Last week (and weekend) was an inspiring and uplifting time for many of us here at LIRS. We had the rare opportunity to meet with other faith groups at the 2011 Ecumenical Advocacy Days and share our passion, expertise, and develop relationships with our likeminded partners. It is incredibly important to be reminded that we are not alone in our work of welcome, in our passion for justice, and in our faith in a brighter future where all God’s children are protected.
This year’s conference was centered around the theme: “Development, Security and Economic Justice: What’s Gender Got to Do with It?” The three day conference was filled with exciting workshops where we got to both learn and share, increasing the volume of conversation around how women (and their vulnerable children) play a central role in bringing justice to the world.
“Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, And let her works praise her in the city gates.” – Proverbs 31
On Saturday, Megan Bremer, LIRS Staff Attorney, shared the heart wrenching stories of families impacted by immigration detention and the role gender plays in the ability of men and women to cope with these struggles at a workshop on Consequences of a Broken System: Gender and Immigration in the United States, while other colleagues educated audience members about legal protections available to particularly vulnerable migrants, including those provided by the Violence Against Women Act, whose reauthorization was one of EAD’s lobby day asks. Megan’s message to the advocates was that “we need to remind people in power that we care about migrants as people regardless of their status.”
Dana Chou, LIRS Interim Director for Children’s Services, joined ecumenical colleagues to illustrate the complexities of Human Trafficking: Can it Really Be Happening Here? Dana discussed the differences between trafficking and smuggling and how each impacts the unaccompanied immigrant children LIRS strives to serve and protect.
Former refugees and LIRS staff members Rana al-Mishib and Sovanna Sok shared their stories of fleeing their home countries of Iraq and Cambodia, respectively, at Refugee Resettlement as a Peace and Security Tool for Women and Children. Sovanna told of the cultural differences between her childhood in Cambodia and the expectations for young people in Utica, New York, where she was resettled. Rana, who had worked with the U.S. government in Iraq, was the recipient of a Special Immigrant Visa recipient and has lived in Maryland for just over a year. “I feel safe here,” she shared.
At a reception hosted by LIRS Saturday night, Thon Moses “William” Chol was presented with LIRS’s Spirit of Welcome award by LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke. He humbly accepted the award on behalf of his friends and colleagues from the Sudanese community who joined him for the ceremony. William discussed his past partnerships with LIRS on advocacy for refugees and shared his hopes for the new nation of South Sudan after the January 2011 referendum. Read his testimony before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission On the Subject of “Refugees and IDPs in Sudan: The Crisis Continues” September 30, 2010
On Sunday, Migrant Women: Challenges – and Hope – At Each Step in their Journey explored the perspectives of women who make the long and dangerous journey to the United States from Latin America. Weihui Wang, LIRS Interim Family Reunification Program Coordinator, emphasized the importance of planning for mixed status families in the event that they are separated by immigration enforcement and need to make care or travel arrangements. LIRS equips congregations for this preparation through our Be Not Afraid project and by supporting legislation whose passage would alleviate these problems like the HELP Separated Children Act.
EAD 2011 finished off on Monday as conference participants urged the U.S. Congress to recognize that we have a moral obligation, in a time when more persons are suffering than ever before, to protect and strengthen the health, well-being, and security of women and families by:
- Fully-funding programs that serve families – especially those struggling to overcome poverty – domestically and around the world;
- Re-authorizing and fully-funding the Violence Against Women Act and enacting and funding the International Violence Against Women Act
We look forward to next year’s conference and hope you will plan on joining us March 23-26, 2012 in Washington D.C. Until then, there are plenty of Advocacy opportunities that you can engage at from the comfort of your home (or wherever you might be reading this)! Take a look at our Action Center where we have organized some very important advocacy priorities that need your attention and faithful voice.