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We help congregations understand and advocate for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and improved treatment of immigrant detainees. We encourage people to visit undocumented immigrants held in detention.  


Refugees 101

Difference between Immigrants and Refugees 

Immigrants are people who desire to move to a different country, typically for economic reasons.  Refugees move out of fear or desperation.  Typical reasons include persecution for political or religious reasons, or because of natural disaster. 


Did you know that there is already a rigorous vetting process in place for refugees?  The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) was created after WWII.  The 1951 Refugee Convention is the key legal document, ratified by 145 State parties, that defines the term ‘refugee’.  The total processing time for refugees currently varies depending on an applicant’s location and other circumstances, but the average time from the initial UNHCR referral to arrival as a refugee in the United States is about 18-24 months.  In 2016, the U.S. welcomed 84,995 refugees from around the world (see here).  Certain refugees undergo additional  vetting.  For example, Syrian applicants must undergo two additional steps. (NYTimes 1/29 “Refugees Entering the U.S. Already Face a Rigorous Vetting Process”). 


According to the latest UNHCR annual Global Trends report in 2015, more than 65 million women, children and men, including some 20 million refugees, were forcibly uprooted from their homes at the end of 2015 – the highest number on record.  The UNHCR has identified 7 countries with emergency refugee situations:  Yemen, the Central African Republic, Europe (1/2 of which are Syrians), Iraq, South Sudan, and Syria.  

Goals & History

The current goals of the Immigration Task Force are two-fold:  First, to communicate trustworthy information about immigrants and refugees for fellow Lutherans in our synod, with the assumption that many Lutherans are sincerely worried about safety, danger and the well-being of the U.S.  Second, we want to provide support for those who already desire to advocate for immigrants and refugees – particularly in peace-oriented ways that bear a Christian witness.  

Did you know that interest and concern for immigrants and refugees is part of the DNA of Lutherans in this country?  Lutherans came as immigrants to this country, so at first, Lutherans organized help and support for other Lutherans in terms of getting settled in this country, and in many other areas including care for the ill, widows, orphans, and “old folks;” that is, for vulnerable people that slipped through society’s cracks and were left to fend for themselves.  Eventually, the local services, hospitals, and homes were broadened to help anybody in need.   Read more history: Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services,  Lutheran Settlement House, and another organization that developed similarly:  the German Hospital of the City of Philadelphia (now Lankenau Medical Center) from the deaconess/nursing perspective.


Vigils at Elizabeth Detention Center

A How-To Guide for vigils at the Elizabeth Detention Center

A Sample Handbook for vigils


Be Not Afraid

We partnered with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) to bring their "Be Not Afraid Program" to New Jersey. Many of us have been trained to use the tools which focused on:  Be informed   Be equipped   Be prepared   Be an advocate.

For more information, check out the LIRS web site.


Governmental Advocacy

With the assistance of the Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministries, we advocate for immigrants at the state and federal level.

We focus on advocating for a Comprehensive Immigration Policy at the federal level that:

-- Provides family reunification

-- Provides for a path to citizenship

-- Sets fair immigration quotas

-- Protects the rights of people at work 

For more information, contact Sara Lilja, director of Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministries


ELCA Social Statement on Immigration


Other organizations:

IRATE and First Friends


Lutheran Social Ministries of NJ

ELCA Advocacy

Grass Roots Leadership

American Friends  Service Committee


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