Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska strongly believes in both safeguarding our country’s borders and welcoming refugees (in caravans or individually) – and are saddened about discussions surrounding closing our U.S. borders.
Aside from the fact that hundreds of thousands of people (citizens, tourists, immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers) cross our borders legally every day, closing our borders would mean the very foundation on which this country stands on is crumbling. As the poem on the Statue of Liberty says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” We value the lives of immigrants, citizens and native people equally. America is about freedom for everyone – where the human rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are secure.
The idea of a safe, stable place to raise a family, and the idea of starting a new life where dreams can come true, has drawn millions of people to America for generations. Our country continues to shine as a beacon of hope for thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers fleeing war-torn countries, famine and violence. Many people join caravans on their escapes as a safety measure.
Refugee caravans are relatively common because unfortunately, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), our world population is seeing the highest levels of displacement on record. UNHCR reports that over 68.5 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide right now. Of those, 25.4 million are registered as refugees; over half are under the age of 18 and most are women and children.
Refugee caravans continue to present a difficult situation for everyone involved:
- The refugees themselves, who in their efforts to escape dire situations in their home countries risk dangerous and arduous journeys in hopes of finding safety, risk attacks from protesters and also risk adverse health issues because of the frequent lack of food and shelter
- The government officials who work diligently to manage humanitarian assistance while observing and ensuring that international and national laws are adhered to
- The nonprofit organizations that try to maximize every resource available for people seeking safety and security
The attention these refugee caravans draw underscores the need for fair and humane comprehensive immigration reform that keeps family unity at its core. Children must be protected, and families must remain united. Human and worker rights must be safeguarded. Marginalized, undocumented people must be able to safely come out of the shadows and live without fear. Fair access to asylum and a quicker process for reviewing claims should be prioritized for people whose credible or reasonable fear claims protect them under U.S. and international law. A pathway to permanence, for people who arrive with legal claims and are not a threat to communities, should be provided for those who want to put down roots and contribute positively to our communities.
Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska believes in treating everyone with dignity and respect, and when refugees make their way to our state, we are ready to welcome them. As experts in resettling refugees in Nebraska, we connect hundreds of people each year to the resources they need to make this their new home. In 2017, nearly 900 refugees fleeing war and oppression from 15 different countries found refuge and freedom here in Nebraska through Lutheran Family Services. Our humanity connects us. It’s not just our job – it’s our calling as Lutherans and as humans.
For decades, American Lutherans have been committed to welcoming new neighbors worldwide. At the end of World War II, one out of every six Lutherans in the world was a refugee or displaced person. Since then, American Lutherans have worked with other faith-based counterparts to welcome newcomers of all faiths into our communities who seek safety, opportunity and peace. Immigrants and refugees bring intangible gifts that improve our church, our communities and our nation.