The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has a strong history of welcoming the stranger. The commitment of the church to welcome migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and their families has been strengthened by our relationships with companion churches and our partnership with Lutheran and faith-based organizations, particularly Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) in the United States.
Lutherans have a deep rooted history in refugee and immigrant issues. After World War II, one of every six Lutherans in the world was a refugee or displaced person. The strong immigrant roots and vibrant immigrant members led to Lutheran church bodies establishing LIRS in 1939 as the national organization to serve uprooted people. LIRS and the ELCA have long advocated for the protection of vulnerable populations and family unification in immigration policies. LIRS has taken a leadership role in creating forums in which the members and leaders of the ELCA learn about the policy positions of the ELCA and discuss the necessity of immigration reform, the importance of family unity, and the humane enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.
Congregations all over the country, have answered the call to protect and care for our neighbor by providing physical sanctuary to immigrants and their families facing deportation. This has meant providing shelter and all other necessities to an immigrant that has been given an order to return to their countries of origin by the DHS. Today, there are 50 congregations from different denominations across the U.S. offering sanctuary and 300 congregations that support it. This movement to provide physical protection from deportation is called the new sanctuary movement.