Recent news stories of appalling conditions at immigrant detention centers and of deep human sorrow on our country’s southern border have many of us desperate to be part of change.
Lutherans have a deep-rooted history in refugee and immigrant issues. One of every six Lutherans in the world was a refugee or displaced person after WWII. The God-given dignity in all people and value of family unity have been cornerstones of ELCA faith-based advocacy, and we understand that many immigrants, as well as their families, are both afraid and confused by recent developments. Daily experience of ministries, Lutheran organizations and members “keep before us – so that we do not forget – the grim realities many immigrants face and the strength of character and resourcefulness newcomers demonstrate,” notes the ELCA social message, “Immigration.”
OUR PUBLIC VOICE
At the meeting point of our knowledge and values, here are some ways Lutherans have acted and can continue to respond.
JOINT STATEMENT – Ecumenical and inter-religious partners joined the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop, in a joint statement addressing concerns over the well-being of children who cross the U.S. border seeking safety from danger and threats in their home countries (6/6/19). Read at elca.org/News-and-Events/7982 .
LETTER TO ELCA COMMUNITY – Earlier, Bishop Eaton wrote to our ELCA community (5/28/19). Read at elca.org/Resources/Presiding-Bishop-Messages . In part, it said:
“We follow a Lord who instructed, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs’ (Matthew 19:14). As we continue to serve and love our neighbor, we pray for the well-being of children and families in detention, and we urge the presidential administration to seek alternatives to the detention of children.”
AMMPARO – Ministry through the ELCA Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities (AMMPARO) strategy is present in countries of origin, transit, and the U.S. with our neighbors in Central America. Actions include presence of pro bono lawyers who provide services and monitor detention center visits, and resourcing people in their countries of origin with proven programs that result in fewer choosing to take a difficult migration journey. Consider a gift to ELCA AMMPARO. Donate to this ministry from community.elca.org/donations/ammparo-donate.
In the ELCA Advocacy Action Center, Action Alerts are available for you to customize with your message to your member of Congress. Begin from the following.
“Take action to secure funding for humane and just immigration system” – Use your voice as funding decisions are made.
“Protect the housing rights of mixed-immigration status families” – In a tight timeline before July 2, consider using this Action Alert facilitating public comment to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), on a proposed rulemaking that would prohibit mixed-immigration status families from living in federal affordable housing programs.
Other ways to urge U.S. immigration enforcement policy to recognize human dignity, uphold human rights, ensure the safety and well-being, and treat all individuals and families fairly and with respect, are to:
Call your Member of Congress at (202) 224-3121 to connect with your two Senators and one Representative. Find our who represents you from govtrack.us/congress/members .
Tweet, and tag @DHSgov and @POTUS or other official.
Additionally, congregations and individuals may want to take further steps.
WELCOMING CONGREGATION – Consider becoming a Welcoming Congregation in the ELCA AMMPARO network, making a commitment to spiritually and pastorally accompany migrants in our community congregation; physically accompany migrants as needed to medical, legal and pastoral resources; pray for the children and families; and prayerfully consider participation in ELCA advocacy.
GUARDIAN ANGEL PROGRAM – Consider participating in the Guardian Angel Program of ELCA AMMPARO, providing spiritual and physical accompaniment of unaccompanied migrant children and families through their immigration court process. More at vimeo.com/157458987 .
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY – Check your investments. Private companies are managing the detention of children.
The ELCA Private Prison Screen “recommends no investment in private, for-profit prisons including firms involved in prison privatization of the criminal justice system.”
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS – Share “Know Your Rights” information, providing critical facts about legal rights during encounters with law enforcement.
FIRST STEPS GUIDE – In English and Spanish, the First Steps Guide from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) helps refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants navigate the complex system of laws, agencies, and public and private systems they must master by providing important information on legal rights, responsibilities, and eligibility for services and benefits such as healthcare and education, according to immigration status.
SANCTUARY MOVEMENT – The Sanctuary Movement is a growing movement of immigrant and faith communities in the current political climate. “Sanctuary: A Discernment Guide for Congregations” from the Presbyterian Church USA may facilitate discussion of this possible involvement in your congregation.
In the ELCA, many congregations are sanctuary congregations. Identify ELCA welcoming and sanctuary congregations and synods on the map.
SHARE STORIES AND PRACTICE ACCOMPANIMENT – Create opportunities to gather and hear the stories of immigrants and migrants in your congregation and community and respond to their requests for partnership and solidarity.
CENTERED IN OUR FAITH
We hold in prayer the many migrants imperiled and struggling. We also pray for those on the forefront including ELCA congregations in U.S. border communities who are providing spiritual and physical sustenance, as well as border patrol officers, resettlement staff and many others charged with implementing our nation’s policies compassionately. During Sunday worship, in personal devotions, or by hosting a prayer service with faith partners to generate awareness within your local community, here are some resources as we turn to God for wisdom and strength.
Migrant Refugee Sunday worship ideas including hymns (from LIRS)
Worship Resources (from Mennonite Central Committee)
Immigration Prayer (from United Church of Christ)
Prayer for Immigrant Justice (from Marianist Social Justice Collaborative, Roman Catholic)
An Immigrant Prayer (shared by Conference of Catholic Bishops)
Prayer for Migrants by Jane Derene (shared by Mary Knoll Affiliates)
A Franciscan Benediction (shared by Franciscan ponderings)
“We draw on the best of our nation’s traditions as a refuge and haven for the persecuted and destitute when we affirm that ‘we support a generous policy of welcome for refugees and immigrants,’ and that we ‘will advocate for just immigration policies, including fairness in visa regulations and in admitting and protecting refugees. We will work for policies that cause neither undue repercussion within immigrant communities nor bias against them.’”
From the ELCA social message on “Immigration,” incorporating affirmations from the social statements For Peace in God’s World and Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture.