I hope this is a week of Thanksgiving and happiness for you and your loved ones. As you celebrate, please join me and LIRS in giving thanks for America’s deep-rooted tradition of being a safe refuge for persecuted peoples past and present, from the Pilgrims to today’s refugees from terror, torture, and oppression.
America’s hope and promise are never so important as when we sit down with loved ones for Thanksgiving. In this time of gratitude, which celebrates the survival and prosperity of our own immigrant forebears, it’s crucial to remember our immigrant roots as a nation.
The U.S. Refugee Admissions and Resettlement Program serves people from every region of the world and includes torture survivors, unaccompanied minor children, and victims of sexual and gender-based violence. Some refugees have lived in camps for decades and been deprived of basic human rights. This Thanksgiving, the people who work to welcome and employ refugees will bear witness to the work ethic and community spirit of the people who come to the United States through the program.
As LIRS approaches its 75th anniversary in 2014, Thanksgiving takes on an even deeper meaning. For 75 years, together with our partners and friends, we’ve had the incredible opportunity to walk with immigrants and refugees to brighter tomorrows, serving over half a million people.
We need to continue to lift up the American tradition of being a welcoming society that honors the values of freedom, equality, and opportunity. As we break bread with members of our family, congregation, neighbors, I ask that each of us reflect on the need for fair and compassionate immigration reform that continues the very same American values and traditions we celebrate on Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving reminds us that, when they have access to opportunities to rebuild their lives, refugees have become successful entrepreneurs and helped to drive America’s economic growth.
“Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Creating Jobs and Strengthening the Economy,” a 2012 report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, cites Census data to support the fact that immigrants “are more likely than native workers to choose self-employment and start their own businesses.”
As you doubtless already know, LIRS welcomes refugees and migrants on behalf of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We also advocate on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations, and provide services to migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States.
This Thanksgiving, I want to share my gratitude for our partnerships and the many successes we’ve experienced together, and look ahead to a 2014 where our collective work brings us closer to a future full of just and welcoming communities.