LFS addresses Syrian refugee concerns

Posted at 11:06 AM, Nov 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-18 12:06:04-05

A Nebraska resettlement agency says it would be nine to 24 months before Syrian refugees arrived in the state.

In a statement Tuesday, Lutheran Family Services said it was coordinating with its national Voluntary Resettlement Agency to help about 100 Syrian refugees resettle in Nebraska, but plans to work with Gov. Pete Ricketts’ office to address security concerns.

"We believe we can honor the governor's request and stand firm in our commitment to resettle Syrians in the future, maintaining integrity to our gospel call to welcome the stranger and care for our neighbor," the organization's CEO, Ruth Henrichs, wrote.

The statement follows Ricketts’ request for local agencies to avoid settling Syrian refugees. Ricketts joined governors across the nation in speaking out on concerns about security screening measures after it was reported one of the attackers in Paris posed as a refugee fleeing war in Syria.

SEE ALSO : Gov. Ricketts urges resettlement agencies not to take Syrian refugees

Lutheran Family Services says it will honor the governor’s request and use the time before the expected arrival of refugees to help raise awareness for resettlement and security processes.

Below is the full statement:

Several weeks ago Lutheran Family Services (LFS) agreed with our national VOLAG (Voluntary Resettlement Agency) to resettle up to 100 Syrian refugees in Nebraska. We did so after discussion and support from the Omaha Refugee Task Force. We also did so having been advised by our national VOLAG that Nebraska would probably not begin receiving Syrian refugees for 9-24 months.

Following receipt of Governor Ricketts’ letter to Resettlement Agencies on November 16, 2015 and a courtesy phone call from his office stating they would be releasing the letter to the media in the next 30 minutes, LFS issued a response. The last sentence in the Governor’s letter to us said, “I urge your organization not to pursue efforts to resettle Syrian refugees in the United States until our country has surveyed and addressed these (security) concerns.”

In our public response LFS stated, “We will honor the Governor’s request.” We made that statement out of respect and trust for the Governor. He was asking for time to review and learn more about resettlement security and clearance processes utilized by the United States. Since LFS had been told it would be 9-24 months before Syrian refugees would potentially begin arriving in Nebraska, we viewed this as a “window of opportunity” to work with the Governor’s office to further educate all Nebraskans on the resettlement and security processes.

LFS finds itself in a “both and” situation. We believe we can honor the Governor’s request AND stand firm in our commitment to resettle Syrians in the future, maintaining integrity to our Gospel call to welcome the stranger and care for our neighbor. More tomorrow…….

Ruth Henrichs
President & CEO