Leadership Toolkit, October 2013 issue
On any given day, the U.S. government incarcerates more than 34,000 immigrants in a vast network of over 250 federal, private, state, and local jails. This is just one of the many reasons that LIRS is introducing the 2013 Visitation Ministry Grants. LIRS is looking to collaborate with partners in seven “hub communities” throughout the nation with the intention of providing hope and strength for those who are detained and also expanding the programs of detention visitation ministries.
Immigration detention visitation ministries are beneficial to both the detained immigrants and the people from “outside” making the visits to detention facilities. When they’re visited, detained immigrants are reminded that they have not been forgotten and that someone cares about their safety. People who form or join a visitation ministry are given the opportunity to forge new friendships and draw inspiration from the stories and courage of these new friends.
All applications for the grants are welcome; however, LIRS will give preference to ministries located in one of the designated seven hub communities. These communities include Austin/San Antonio, TX, Boston, MA, Chicago, IL, Elizabeth, NJ/New York, NY, Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, Seattle/Tacoma, WA and Tucson/Phoenix, AZ. To find further information regarding LIRS’ Community Support Network partners, please click here.
Applications for the 2013 Visitation Ministry Grant are available and should be filled out and returned to LIRS by October 18, 2013. Click here for more information and a copy of the application.
This August saw the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. On August 28 and August 29, two congregations of the ELCA Gulf Coast Synod held prayer vigils to honor this anniversary and promote awareness of the issues surrounding immigration reform. The event on August 28 was held at Zion Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas and the event on August 29 was held at the Christ Lutheran Church in Brenham, Texas. All together, around 100 people attended the events.
Both prayer vigils were led by Rev. Michael Rinehart, Bishop of the Gulf Coast Synod of the ELCA. The services included a message from Bishop Rinehart where he noted that the story of the Bible is a story of migration. He also shared a personal story through which he conveyed his family’s migration history. To honor the 50th anniversary, Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was played, and an a cappella version of “We Shall Overcome” was led by Bishop Rinehart.
The events were followed by receptions where participants were able to interact with one another. They were also encouraged to ask questions and discuss immigration reform. LIRS was glad to have the support of many participants who took action by signing petitions calling on their elected officials to support immigration reform.
For a more detailed look at the prayer vigils, take a look at the blog post “ELCA Gulf Coast Synod Honors 50th Anniversary of March on Washington with Prayer Vigils for Immigrants.”
Across the nation, advocates are collaborating to raise awareness of the urgent need for Congress to act on immigration reform. Fast Action for Immigration Reform is a 40-day event that has drawn participants from coast to coast, asking them to actively engage in prayer, fasting, and advocacy.
Bridget Jensen from Houston, Texas made the decision to join the efforts of Fast Action based on personal experiences and connections with detainees. “I saw families with children of detainees and realized that these families were suffering and being torn apart,” she told LIRS Project Associate for Outreach Chelsea Allison.
“Lutheranism and many other religions practiced in the United States were brought here by immigrants, so it seems people of these various faiths should understand that welcoming immigrants is important bedrock of this country upon which our nation needs to continue to build,” she added.
Bridget identifies as Lutheran, yet she understands and expresses the importance of diversity in a movement such as Fast Action. “Diversity is only a strength when there is a civic plurality, that is, people of different backgrounds working together toward a common goal, which is what this Fast Action is doing,” she said. She also discussed the impact of this particular type of advocacy in comparison with other possible tactics. “At this point, I think we are still at the stage of employing such methods as the Fast Action to bring attention to the need for immigration reform, but I’m curious when, if ever, people of faith such as myself would be led to acts of civil disobedience to risk being ‘illegal’ for the sake of those who are not given a fair opportunity to live and work here legally,” she said.
When asked what type of outcome she hoped Fast Action would bring about, Bridget responded, “Collectively, I hope the action inspires more interfaith work. I hope the action stirs the hearts and Members of Congress toward compassion as issues related to immigration are taken up.”
The action began on September 9 and will continue through October 18. For more information on Fast Action for Immigration Reform check out the event website at http://fastaction.us
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service extends many gracious thanks to the ELCA and the LCMS for lifting up our work at their churchwide assembly and national convention, respectively.
This July 23 in St. Louis, the National LCMS Convention unanimously passed a resolution “To Give Thanks and Praise to God for LIRS 75th Anniversary.”
LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke took part in the convention and said of the resolution: “I am constantly thankful for the many ways LCMS leaders and congregations stand for welcoming immigrants and refugees. This resolution is yet another reminder of how important their work is.”
The resolution contains the following:
LIRS is also very grateful for the memorials and actions regarding immigration and the work of LIRS that were taken at the Aug. 12-17 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Pittsburgh.
During the assembly, the ELCA overwhelmingly approved five strong “memorials” (resolutions) connected with the work of LIRS. These memorials included support for an action related to immigration detention and support for an action recommitting the church to pressing for comprehensive immigration reform. There was support for a new social statement, The Church and Criminal Justice: Hearing the Cries. This statement includes a section on immigration detention that LIRS helped to craft. Finally, with nearly unanimous support from the delegates the ELCA approved memorials acknowledging the 75th anniversary of LIRS and the date of June 22, 2014 as Refugee Sunday.
Throughout the week, delegates also participated in various other activities focused on bringing awareness of the need for immigration reform. One event involved a mass action signing of a virtual petition in which delegates showed their support for immigration reform by sending a text message to Members of Congress. Another event, an immigration prayer vigil, brought together nearly 40 participants including LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke, who wrote about her experiences during the week-long assembly.