On June 3rd, in the education hour after our Refugee Sunday, it was so exciting to talk with twenty engaged, compassionate friends about the challenges refugees and migrants face. I have some updated information for all of you and a few resources to explore, as well as ideas for how we might continue the conversation.
- As of early June 2018, the United States has admitted just over 14,000 refugees; the annual maximum set by the federal government is 45,000, a number we will likely not reach. This will be the lowest number of refugees admitted since 1980, when modern refugee policies were put into place.
- Refugees (defined by Webster) are people who have been forced to leave their homes to escape war, persecution or natural disaster, and cannot return. According to the UN, there are 22 million refugees globally; more than 11 million refugees are children and the majority come from Syrian, Afghanistan and South Sudan. Refugees from Central America’s Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala) are the bulk of the asylum seekers on our southern border and are fleeing widespread violence from the drug cartels that control their home countries.
- We spoke at length about the current administration's policy of separating children and parents at our borders. Reuters reported 1,800 families separated through Feb 2018; federal statistics for April & May 2018 reported at least 2,000 children separated from their parents. There is no meaningful system in place to reunite these families. Children are temporarily kept in deplorable conditions, then transferred to shelters and possibly to foster care.
- Read this book: Refugee, by Alan Gratz.
- Check out some LIRS videos on welcoming refugees here
- Several radio stories here about a Syrian refugee family, resettled locally by Nassau Presbyterian Church
- If you'd like to visit with or write to someone in detention, see this link
- If you know someone who is undocumented and needs an ID card or help with a legal process or application, learn more about LALDEF's work in Mercer County
III Forced Family Separation at the Border
Several of you wanted more information about how to help with the terrible separations of parents and children, most asylum seekers, on our borders. Here’s some background, along with some ways to help:
- Read Betraying Family Values, a report on forced family separations at the border, and see also this New York Times article about a five-year-old separated from his father at the border and now in foster care in Michigan. Note: at our board meeting on Tuesday, June 5th, several LIRS Trustees and staff went on a site visit to one of our partner agencies and met a one-year-old girl who was separated from her mother at the border three weeks before. The child was living in foster care in Maryland; the mother was either in detention somewhere or had already been deported, but nobody could find out.
- Use this ACLU link to call our Senators and urge them to end forced family separation at the border
- To help parents who are detained follow up on asylum proceedings, gain release from detention and reunite with their children, consider giving to RAICES (info here, bond fund donate link here, family separation action materials here) or to proBAR (info here and here, donate link here – make sure you designate the gift to proBAR)
- If you have contacts who can lobby legislators in the following states, especially those legislators named here, that would be very helpful as well; this ACLU script is helpful to some people when calling their elected officials:
o Rubio (FL)
o Collins (ME)
o Young (IN)
o Sasse (NE)
o Flake (AZ)
o Lankford (OK)
o Murkowski (AK)
IV Continuing the Conversation
- Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.
- I'd be happy to host a working group that wants to talk about how we can respond to the needs of refugees and migrants. We could meet on Sundays after church or evenings.
- I will arrange a follow-up conversation with others active in this area - LALDEF, Nassau Presbyterian Church, perhaps La Convivencia? - if that remains of interest.
- I asked LIRS if we could participate in their Circle of Welcome program, in which community organizations like us support an organization that is resettling a refugee family locally. LIRS doesn't have a resettlement partner anywhere near us - closest is North Carolina - but there are ways to support refugees remotely, including through facetime/video chat volunteer opportunities to help a refugee practice English.
- Question: would you like me to find out more about how we could be a Distant Partner to a refugee family elsewhere in the country, or are you most interested in working locally even if we can't be active in resettling refugees here?
Thanks for your interest and care. As you know, I feel strongly about welcoming the stranger. We were all strangers once, and God loves us all. I welcome your partnership.
Elizabeth B. Wagner