New name, same mission! LIRS is becoming Global Refuge. Learn more.

New name.
Same mission.

LIRS is now Global Refuge.

Welcoming newcomers since 1939.

See Our Evolution

The browser you are using is not supported. Please consider using a modern browser.

Skip Navigation
Donate
Start of main content.

Press Release // Family Reunification

Head of Global Refuge Calls for Immediate End to Ongoing Family Separations

Global Refuge logo

Global Refuge Staff

July 27, 2019

Refugee Service Calls for Immediate End to Ongoing Family Separations

Outlines Series of Recommendations to Congress on Safeguarding the Psychological and Physical Well-being of Unaccompanied Migrant Children

Press Contact: Timothy Young | timothy.young@globalrefuge.org | 443-257-6310

Washington, D.C. – Amid widespread reports of negligence, abuse and deaths of migrant children in U.S. detention facilities, Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president & CEO of Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service (LIRS), today addressed the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, calling for immediate action to ensure the safety and well-being of unaccompanied migrant children under the care of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Vignarajah unveiled a series of recommendations, including urging Congress to require all large-scale influx shelters, such as the notorious Homestead facility in south Florida, to adhere to strict, well-established child-welfare standards, including employing appropriate child-welfare professionals who are vetted and licensed.

“State-licensed professionals specially trained in the screening and care of children—not Customs and Border Protection officers —should evaluate children’s needs and conduct all relevant screenings that occur before a child is released or sent to HHS via the Office of Refugee Resettlement,” Vignarajah warned.

She also urged HHS to prioritize putting children in the least restrictive settings possible per the Flores Agreement, that HHS ensure sibling unity, and that it make placement decisions based on the best interest of each child. The default placement for migrant children, she noted, should be in small group homes or with foster families, until they can be reunited with family members or other appropriate sponsors.

LIRS’ expertise in the field stems from its decades of serving unaccompanied migrant children through its national network of community- and faith-based organizations that offer transitional foster care that is “safe, small and family-centric at half the cost of for-profit facilities like Homestead,” Vignarajah told the legislators.

“Our model of community and family-based care could render massive influx shelters, like Homestead, a resort used last – not first,” Vignarajah said.

Vignarajah also recommended the immediate termination of a May 2018 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Department of Homeland Security and HHS, which has been credited with deterring viable sponsors from coming forward to sponsor children held in detention, due to a fear of immigration enforcement action against them.

“So long as the MOA exists,” Vignarajah warned, “it will continue to frighten away sponsors and leave children to languish for longer periods of time in influx detention facilities like Homestead.”

Vignarajah also testified that, “Based on what we’ve seen firsthand, we know the gold standard for unaccompanied migrant children should be small, safe and family-centric transitional or long-term foster care.”

The full list of recommendations is available here.

Founded in 1939, Global Refuge is one of the largest immigration and refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. Global Refuge is nationally recognized for its leadership working with and advocating for refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through 80 years of service and advocacy, Global Refuge has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.

The Latest

  • Press Release

    February 23, 2024

    Global Refuge alarmed by Biden administration consideration of new asylum ban

    The Biden administration is considering executive action to further restrict asylum eligibility at the southern border for people who cross between official ports of entry.

    Read More
  • Press Release

    February 15, 2024

    HHS: Refugees & Asylees Generate $123.8 Billion Net Fiscal Benefit

    "This study demonstrates that refugee resettlement is firmly within our national interest, both in terms of maintaining our global humanitarian leadership and bolstering federal, state, and local resources."

    Read More
  • Press Release

    February 15, 2024

    White House Designates Deferred Enforced Departure for Palestinians

    "The DED designation offers much-needed support and protection to Palestinians living in our country at a time when their homeland is going through so much tumult. The ongoing conflict makes returning unsafe for the foreseeable future, so this decision demonstrates the Biden administration’s commitment to our nation being a global humanitarian leader during times of crisis.”

    Read More
  • Press Release

    February 4, 2024

    Senators announce bipartisan immigration legislation

    Global Refuge responds to bipartisan legislation concerning immigration policy, which has been tied to an emergency supplemental foreign assistance bill.

    Read More
  • Press Release

    January 29, 2024

    Global Refuge responds to President Biden statement on immigration negotiations

    Global Refuge is deeply troubled by President Biden’s statement on bipartisan senate negotiations concerning immigration policy, touting “a new emergency authority to shut down the border."

    Read More

Share