LIRS was proud to partner with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Thursday, August 4 to participate in the first ever Refugee Congress in Washington, D.C. Refugees from 50 states and diverse nationalities gathered to share their stories, lift up the 60th anniversary of the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and advocate for continued U.S. commitment to the protection of refugees. The Refugee Protection Act and the Domestic Resettlement Modernization Reform Act are two examples of legislation that would provide for much-needed reforms and protections.
Our advocacy staff helped prepare delegates for their hill meetings and also accompanied the delegates from Mississippi, Wyoming, Hawaii, Virginia, New York and Ohio as they met with members of Congress to share their stories. We also met with Nick Wuertz of Lutheran Services in Iowa who traveled to D.C. with 4 refugees. Watch the video above to learn more about what the refugees hoped to share with Congress.
Joseph Lueth came to Jackson, Mississippi from South Sudan when he was seventeen. One of the Lost Boys of Sudan, he had spent the previous ten years on the move from his home to Ethiopia and Kenya before being resettled to the United States as an unaccompanied refugee minor. Joseph believes that there is a need for communities to understand who refugees are and how they struggle to integrate in a completely new country. After establishing himself in Mississippi, Joseph decided to become a foster parent to unaccompanied migrant children. “There are so many people in the world who need help,” he said. By sharing his own experience of arriving in the United States alone, Joseph is able to offer unique support to young people who are navigating our immigration system without the support of family.
LIRS and USCCB are the only two organizations in the world that provide specialized foster care to refugee and immigrant children. We are so grateful for the commitment and generosity of foster parents like Joseph.
Bertine Bahige came to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003. He fled his home at fifteen when rebels came to his house and tried to forcibly recruit him. He traveled alone through Zambia and ended up in a refugee camp in Mozambique, where he spent five years. When he was resettled to Maryland, he worked multiple jobs and went to community college. In 2006, Bertine was offered a scholarship to the University of Wyoming and earned a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Education. He also met his wife there and they are now the parents of a daughter. Today, he serves as a high school and community college math teacher, soccer and cross-country coach, and liaison/interpreter for Spanish-speaking parents. He highly values the educational opportunities he was given and hopes his experience and life story can help inspire students.
Khin Muang Nyunt is a refugee from Myanmar who was granted asylum in Guam in 2000. Before fleeing persecution in his country, Khin Muang was an attorney and represented villagers who accused the military regime of mistreating them. Upon arriving in the United States, he worked in the restaurant business as a sushi chef and is currently the supervising manager at 7-Eleven in Honolulu, where he now lives. He continues to be an active volunteer in the Myanmarese community.