I’m always thankful for the powerful actions taken by our Lutheran allies. There’s no way that our work to Stand for Welcome could succeed without their backing.
That’s why I’m writing today to let you know about one such act, that of the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Bishop Hanson yesterday spoke out for refugees by sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House John Boehner. Here is part of what he had to say:
Dear Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Boehner:
As presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), whose, whose congregants number 4.2 million people nationwide, I write to ask for your leadership as the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program faces a crisis. America’s ability to provide persecuted refugees and vulnerable migrant children with safe haven and a chance at a new life would be dramatically diminished if the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is not appropriated increased funding in the continuing resolution for FY 2013 and FY 2014. I am encouraged by the House’s passage of a Continuing Resolution that would fund ORR at $992 million in FY 2013 and the Senate’s proposal of $1.016 billion. I urge you to support the higher Senate number in the final appropriations legislation that is signed into law.
As a result of several acts of Congress, ORR is responsible for serving refugees fleeing persecution and other vulnerable migrant populations, including migrant children in government custody who arrive in the United States alone. A recent surge in widespread organized crime and violence in Central America has led to an unanticipated increase in the number of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Thousands of children are fleeing their homes to escape extortion, killings, forced recruitment, and generalized fear. These children are at special risk for abuse, exploitation and trafficking during their journeys and after their arrival to the United States.
He goes on to note that:
Congregations of the ELCA and Lutheran social ministry organizations work in partnership with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) to welcome refugees the United States has chosen to provide safe haven. Refugee resettlement agencies like LIRS and its partners, houses of worship, local community groups, and dedicated citizens have worked together for decades to create successful and sustainable partnerships and welcoming communities for vulnerable migrants across the country.
Bishop Hanson concludes by “[urging] your immediate intervention to honor our history of leadership in protecting the most vulnerable by supporting additional funding for ORR in FY 2013 and FY 2014.”
We’re grateful to Bishop Hanson for taking a stand with refugees, and we hope Sentor Reid and Representative Boehner will take his words to heart.