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Press Release // Immigration and Asylum

Yuma State of Emergency Reflects A Need for Humanitarian Aid

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LIRS Staff

April 17, 2019

Media Contact: Rebecca Heller | | 410-230-2746

BALTIMORE, MD — Yesterday Yuma Mayor Nicholls signed a proclamation of emergency as the city struggles with the recent influx of migrant families released by Customs and Border Protection.

“This is a reflection of what happens when we address a humanitarian crisis with a law enforcement response instead of a humanitarian solution.  We cannot continue to abandon children and families on the streets,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of LIRS.  “Unlike Phoenix and Albuquerque, where LIRS has been on the ground for months coordinating with local partners and churches, Yuma doesn’t even have a bus terminal or an airport serving national destinations,  so transportation to their final destination is challenging and more costly. We must protect the human rights of all migrants and ensure that there is a path forward for each of them.”

LIRS is actively working to strengthen this infrastructure. For the past few months, LIRS affiliate agencies—Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest and Lutheran Family Services of the Rocky Mountains—have been working with local volunteers, churches, and non-profits in Phoenix, AZ and Albuquerque, NM to  add to local sheltering capacity and develop a more sustainable emergency support network for families recently released from immigration detention.

This includes providing shelter, clothing, food, showers, translation help, medical attention, pastoral care, coordination with the families’ sponsors, and coordination of transportation to the families’ final destinations.

Vignarajah indicated that “Up until the end of March,  when CBP began dropping families off in Yuma, we were assisting more than 1,200 migrants in Phoenix and Albuquerque every week. We are grateful to the thousands of volunteers who have donated hundreds of hours and physical goods to ensure that vulnerable families are not abandoned and are able to reach their final destinations.  Unfortunately, we don’t see this crisis ending soon. We will continue to do our part and more, but we need the government to step up and treat this as what it is: a humanitarian crisis that requires emergency government aid.”

Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is one of the largest immigration and refugee resettlement agencies in the United States, and only one of two agencies called upon by the U.S. government to help reunite children with parents after family separations. 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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