June 17, 2015 STATEMENT—Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Supports H.R. 2798, the “Strengthening Refugee Resettlement Act”

Washington, D.C.- Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), the national organization established by Lutheran churches in the United States to serve uprooted people, welcomes Representative Keith Ellison’s (D-MN) re-introduction of the Strengthening Refugee Resettlement Act. The bill contains a number of key reforms to support the long-term integration of refugees and other vulnerable migrants who find safety and a new home in the United States.

In FY2014, in partnership with the federal government and state entities, LIRS and our national network resettled over 11,000 refugees to communities across the country. “Since 1939, LIRS has worked to welcome and resettle refugees into American communities,” said Linda Hartke, LIRS President and CEO. “We applaud Rep. Ellison’s Strengthening Refugee Resettlement Act, which builds on an amazing legacy of generations of refugees and immigrants who have been welcomed to our shores. We look forward to working with our supporters and Congress to advance this important legislation that will make our nation stronger and more vibrant.”

LIRS is particularly pleased that the bill provides for extended case management for highly vulnerable refugees. As the United States correctly continues to prioritize and welcome greater numbers of refugees with special needs such as single-women-headed households, victims of torture, victims of trauma, or those with severe medical and mental health needs, a specialized, extended case management assistance program is needed to ensure refugees’ successful integration into American communities. While many refugees may only need assistance connecting with basic services and navigating unfamiliar systems within their new country, others require a longer amount of attention and assistance.

LIRS also strongly supports provisions in the bill that increase protections for vulnerable migrant children who have been victims of serious crimes.  Through our work placing thousands of unaccompanied migrant children with licensed and trained foster families, LIRS is aware of the significant challenges that migrant and refugee children face, particularly when they are separated from their parents and family.  The Strengthening Refugee Resettlement Act allows certain children who are granted a “U” visa to access a specialized federal foster care program called the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors program. This program currently serves the specific needs of unaccompanied refugee children, Special Immigrant Juveniles, child victims of human trafficking, and children granted asylum.

LIRS also supports those provisions in this Act that:

  • Assist refugees to integrate into their communities with an emphasis on housing, employment and health care.
  • Remove the expiration of supplemental security income benefits for elderly and vulnerable refugees.
  • Admit refugees as permanent residents.

LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations, and for providing services to migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States.

If you have any questions about this statement, please feel free to Brittney Nystrom at 202-626-7943 or via email at bnystrom@lirs.org