Timeline

2008

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raid a Postville, Iowa, worksite, arresting nearly 400 migrants. The largest raid of its kind in U.S. history, it devastates the community and galvanizes advocates for immigration reform.

Be Not Afraid, an LIRS project supported by the ELCA, equips congregations responding to immigrant needs in their communities.

2008

2004

LIRS begins serving unaccompanied migrant children in federal custody through the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Division of Unaccompanied Children’s Services.

Nearly 30 years after U.S. admission of Vietnamese refugees began, the State Department opens the doors for resettlement of 15,000 ethnic Hmong from refugee camps in Thailand.

LIRS begins successful advocacy for U.S. admission of Burmese refugees from camps and settlements in Thailand, India and Malaysia.

2004

2002

LIRS launches the Detained Torture Survivor Legal Support Network.

2002

2000

LIRS begins welcoming “Lost Boys”—young Sudanese refugees who had been separated from their families for a decade or more after fleeing conflict in their homeland. LIRS advocacy is instrumental in U.S. resettlement of the population.

2000

1997

LIRS launches RefugeeWorks (later to become Higher), the national center for refugee employment and self-sufficiency, to give technical assistance to refugee employment services providers.

1997

1993

The first survivors of “ethnic cleansing” in former Yugoslavia, refugees from Bosnia, arrive for resettlement.

1993

1990

The landmark Immigration Act of 1990 sets up a Temporary Protected Status for persons fleeing “generalized violence, civil war and natural disasters,” strengthens family unity immigration provisions, and sets an annual immigration ceiling for the first time.

The U.S. State Department recognizes LIRS as having the best national refugee resettlement program, a ranking it holds for the next four years.

1990

1988

With a three-way merger forming the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, LCUSA ends. LIRS continues as an independent agency supported by the ELCA, LC-MS and LELCA.

LIRS’s newly constituted board of directors includes one seat for a refugee representative.

1988

1981

LIRS begins a Central American concerns program to respond to the needs of refugees from El Salvador seeking asylum in the United States. It soon expands to cover asylum seekers of any nationality.

1981

1980

The Refugee Act of 1980 defines refugees as persons unable or unwilling to return to their home countries “because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

The 100,000th refugee resettled by LIRS since World War II is Kao Lor, a farmer from Laos who begins a new life in Sioux Falls, SD, with his wife and daughter.

1980

1977

A new federal program allows LIRS to initiate specialized resettlement services for unaccompanied refugee minors.

1977

1975

The defeat of South Vietnam by North Vietnam triggers a flood of refugees from Southeast Asia. Within weeks LIRS goes from a four-staffer operation to one with more than 100 staff members. LIRS oversees the resettlement of 15,900 refugees by the end of the year—an all-time annual high.

1975

1972

Ugandan Dictator Idi Amin expels some 75,000 Ugandans of Indian origin, 2,000 of whom are admitted to the United States as parolees and resettled with direct federal funding to the voluntary agencies. LIRS places 600 of the total.

1972

1967

The NLC is succeeded by the Lutheran Council in the USA, of which the LC-MS is a full member. LIS becomes the council’s Department of Immigration and Refugee Services, which for its public face uses the name Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS).

1967

1965

Passage of an immigration reform act, Public Law 89-236, modifies many of the discriminatory provisions of the previous national origins quota system. The act also makes available 390,000 visas for immigrants each year, with a preference for reuniting families.

1965

1962

Donald E. Anderson, formerly a resettlement officer with the World Council of Churches and LWF in Europe, succeeds Bergstrom as head of the successor body to LRS, which is known as the Lutheran Immigration Service (LIS), and serves until 1975.

The United States admits as parolees up to 7,000 Chinese refugees flooding into Hong Kong. LIS resettles 300.

Congress passes the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act, which authorizes a resettlement program for Cuban refugees. The Act is also the first time the federal government offers financial reimbursement to state and local agencies for the cash assistance they provide to refugees.

1962

1960

The emphasis of programs within LRS shift from resettlement of refugees to social care of immigrants, resulting in the creation of Lutheran Immigration Service (LIS), which brings together the services of LRS and SI.

1960

1959

Fidel Castro overthrows Cuba’s dictatorship and imposes a communist government, triggering a flow of refugees to the United States that has continued to this day.

1959

1956

Through numbers taken from the Refugee Relief Act and a parole provision in the regular immigration law, the United States admits 21,500 refugees fleeing a tightened Soviet hold on Hungary. LRS eventually resettles 1,593 Hungarian refugees.

1956

1953

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Congress passes the Refugee Relief Act, admitting 209,000 refugees, primarily more expelled ethnic Germans and people fleeing East Germany.

1953

1949

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The staff of the Lutheran Resettlement Service grows from its original three members to 125 during the peak of the DP resettlement program.

The first supervisory committee forms to represent churches that comprise the National Lutheran Council. Membership is offered to Missouri Synod members in areas where the synod collaborates with the resettlement program.

LRS releases the promotional video “Answers for Anne.” The video is filmed in a DP camp near Nurnberg, Germany and speakers address congregations asking for support and sponsors.

1949

1948

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Cordelia Cox, a social work educator, joins the NLC staff as the first full-time director of what will become the Lutheran Resettlement Service (LRS). She serves until 1958.

The first Lutheran DPs arrive in the United States on October 30, 1948.

1948

1947

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The U.S. Congress passes an act authorizing the admission of 205,000 eligible DPs.

The constituting convention of the Lutheran World Federation(LWF) in Lund, Sweden, makes helping refugees a priority.

Sylvester C. Michelfelder becomes the

1947

1945

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With the end of the war, refugee camps spring up in Germany, Austria and Italy for displaced persons (DPs) from Eastern Europe, one-third of whom are Lutherans.

NLC leaders incorporate a separate agency, Lutheran World Relief (LWR), to contribute to meeting widespread needs in post-war Europe.

1945

1939

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The New York-based National Lutheran Council (NLC), begun in 1918 to respond to such post-World War I needs as immigration and refugee resettlement, sets up a Welfare Department with an office for the “rehabilitation and placement of Lutheran refugees.” The department’s head, Lutheran pastor Clarence E. Krumbholz, oversees the office. It helps 522 refugees in the first year.

1939
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