had to admit that we were actually fairly ignorant about the causes of the immigration crisis… The patriarch’s question struck a chord with me, though, and forced me to reexamine my reasoning in accompanying this group, as well as why our group was there as a whole.

Seeing the faces of our neighbors

The staggering statistics that surround these stories are often too vast to comprehend and fully internalize, but the story of an individual allows and enables us to see the faces of our neighbors and better live out our calling as Christians to love and care for all of our neighbors, regardless of whether they live right next door or in a country far from our home.

As we continued on the trip, my preconceived notions about the intelligence and abilities of those living in the Northern Triangle were continually shattered and rebuilt in a way where I could better see the true nature of partnership in community and how these strangers living in a foreign land demonstrated true discipleship…

Kindling a stronger sense of love, compassion, and justice

I drew great inspiration and strength from our interactions, and because of that, a stronger sense of love, compassion, and justice has been kindled within me, and I am quite certain that the Holy Spirit was present and active in, with, and among us. 

Their strength and courage and trust in God in all things has helped tear down walls of fear and anxiety that surrounded me. I feel strengthened and invigorated to live out my calling as a Christian and I plan to take the stories that were so trustingly and generously shared with us and pass them to others so that the Spirit may work through them as the Spirit has worked in me. 



Responding faithfully to the targeting of Central American families for deportation

By Alaide Vilchis Ibarra, Assistant Director for Migration Policy

UPDATE: The Department of Homeland Security has continued to target Central American children and families for deportation since January. On May 12, 2016, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that they plan to strengthen the efforts to detain and deport vulnerable children and families in May and June. Although further information has not been released, as a church, we continue to stand with the churches and organizations we accompany in the protection of children, families and all vulnerable communities in Central America.

Para ver esta respuesta en español, vaya aqui.

This month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began operations to track and deport Central American families that arrived in the U.S. after January 1, 2014. We know that at least 121 individuals have been taken into custody and reports have surfaced of children being pulled out of homes in the middle of the night.

As a church grounded in Biblical mandate to respect the human dignity of all of God’s creatures, we stand strongly against prioritizing vulnerable children and their mothers for deportation. These tactics neither honor our faithful calling to love one another nor respect the dignity of our neighbors.

Additionally, we join Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) in our concern for ensuring access to justice in the U.S. for these families who must navigate a complex legal system, often without necessary support. This December, our own presiding bishop, the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, witnessed first-hand the uncertainty and stress faced by children and families in Chicago’s immigration court.

The ELCA lives out God’s calling to send us into the world by accompanying displaced children and families in the U.S. and in Central America through our companion relationships with churches and faith partners. Through these relationships, we receive critical insight into the realities faced by children and families who are forced to leave their communities due to targeted violence (as outlined in our report, Our Communities in Crisis).

Today, violence in countries where these children and families targeted by DHS will be deported to remains unbearably high. El Salvador is currently facing murder rates not seen since its civil war in the 1980s. The Salvadoran Lutheran Church recently reported seeing up to 30 families displaced in one neighborhood over the course of only a few days. Honduras continues to have some of the highest murder rates in the world, and in Guatemala, the United Nations reports that two women are killed each day.

As a church with faith partners working with deported children and families in El Salvador and Honduras, we know that deportation does not serve to deter children and families from leaving their communities.

In a statement from the Mennonite Social Action Committee (CASM), an ELCA partner working in a repatriation center for children and families in Honduras, they explain that “during this process of receiving deported [children and families], we have witnessed the harsh reality that [deportation] brings for these people and their families. [Families] have to come back to the same realities of extreme poverty, lack of opportunities, violence and lack of citizen security that led them to leave the country in the first place.”

Through our relationships in Central America and because of our church’s history that is deeply rooted in migration, we will continue to support our partners in the region and in the U.S. through witness, accompaniment, prayer and advocacy.

“We must advocate with our governments and authorities for the humane treatment [of migrants], and to launch fair processes for people who should be welcomed as asylum seekers, not for political reasons, but for their safety and security.” said Bishop Medardo Gomez from the Salvadoran Lutheran Church in a call to acknowledge the rights and vulnerabilities of those fleeing Central America today.

Our partner, Church World Service, suggests the following resources to respond to this issue:

Know Your Rights

If you are tied to immigrant led congregations, it is imperative to educate all immigrant communities on know your rights resources. The most important information is DON’T OPEN THE DOOR to Immigration Customs Enforcement or anyone else if they do not have a warrant signed by a judge.

AFSC- Know Your Rights- Conozca Sus Derechos

United We DREAM Know Your Rights

Guide to sharing your story of rights abuses, raids and deportation


Report When A Raid Is Happening:

HOTLINE: 1-844-363-1423


Call the White House

White House Comment Line directly at 1-888-907-2053.

“I’m from City, State, Congregation/Community and as a person of faith, I urge President Obama to immediately STOP plans to deport Central American children and families. These individuals are fleeing violence and should have access to legal counsel so that they can apply for asylum and protection in the United States.”