Executive committee members of the ELCA’s AMMPARO strategy met in Washington, D.C., last month to discuss opportunities for highlighting migrant voices on Capitol Hill. Meetings not only advanced AMMPARO’s ministry with its companions—accompanying migrants with protection, advocacy, representation and opportunities—but also portrayed “our broad and inclusive witness.” As one Raed AbuJries—ELCA director for AMMPARO U.S. Network, Education and Communication—put it, ELCA advocacy “demonstrates there is a place for us as faith-based organizations, that our voices and perspectives are respected, showing that our work matters.”
On Dec. 13, 2023, members met with staff from U.S. legislators’ offices, the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Conversation topics ranged from the work AMMPARO is conducting in Central America to the harm that would be caused by inhumane asylum restrictions if they were agreed to in ongoing negotiations over supplemental funding and government budgets.
Most important for members were the stories of real people, such as a young man who fled the extreme poverty of eastern Honduras for the United States but was ultimately deported. After he was relocated to Olancho, Honduras, the Lutheran World Federation (an AMMPARO companion) provided him with money and education so that he could start his own business. Now he runs a local grocery store. When asked if he would repeat his journey to the United States, the young man replied no; he had a family and now had the means to make a living.
Conversations with policymakers also yielded new partnerships and information about programs that would greatly amplify AMMPARO’s work by enhancing cooperation between government and faith-based actors. “We were physically and presently engaged with government officials,” said Barbara Lund, ELCA senior director for Operations and Innovation, “showing that justice is led by faith.”