The president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) says the agency has “much to be thankful for in our work with refugees and migrants,” with resettlement efforts “on the rebound” after they declined in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
LIRS President Ralston Deffenbaugh made that observation in his “From the President’s Desk” column for the December 2004/January 2005 FYI, the agency’s e-newsletter.
LIRS is a cooperative agency of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
“This is an exciting time for LIRS,” Deffenbaugh said in the column.
“Indeed,” he continued, “one could say that the agency is on the rebound following the post-September 11 shocks and the layoffs and belt-tightening of 2002. Our mission and strategic directions are clear, our programs are growing, our staffing level is almost back to where we were, and our financial situation is stable.”
Deffenbaugh noted that the number of refugees resettled in the United States “rose significantly in fiscal year 2004, reaching a level of 52,868, compared with 28,433 the year before.”
He said that LIRS resettled 8,637 people in the 2004 fiscal year — with 1,745 of those in the month of September.
“Our resettlement affiliates are very busy now,” Deffenbaugh said. “We’re not yet back to the levels of the 1990s but we are grateful to help bring new hope and new life to so many refugees.”
“It has been gratifying,” he said, that the Missouri Synod and the two other church bodies “continue to celebrate their partnership with LIRS, urging … every congregation to be involved in the wonderfully transforming ministry of welcoming refugees and immigrants.”
Susan Baukhages, director for communications with LIRS, told Reporter that after 9/11, in fiscal year 2002, some 27,000 refugees were resettled in the United States, compared with almost 70,000 resettled in the year before that.
“Our network of Lutheran Social Service affiliates are paid by the government per refugee arrival,” Baukhages explained. “Obviously, there was a drastic reduction in operating funds.”
As a result, she said, the refugee-resettlement programs of the 26 LIRS affiliates “downsized from perhaps 12 to 20 staff members to a half or a third of that. Many people had to be let go [and] others were reassigned within their agency.”
Baukhages said that in 2002, the LIRS national office laid off 14 employees and put in place a one-year salary freeze.
“Over the past two years, our budget has been balanced; we’ve been frugal with our resources,” Baukhages said.
For more information about LIRS, go to its Web site, www.lirs.org, where Deffenbaugh’s column regularly appears.
Posted Dec. 27, 2004