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We must lift our lamp to refugees once more.

As I waited in a refugee camp in Kenya 20 years ago, I received a pamphlet, or what was called cultural orientation booklet, with information about my new home – the United States. Since I didn’t know English, I didn’t understand the information in the book, but the scratch pictures did speak to me. On the cover was a photo of the Statue of Liberty, standing tall and stoic with her vibrant copper torch. I kept this image in my mind during our journey to the U.S. You can imagine my awe when I saw Lady Liberty herself as our plane descended into New York.

In that moment, I felt at ease, knowing that I was arriving in a welcoming, safe land of abundance, as that was what we heard about the U.S. overseas. It was an unfamiliar feeling for me, one of the 89 “Lost Girls” who fled the violence of the Second Sudanese Civil War. I heard rumors that the Lost Boys and Lost Girls’ name was borrowed from the children of the Peter Pan story, who fought off all sorts of perils or what I called What They Meant for Evil.  For me, the opportunity to seek refuge in the U.S. likely gave me the educational benefits I have today, unlike those who didn’t make it out of the refugee camp.

Years later, I learned about the Emma Lazarus poem etched into the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal:

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

I’ve always seen America as a beacon of hope, a safe harbor for all who need it, and this can only be reached by inclusion of fair policies toward U.S. immigrant and refugee programs.  Some policies are outdated and don’t serve our modern demand to provide shoulders in the global crisis of refugees and immigration. Fairness of all kinds sounds easy right? Unfortunately, it is complicated and needs well-thought-out policies that not only demand “helping refugees/immigrants” but also highlight the benefit that this population brings into building the United States of America. For example, some New Americans (refugees/immigrants) run the factory and produce sector in the United States. Next time you drive your car, know that some parts were made or assembled by a refugee or immigrant. Also thank them when you enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, for their hands work the farm. Refugees and immigrants are creating innovations that are lifesaving here in the United States and globally.

We are a nation of immigrants (both forced and volunteering) that strives to give all of humanity a better life. We are committed to the pursuit of happiness, and we will always fight for democracy and the right to free expression. This is the America that I love and want to see going forward. That starts with ensuring that we are truly the welcoming, safe harbor that we claim to be. Come to the table of discussion and policy making that is fair and guarded on the principle of dignity that provides safety and security to all regardless of our status. As Michigan, I am calling on old and modern voices of reason. I will echo Gerald R. Ford words in 1975 “To ignore the refugees in their hour of need would be to repudiate the values we cherish as a nation of immigrants, and I was not about to let the congress do that.”

Learn. Reading, watching, and listening to stories of displaced people, people on the move, and people living in diaspora are some of the best opportunities to learn the who, what, when, where, and why of global migration. Rebecca’s book, “What They Meant for Evil” invites us to learn about parts of her life affected by forced displacement and resettlement in the United States as one of the few “Lost Girls of Sudan”, but so many parts of her story resonate with the experiences of millions of people on the move or seeking refuge. Her book also helps connect us with people who are forcibly displaced, and our God who calls us to care for refugees. That connection is sometimes the conviction we need to put love into action.

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We believe there is a clear biblical mandate to care for people on the move, including those who are involuntarily or forcibly displaced from their homes and are seeking refuge. Will you join us?