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Press Release

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Launches Fifth Annual “Hope for the Holidays” Campaign

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LIRS Staff

November 13, 2019

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Launches Fifth Annual “hope for the holidays” campaign

Contact: Tim Young | | 443-257-6310

Baltimore, MD – In an effort to bring hope and light to thousands of detained migrants in the United States, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) has launched its fifth-annual Hope for the Holidays campaign. The program collects cards and gifts for distribution at migrant detention centers across the country, reminding individuals and families that they are not forgotten during the holiday season.

“As we enjoy the holiday season with our families and friends, thousands of migrants are being detained in inhumane conditions, isolated from their loved ones,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “These cards and gifts are a source of hope—proof that someone is thinking of them, praying for them, and offering kindness and encouragement during a season that can be particularly difficult.”

As part of the Hope for the Holidays program, volunteers make and collect holiday cards with messages of hope and support for migrants and monetary donations for children’s gifts. Last year, volunteers distributed 12,353 cards to migrant families in detention centers across the country, as well as to individuals and families who were recently released from detention. Notably, the campaign provided more than 1,500 children’s gifts – enough for every single migrant child in family detention centers in the country to open a special present over the holiday season. In 2019, program leaders hope to collect even more cards and gifts to accommodate the increased population of migrants impacted by the immigration detention system.

Many groups, including church congregations and volunteer organizations, host “card-writing parties” using the LIRS toolkit, which offers instructions, sample messages in English and Spanish, and important information about immigration detention. While LIRS cannot accept donated toys due to strict rules about what is accepted in detention centers, monetary gifts are welcomed online, by phone, or by mail to purchase pre-approved gifts for the children.

“It’s been an incredibly challenging year for migrants in this country,” said Vignarajah, who formerly served as Policy Director for First Lady Michelle Obama before joining LIRS in February 2019. “In the past year, nearly one million individuals have attempted to cross the southern border—an 88 percent increase from 2018—only to face hostile policies that make it clear that they are not welcomed by the current administration. Through the Hope for the Holidays campaign, we are showing our migrant communities that they are not alone in this time of darkness.”

Hope for the Holidays primarily serves the United States’ three family detention centers: Karnes Family Residential Center, in Karnes City, TX, South Texas Residential Center in Dilley, TX, and Berks Family Detention Center in Berks, PA. Cards are also delivered to adults in approximately 20 other facilities by the organization’s detention visitation partners.

With the implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols, informally known as “Remain in Mexico”, more than 55,000 migrants are forced to wait across the border, facing increased obstacles in seeking protection in the United States. For the first time in the campaign’s 5-year history, LIRS will be sending messages of hope across the border.

Campaign participants are also invited to “Share a Meal” during the holiday season by inviting a refugee or migrant to their holiday festivities, as well as to participate in advocacy by contacting their legislators.

“Hope for the Holidays offers an opportunity for us to reflect on everything we have to be grateful for and to think seriously about how we can use our gifts to show compassion and love for the stranger,” said Vignarajah. “This year, consider joining LIRS in our effort to give every family in detention something to cherish on Christmas morning.”

The deadline for sending cards and monetary gifts is Friday, December 6. All cards will be received and processed by our Hope for the Holidays church partner, First English Evangelical Lutheran Church in Baltimore. For information on how to donate, guidelines for hosting a card-writing party, and more, visit

Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is one of the largest immigration and refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership working with and advocating for refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through 80 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.

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