LSC answers the call to love and serve thy neighbor

Refugee and immigrant services have gotten sucked into political polarization. Our nation’s failed public policy on the subject is bad enough, but the polarization, misinformation, and gridlock has exacerbated an already untenable situation. Facts matter, so I thought I would share a bit of information about the Lutheran Services Carolinas (LSC) New Americans Program.

There is so much misinformation about this subject, so I appreciate the opportunity to share the ministry of LSC. I am not a border expert but know it’s a broken system. I visited the border a few years ago to observe first-hand the border crisis. I do know the border crisis is a combination of people crossing illegally, and people from around the world who arrive at the border requesting asylum. Asylum seekers at the border come from much of Central and South America, Ukraine, Cuba, China, Haiti, and the rest of the world.

LSC has been resettling legal refugees in the Carolinas since 1979 beginning with the arrival of Vietnamese refugees who supported the USA and our forces in the Vietnam War.

To date LSC has resettled approximately 802 legal refugees since October 1, 2023 (this fiscal year) in our seven offices across both North and South Carolina. Most of those are families.

LSC is making New Americans. LSC resettles legal refugees who are coming here at the invitation of the United States. I’ve always been told there is a better chance of being struck by lightning than being chosen to come to the USA out of the millions of refugees worldwide. The United States only resettles 100-125,000 refugees a year. Those fortunate refugees are fully vetted including biometric identification before they can travel to the U.S.

There are only nine national organizations that resettle these refugees directly from the federal government. LSC works with Global Refuge, formerly Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services. Global Refuge is one of the biggest three and works with 30+ partners like LSC to parcel out those refugees where they can be most successful and where they can be best served.

Once Global Refuge assigns a refugee(s) to an LSC office and their travel plans are confirmed, LSC springs into action. LSC staff assign the refugee(s) to a Circle of Welcome and the Circle and staff plan for their arrival.

The Circles of Welcome have been very successful. This is a church, civic, or other group of people dedicated to walking with the refugee(s) toward self-sufficiency and community. LSC staff augments and supports the Circle.

The Circle and staff identify a house or apartment for the family to move into, at least temporarily. They furnish the home, stock the kitchen, etc. They meet the refugee at the airport, welcome them, transport them, and gets them situated in their new home. One of the hallmarks of the LSC Welcome is to have a full meal of their comfort foods prepared for their arrival. Many of these refugees have traveled for over 24 hours to reach their new home. They are exhausted, scared, and hungry.

After rest, the Circle and staff immediately begin the process of resettling. The Circle and staff help them explore the neighborhood, locate essentials like the nearest grocery store, learn public transportation, etc. One-on-one and classwork cover cultural assimilation, English as a second language, job skills, etc. LSC employs job coaches to educate refugees on job skills, prepare them for the workforce, and connect them with employers.

The Carolinas have been very welcoming to refugees, since almost every one of us came from refugees/immigrants. Many churches have stepped up to be Circles of Welcome, individuals have offered to volunteer, and many employers have contacted LSC interested in hiring refugees. At a time where there are not nearly enough workers to meet the needs of employers, refugees have been in high demand. They come with a clean criminal background check, can pass a drug test, and most importantly they are eager to work and become self-sufficient.

Another key component of the process is caring for the refugee children. The Circle and staff assist in setting up medical care for the whole family as needed, and get the children registered in school.

The job of the Circle and staff is the long welcome, to support New Americans until they are self-sufficient and beyond.

I walked into a restaurant this week and there was one of our New American families, a family of four, all smiles and living the American dream. It warms the heart.

I hope you find this helpful in understanding refugee and immigration issues, the resettlement process, and Lutheran Services Carolinas’ call – the Biblical call – to love and serve thy neighbor.