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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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How LIRS takes care of children

"Whose child is this?" U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service agents ask at our country's borders. For too many between the ages of 18 months and 17 years, the answer is: "Just now, no one's."

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is one of two agencies nationally that work with the federal government to resettle refugee children and child asylum-seekers.

Children may arrive alone for different reasons, according to LIRS. Some have come seeking parents already here, while others are orphans. Many are fleeing extreme circumstances in their home country: war, poverty and brutality, even torture.

Some are victims of trafficking; their bodies and labors are bought, sold and used. Some parents give money to smugglers to get the children to a better life in the United States when, in fact, the youth arrive only to be forced into prostitution. The mother of one 18-month-old sold her child to a drug operation to be used as a decoy, to be "recycled" from one side of the border to the other to make the smugglers appear less suspicious.

Through foster-care agencies nationwide, LIRS provides for unaccompanied minors, either directly upon arrival or following a period of asylum detention. For more information, call (410) 230-2700 or go to www.lirs.org. (See also, "Editor," page 58).


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