Immigration Groups and Congress Respond to President Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration

button_icon_national_alert2On Thursday, November 20, 2014, President Obama released his highly anticipated Immigration Accountability Executive Actions, which included deportation relief for parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, as well as an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Executive Actions will also end the highly-controversial Secure Communities program  and reprioritize immigration enforcement to focus on real threats to our communities. These changes will provide much-needed relief for millions of migrant families currently suffering under our broken immigration system.

As I said in a statement released last week, these “actions are a significant step in the right direction – promoting family unity and offering vital solutions for our economy and country.” LIRS will continue to work with Congress and the Administration to pass long-term, legislative reforms to our broken immigration system and to end the inhumane practice of family detention.

Several of our partners in the faith-based and migrant rights communities also raised their voices in support of the President’s actions. Rev. John McCullough, President and CEO of Church World Service said in a statement:

We celebrate alongside millions of our immigrant brothers and sisters who will be able to shed the fear of deportation and live anew… As people of faith, we believe in the dignity of all people, in the unity of all families, and in the power of redemption, and that the implementation of this executive action should reflect those values.

Other organizations, however, were critical that the President’s actions did not go far enough. Silky Shah, co-director of the Detention Watch Network, criticized the President’s plan for not addressing the needs of migrants currently caught up in our country’s vast immigration detention system. In her words:

President Obama’s action today to delay the deportation of roughly 4 million undocumented immigrants is an encouraging step that unfortunately does not fully address the glaring human rights violations occurring under his tenure. We are in the midst of a crisis– families are being locked up in jails, the largest detention center in United States history will open by the end of the year, and more than 34,000 people are forcibly detained every night across the U.S. due to the arbitrary detention ‘bed quota.’

Others, like the National Immigration Law Center, released detailed analyses of the Executive Action. Finally, the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security has called for a hearing on December 3, 2014, titled “Open Borders: The Impact of Presidential Amnesty on Border Security” to discuss the impact of the President’s executive action on border security. The Department of Homeland Security’s Secretary Jeh Johnson has been called to testify on the federal response and preparation for this change in policy.

As always, we will keep you updated as we learn more. Please see LIRS’s analysis of the Executive Action. You can also take action through LIRS’s Action Center to urge your elected representatives to stand with the President in supporting family unity and humane enforcement. Thank you for standing for welcome.

First Steps Guide Book Empowers New Americans to Navigate the U.S.’s Complex Laws

First Steps CoverAs many of you know, migrants’ journeys do not end once they reach our borders. Here in the United States, they face a complex and daunting system of laws. It takes courage to leave everything you know, but it also takes courage to navigate America’s complicated system — from health care and legal aid, to credit scores and interest rates.

To help migrants, and those who walk alongside them, navigate these complex systems, I’m pleased to announce that LIRS has created a straightforward guide. The guide, First Steps: An LIRS Guide for Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and Migrants Released from Detention, provides the most critical information for migrants to safely and successfully rebuild their lives. Separate status specific supplements offer details for different legal statuses. Supplements are currently available for asylum seekers and lawful permanent residents, with more coming in 2015.

First Steps will empower and benefit a vast number of people, especially those who are in the uncertain stages of beginning to rebuild their lives. First Steps is recommended for migrants and those who walk alongside migrants. In particular: case workers, lawyers, and people of faith.

Casie-Lee Miller, a case manager at LIRS partner Ascentria Care Alliance told us:

Navigating the legal and social services systems as an immigrant are hugely challenging tasks, which are all too often compounded by the misinformation circulating outside our office doors. LIRS has created an amazing resource that addresses not only the resources available, but how they vary and evolve dependent upon status, location, and phase of the immigration process. It’s going to be a great asset for the populations we serve and I cannot wait to start getting this out there!

And Selena Sujoldzic, a former refugee resettled by LIRS and lawyer says:

I wish that my family and I had a guide like First Steps to tell us how to move forward and take advantage of America’s great opportunities…I am certain if we had, we would have started calling this country “home” much sooner, and spent fewer years living in uncertainty.

If you are a new American, case worker, lawyer, person of faith, or if you walk alongside migrants and refugees in any capacity, please take advantage of this excellent resource! Use First Steps to guide your understanding of our complex systems, or use it with migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees, so that they can take full advantage of the opportunities America offers, and call it “home” much sooner.

First Steps is also available as an EPUB file, PDF, and is downloadable to Kindle. First Steps will be available in Spanish soon. Visit to download your copy.

A Message from the President on Creating Welcoming Communities

I just got an email from the White House with a thank you I want to share – because it is really intended for the amazing LIRS network of partners, churches, refugee and migrant leaders:

In addition, and as a part of the President’s executive actions, we wanted to be sure that you specifically saw the Presidential Memorandum (PM) on Creating Welcoming Communities and Fully Integrating Immigrants and Refugees.  We’ve attached the PM to this email.  Developing this PM would not have been possible without your incredible and invaluable dialogue from this summer’s first ever White House Convening on Immigrant and Refugee Integration.  This is just one step in the right direction and we greatly look forward to working with all of you to as we continue to look at ways to continue this incredible work.

The full Presidential Memorandum can be found here. Thank you for your leadership, your compassion, your hunger for justice, and your tireless advocacy!


President Obama’s Executive Action Puts Families First

WhiteHouse_600As you know, President Obama just released his highly-anticipated Executive Actions on immigration, which will provide much-needed, temporary relief for millions of families currently suffering under our broken immigration system. These significant changes include deportation relief for certain parents, an expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and an end to the highly-controversial Secure Communities program. Importantly, the Department of Homeland Security will also reprioritize immigration enforcement actions to focus resources on those who pose a threat to our community.

As people of faith, we believe that family is the fundamental building block of strong communities. This set of crucial actions will allow millions of mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters in our families, communities, and congregations to come out of the shadows and reclaim their human dignity.

Tonight, more parents will go to bed knowing that they can soon drive their child to school and provide for their family without fear of deportation. All families belong together, regardless of immigration status.

Now that the President has officially released his announcement, we need your help ensuring that he and our elected representatives hear the strong support of people of faith. Please take a moment to use LIRS’s Action Center to urge your elected representatives to stand with the President in promoting family unity. Please also call the White House Comment Line at (202) 456-1111 to thank President Obama for standing firm in his commitment to family unity.

Unfortunately, all executive actions are limited in scope and provide only a temporary fix. We will continue to work with Congress and the Administration to enact long-term legislative reforms to our broken immigration system and to end the inhumane practice of family detention.

For a more detailed analysis of the President’s plan, please see LIRS’s statement.

Thank you for standing for welcome.

An Aspiring Architect Paints from Baghdad to Philly – Through Courageous Eyes


Today’s guest post is by Mayyadah Alhumssi, an Iraqi painter now of Philadelphia, whose work includes scenes from both Baghdad and Philly.

Mayyadah works with the Philadelphia Refugee Mental Health Collaborative, which is a program of Lutheran Children and Family Service (LCFS). LCFS is a refugee resettlement and foster care partner of LIRS. This blog is curated by Cecilia Pessoa, LIRS Communications Associate.



Mayyadah writes:

“Baghdad.” When someone mentions this word, what comes to my mind is the city of One Thousand and One Nights (also known as Arabian Nights) over the Tigris river with its features: the arches, the domes, and the palm trees.

My name is Mayyadah and I’m an aspiring architect. I moved to Syria with my family in 2006, and then we came to the United States in November 2012. I love designing, decorating, painting, and I usually draw when there is a concept in my mind urging me to come out. Sometimes you find hidden words in my paintings; I like people to focus deep in my paintings and discover the mystery inside them. I also like to draw cultural environmental aspects of different communities.

I design some of my clothes and paint on other ones to make them unique. I even design jewelry and, in 2005, I participated in the World Gold Council competition with ten designs. In addition, I use computer programs such as Autocad, 3D Max, and Photoshop, to enhance my ideas.

Turkish Dervishes Sufi Dance

“Turkish Dervishes Sufi Dance”

I have a painful memory of when I was painting this; there were clashes in the streets where I used to live in Syria. The Sufi dance carries spiritual meanings which have specific rules; every gesture indicates a certain meaning. I believe I convey these meanings through the colors I used, and you can feel the flowing movement… I love this painting!



In this painting, I imagine the human faces like houses of a city. In the middle is the sun, which is the reality in our lives, while the birds are the travelers whose mission is to report the news (in our culture).

Every single person has his own reaction towards this news; one reacts in silent way and doesn’t care about anything (the biggest grey face); another is double-faced; the yellow one is the hypocrite, always pretending; the clown is the one who doesn’t understand anything and is always smiling like a silly person; another is spying behind screens; the red one is shouting but there are no listening ears.

So on, the pattern is repeated from the biggest people ending with the small people. Also women’s faces are expressed by their eyes; there is a miserable woman who is tear-eyed, a covered woman who cannot talk or discuss, and a young woman whose attention is directed solely to makeup and beauty. Eventually, the faces positioned beneath the ground are the ones who are suppressed and are not allowed to talk. The steps refer to the classes of people.

Click on thumbnails for a larger view of Mayyadah’s paintings.

Find all the previous posts in the Through Courageous Eyes series.

Through Courageous Eyes features the artistic work of refugees and migrants. If you would like to showcase your artwork as part of the Through Courageous Eyes series, please contact Cecilia Pessoa at

Banner photo credit: Johanan Ottensooser

Obama, Executive Action, and Reform — Top Picks of the Immigration and Refugee Blogosphere

Stand for Welcome Kid Small

Last night, President Obama paved the way for millions of people to “come out of the shadows and get right with the law,” with his executive action. President Obama protected millions of families from being torn apart, and refocused America’s deportation efforts on “felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mother who’s working hard to provide for her kids.” We applaud the actions taken by President Obama to address our broken immigration system, and we thank him for his courage to give a voice to so many who, before yesterday, were voiceless. I would like to highlight this piece from Sojourners’ Jim Wallis that best explains that this executive action put people before politics.

Please email me or comment if you have any thoughts about this week’s Top Picks. Thank you for taking the time to visit this blog, and I look forward to sharing the best online commentary on immigration and refugee issues.

President Obama to Announce Executive Action Tonight

Obama_speech_on_AfghanistanAt 8pm EST tonight, President Obama will unveil his highly-anticipated executive action on immigration. The potential administrative reforms would include temporary protections to stabilize the lives of millions of deserving people living in the United States. While we do not know the exact details of the President’s plan, some of these potential actions could include:

  • Extending deferred action to 4.5 million parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. Family unity is a core American value and one of the guiding principles of LIRS. Extending deferred action would allow more families to stay together without fear of deportation. As people of faith, we believe that families belong together regardless of immigration status.
  • Expanding eligibility requirements for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to include almost 300,000 eligible young people. Expanding DACA allows children to be free from worry about their removal and lets them focus on bettering their lives.
  • Ending or reforming the highly-controversial Secured Communities program.
  • Altering enforcement priorities to channel resources into targeting serious criminals and those individuals who pose a risk to the safety of our communities.
  • Increasing border security. As people of faith, we hope that any proposed border security measures also promotes our goal of protecting and respecting human rights at the border.

While we are pleased that President Obama plans to take significant steps to stabilize the lives of millions of deserving migrants living in the United States, we realize that this is not a substitute for long overdue legislation to fix our immigration system. The Administration’s continued practice of migrant family detention, for example, is unacceptable for our nation, our values, and our faith. On this and other key issues, LIRS will continue to advocate for bipartisan and compassionate immigration reforms.

Join us tonight in watching the President’s announcement at 8pm EST. A live stream of President Obama’s announcement will be available at: Please also stay tuned for more information from LIRS as details become available in the coming hours, days, and months.

Thank you for standing for welcome.

Photo credit: Chuck Kennedy, White House

‘Creating Culturally Diverse, Yet Integrated Community’– A Former Refugee From Ethiopia Shares his Vision

Fesseha Leading the Teachers Labor Union in Ethiopia

Fesseha Leading the Teachers Labor Union in Ethiopia

Today, I’m delighted to share a guest blog post from Fesseha Bekele, an LIRS World Refugee Day Academy participant and bold advocate for Ethiopian and Eritrean communities. In this post, he shares how his experience during the World Refugee Day Academy has influenced his work as a leader and his vision for resettled refugee communities in Charlotte, NC.

Fesseha writes:

My worldview in the United States is the same as it was in Ethiopia in regards to human rights. Most of the time, I worked as a teacher and a school director in Ethiopia. I was elected as a chairman to the Labor Union groups twice in two different schools, and together with other representatives, we used to fight to create a positive change and facilitate a better atmosphere among the employers and the employees. When I came to the United States as a refugee, I happened to be helped by LIRS and was able to observe what this organization has been doing to welcome and protect refugees. I recently received my MA of Arts in Human Services and Counseling from Liberty University in Virginia and a BA in Bible and Theology from Global University, Missouri. I am planning to pursue my PHD online soon to get more knowledge and to continue serving my community more.

In June 2014, LIRS offered a training for refugee leaders through the World Refugee Academy to become more effective advocates for refugees. This has motivated and inspired me to be committed to refugee services and has made me more passionate and created a vision in my heart. My vision is to create culturally strong, dynamic, and positive immigrant groups across the United States.

I am planning to work more closely with Ethiopian, Eritrean and others refugee communities in Charlotte, NC and the surrounding area to help foster a cultural diverse, yet integrated community that communicates well. This will include building strong relationships and creating positive sentiments through meetings, life-sharing experiences with the community and governmental representatives, and other international institutions in the city of Charlotte. I feel that refugees’ issues have to be discussed more clearly in the Charlotte area. The new refugees need to be in contact with the former refugees and any agencies concerned in regular manner and share experiences and help one another.

We can all help create “diverse, yet integrated” communities. If you are a former refugee, you can help newly arrived refugees through our Refugee Alumni Network. To call on Congress to protect refugees, visit our Action Center.  

HEADLINES: Border Crisis — November 19, 2014

512px-Sl-shadowAs we await President Obama’s executive action, immigration detention facilities continue to open across the nation, and families are torn apart because of deportation. Millions of people who are living in constant fear and uncertainty because of their status, as well as thousands hopelessly trapped in detention, have so much to gain if the President decides to give voice to them. Visit our blog for HEADLINES: Border Crisis. I’ll bring you all the most important and up-to-date news on the immigration debate.

ICE’s New Family Detention Center in Dilley, Texas to Open in December [ICE Newsroom]

President Obama to Announce Executive Action on Thursday [The Washington Post]

Obama Stays the Course on Immigration as Pressure Mounts [Time]

What Happens to Families? [The Arizona Republic]

Obama ‘Nearing a Final Decision’ on Immigration [The Hill]

Churches, Schools, Groups Prepare Families For Immigration Action [NBC News]

Families Can Crumble Under Deportation Threat [The New York Times]

Photo credit: Pascual De Ruvo

This National Adoption Month, Participate in the Bethany Forever Family Campaign to Raise Awareness for Foster Care

FosterCareFamily300In recognition of National Adoption Month this November, I’d like to call attention to the nearly 70,000 children who crossed into the United States alone this year, seeking safety.

At LIRS, we believe that the best way to ensure unaccompanied migrant children are both safe and equipped for a brighter tomorrow is to place them with a foster family. Through our Give the Gift of Family campaign, we saw an outpouring of warmth and generosity from Americans across the country, which enabled us to place many of these children in loving homes.

A key piece of our work with migrant children lies with our local service partners, who work daily with children ensuring not only that their needs are met, but also that they feel valued and welcome in their new homes. Bethany Christian Services is one of these outstanding local partners.

In honor of National Adoption Month, they have launched the “Bethany Forever Family” campaign to raise awareness about children in need of foster care. In support of Bethany, which has been a partner of ours in every sense of the word, we are asking those of you with children in your lives to help in this campaign.

Follow these 5 steps to participate and raise awareness:

1.    Go to and print the image of a foster care boy or girl waiting for a forever family.

2.    Have a child you know draw their family around the image of the boy or the girl.

3.    Take a photo of the family holding the completed drawing.

4.    Post the photo on your Facebook or Twitter page with a link to Tag Bethany Christians Services and five of your friends in your Facebook post, and ask them to participate in the “Bethany Forever Family” social media initiative.

5.    Those without Facebook can participate, too! Simply e-mail the link to 5 of your friends and ask them to participate.

We appreciate your continued support of the hundreds of thousands of children in the United States waiting to know the love of a forever family. By participating in the “Bethany Forever Family” initiative, you are helping raise awareness for children in foster care.

To learn more about LIRS’s foster care program, visit