LIRS Responds to Crisis at the Border

Crisis At The Border

In 2014, over 68,500 unaccompanied children and 68,400 families comprised of women and children were apprehended crossing the US border seeking refuge from violence in Central America. In response, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) worked with government and service partners to care for these Central American children and families as it has done for decades.

What is different about this influx of children and families seeking protection is the controversy surrounding the response that our nation finds appropriate. While LIRS believes we should welcome these vulnerable children and families who have endured an incredibly dangerous journey to escape Central America, our government has taken an enforcement and deterrence centered approach. Children are not being properly screened for protection and families have been detained in immigration detention centers for prolonged periods that places their chances of obtaining legal protection in jeopardy and causes long-lasting spiritual and psychological damage.

LIRS plays both a national advocacy role as well as a service role in protecting these women and children. With support from our donors and funding partners and in collaboration with our network of partners, LIRS provides services to unaccompanied children such as short-term transitional housing and post-release services and is running a small pilot program to support released families.

The LIRS advocacy team, located Washington DC, engages Congress and the Administration on ending the practice of family detention and ensuring proper protections at the border. LIRS advocacy staff have visited family detention centers as well as short-term detention facilities and processing centers at the border to inform their advocacy on these issues.

In addition to its direct service and advocacy work, LIRS has produced a manual titled “First Steps” to help refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants navigate the complex system of laws, agencies, and public and private systems they must master. This resource includes important information on legal rights, responsibilities, and eligibility for services and benefits such as healthcare and education, according to immigration status. To better serve the affected families and children and the communities that welcome them, LIRS hosted a convening with leaders of the Lutheran community- nonprofit and church leaders- to talk about push and pull factors in Central America and ways to collaborate.

Get Involved


For media inquiries, contact Miji Bell at


Get Information

Backgrounder on Unaccompanied Children with policy recommendations

Information on Critical Protections for Children Under Current U.S. Law

LIRS Advocacy Initiatives

‘LIRS CEO and Faith Leaders Tour Dilley Detention Center and Announce Letter to President Obama’

Report on Forced Migration of Unaccompanied Children

‘Locking Up Family Values, Again’

Report on Alternatives to Detention

‘First Steps: An LIRS Guide for Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and Migrants released from Detention’

The Journey: Lutheran Response to the 2014 Border Crisis And Why Unaccompanied Minors Still Need You

International Lutheran Roundtable