Our Story

 
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"I was a stranger and you welcomed me..."

Matthew 25:35

 

In the fall of 2017, Samaritas recognized that the organization was facing a new situation, one they have not had to deal with ever before in their long history of working with refugee youth. Beginning in January 2018, 18 youth would be aging out of the refugee youth program.  Policies our government has in place ensure that Samaritas is only able to provide services for these undocumented young people until the age of 18 unless they receive their federal documentation by their birthday.  Delays imposed by the current federal administration as our government attempts to rework the immigration process, would place these 18 youth at risk if they did not receive necessary documentation by their 18th birthdays.  Unless homes were found for them, they would be moved to jail or be homeless, wearing tethers for the duration of their immigration proceedings.  If they went to jail, they would risk deportation to their home country where it was likely they would face death.

 

The youth would be required to report regularly to ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) or immigration court if they are allowed to remain in the community with a family or in a shelter.  Because these youth were aging out of the foster care program, they would need a place to live and someone would need to provide support.  There would be no financial assistance for them, no clothing, no medical or dental care, and they would not be allowed to work without documentation.  They would be able to attend high school and can learn a trade.  However, after high school, they would not be allowed to work or continue further education until they receive documentation.  The youths’ attorneys  agreed to continue working pro bono with them as they continue the process of seeking legal documentation.

 

Staff at Samaritas reached out to other agencies and leaders for guidance and were told that there was nothing that could be done to help this situation.  In desperation, Samaritas staff began reaching out to community religious leaders with whom they had relationships, to ask for prayers and to share the news of this dire reality.  As 2017 drew to a close, a light for a future of hope for these youth began to shine into the darkness.  Samaritas began to receive donations to care for these youth from individuals who had heard their story.  Realizing that Samaritas could not handle funding for these youth since they would no longer be within Samaritas’ program, staff set the donations aside.  Faith Lutheran Church also began renovating their old parsonage to provide a home for these youth.  Representatives from a variety of religious traditions came together (Presbyterian, Lutheran, Jewish, Muslim) to discuss how all might work collaboratively with Faith Lutheran Church and Samaritas to provide a future for these youth.  Michigan Refugee Hope was born out of this collaborative effort.  University Lutheran Church volunteered to serve as the fiduciary for Michigan Refugee Hope.

 

In February, 2018, the prayers and planning of the community came to fruition as the first youth reached his 18th birthday without receiving his documentation, and Michigan Refugee Hope members were ready to welcome him.  He moved into the Faith Lutheran Church house on his 18th birthday instead of being taken into custody by Immigration Detention and Deportation.  He was warmly welcomed by a community that had anticipated his arrival, and was prepared to provide for his medical, educational and personal needs.  Through the support of Michigan Refugee Hope he was able to complete his high school education and graduated Cum Laude in 2019.  Michigan Refugee Hope has supported several other youth since its beginning in 2018 and continues to provide hope for youth as they approach their birthday and face uncertainties regarding the timing of their documentation.  This community continues to believe in hope over fear, love over hate, and new possibilities over limitations.  This community continues to live into the call to love and welcome all others.  Join us in providing hope and a future for these youth!

 

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