A response to Linda Hartke, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

Dear Friends,

The following is an e-mail response to Ms. Linda Hartke, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, who on September 8 was kind enough to respond to my e-mail to her Sept. 6.

September 8, 2013

Dear Mrs. Hartke,

Thank you for your e-mail to me dated September 6, 2013. I sincerely appreciate you taking time to respond.

I’m disappointed that my questions gave you pause; perhaps this is due to your perception of being on the receiving end of, as you put it, the “fear-mongering rhetoric of anti-immigrant groups.” Certainly my purpose in asking questions is not to incite fear; most assuredly I hold positions neither against immigrants nor against legal immigration.

Yet here I would ask, Which groups do you mean? While I’m aware that some call for a reduction or curtailment of immigration, until the widely-recognized and egregious problems in the current immigration system can be fixed (hence S.744 and other pieces of legislation you and LIRS actively support), I am unaware of any groups, which desire to cease legal immigration altogether and permanently. Doing a quick check on Google, I found a number of so-called “anti-immigrant” groups in Australia and New Zealand, places where people are likewise struggling with this issue. Here I sincerely express my ignorance; could you let me know the names of the groups you have in mind?

Further, I am also aware that many people in our country are concerned about our nation’s borders, illegal immigration, and the preservation of the rule of law. This includes a number of federal senators and congressmen, as well as state and local officials, including several governors, mayors, and state and local law enforcement officials. Yet I sincerely trust that you do not intend to paint all persons of good will, including such persons or groups, with the same, broad “anti-immigrant” brush.

You are correct in noting that several my questions pertain to the long-term health and well being of refugees. In fact, approximately half my questions concerned the long-term welfare of immigrants initially served by LIRS. I’m sure you’ll agree that immigrant’s long-term and well being is very important. And while I’m grateful for your generous rehearsal of the history and connections LIRS has made over past seventy-five years, much of which can be found on your Web site, I must also note that you did not answer very specific questions pertaining to immigrants’ long-term health and well being serviced by your agency. Specifically:

  • Where in the US does the LIRS resettle refugees? If resettlement occurs indirectly through other LIRS affiliates, where are these located?
  • What percentage of LIRS or LIRS-affiliate refugees is fully financially self-supporting after three months? Six months? A year? Two years?
  • What percentage of LIRS refugees requires state or local public assistance? What kinds of assistance? Medicaid? Food stamps? What other kinds of public assistance?

I would think that these questions should be relatively easy to answer, especially if the information were readily at hand. Perhaps your eagerness quickly to respond to my e-mail left you with insufficient time to research the answers, if that were not the case. I can certainly empathize with you in such a scenario as I too have worked in a number of stressful positions under the unforgiving, watchful eye of the clock, especially at my former employer, a Lutheran publishing house.

However, it seems reasonable to assume that refugees would be resettled in areas determined by you or your affiliates. Shall I check with those agencies to find the specific locales? Further, you mention ninety days of LIRS assistance. While ninety days may suffice for an English-speaking worker with the education and work skills necessary quickly to find a suitable job in the United States, it appears insufficient for someone lacking those skills and abilities, especially during times of high, stagnant unemployment such as what we have today. (I say that as a person, who has lived and worked overseas for a number of years.)

That is why I also asked about the financial well being of immigrants serviced by your agency, not during the “90-day resettlement period,” but thereafter. Surely we could agree that the optimal result or goal of your services, the telos or end, would be immigrants, who are financially self-supporting, healthy, happy, and assimilated into the American way-of-life. Yet you don’t answer these very specific questions in your response to me.

You also mention the International Organization for Migration’s interest-free travel loan, which covers the cost of immigrants’ travel to the United States. While I am grateful to learn that the loan is interest free, I am confident that I could have obtained the same, public information elsewhere. And while you admit that LIRS receives “a percentage of the monies repaid,” you do not confirm whether or not LIRS receives twenty-five percent of those monies. Thankfully, further research on this end has revealed that LIRS does indeed receive twenty-five percent of the travel loans taken out by LIRS-served immigrants (2012 LIRS audited financial statements, p. 10). While LIRS is certainly permitted to receive fees for its transportation lending services under federal law, twenty-five percent seems excessive, whether legally permitted or not. The State of Maryland, for example, prohibits lenders from charging more than twenty-four percent for loans in your state; it is considered excessive usury. I suspect most people sitting in Lutheran pews would also be surprised at this, having themselves experienced exorbitant and usurious interest rates on some credit cards.

Being by nature inquisitive, over the weekend I did a quick check with Priceline see how much it would cost for a hypothetical, poor family of four, consisting of two adults and two children, to travel on the Festival of the Reformation, 2013 one way from Baltimore, Maryland to its country of origin. Granted, while the following does not represent the cost of flights from our hypothetical family’s home country to the US (this is unavailable through Priceline), I assume that it fairly represents the minimum debt obligation of our hypothetical family, which secures a loan through IOM, serviced by LIRS:

  • Bagdad International Airport, Bagdad, Iraq (Etihad Airways):                $   5,922.40
  • Mandalay International Airport, Mandalay, Myanmar (British Airways):  $ 13,002.40
  • Patrella Airport, Mogadishu, Somalia (Turkish Airlines):                         $   6,923.60
  • Bagdogra Airport, Bagdogra, India (for Bhutanese) (Delta/Air India):     $   3,604.80

The above indicates that our hypothetical, poor family would incur a financial encumbrance from between $3,604.80 and $13,002.40, for which your agency would receive $901.20 to $3,250.60. However, what I cannot understand, and perhaps this is due to my poor math skills, is how LIRS received only $1,630,183.00 in loan service fees last year (2012 LIRS audited statements, p. 4). Given that, as you suggest, LIRS settles approximately 10,000 refugees per annum, the total cost for resettlement travel services in 2012 should have been approximately $6,620,632.00, or $632.07 per refugee. This leads me to conclude that, while LIRS services both rich and poor refugees, LIRS may be financially benefiting not from the rich, but from the poor, who are unable to pay for flights to the US from their home countries. Please let me know if and where I have erred in my calculations, if indeed that is the case.

You mention a benefit of refugees taking out a loan through a LIRS-serviced IOM loan is that refugees are thereby able to develop a history of good credit. As a former banker both in the United States and in Europe, you are precisely right that credit scores play a very important role in a bank’s decision to extend credit to individuals or couples, who are considering the purchase of a home, to use your example. However, I believe that there are more important barometers to indicate whether or not someone is in a financially stable situation. I would think that, even today, a reasonable person would conclude that it is better to be financially self-sufficient, whether through working for an employer, owning a store or shop, and so on, than to be on public assistance. That’s why I was disappointed that you didn’t answer these questions:

  • What process does LIRS follow when refugees are late on their travel loan repayments? What happens when refugees are unable, due to lack of work, health issues, etc., to repay their loans?
  • What percentage of LIRS refugees requires state or local public assistance? What kinds of assistance? Medicaid? Food stamps? What other kinds of public assistance?

I’m grateful that you mention advocacy. While I’ve known for years that The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has had a long relationship with LIRS, it is only recently that I became aware of the extent of this aspect of LIRS’s “mission”. In fact, as I had relayed to Rev. Bart Day, who serves on your board, I was surprised to learn about LIRS’s extensive public relations campaign, if I may call it that, to influence the legislative process in the United States concerning immigration. While this is a separate topic not directly related to refugees, I’m delighted that you brought it up.

As a former bank marketing officer, I must admit that the extent of your marketing reach is impressive. Actually, I discovered that LIRS was coordinating opinion-editorial pieces in public newspapers quite by accident. Wary of student plagiarism in my current vocation, I often google pieces of written work in order to determine whether or not a document’s content is original. Imagine my surprise when I googled portions of an op-ed appearing in our local St. Louis-Post Dispatch last month and discovering similar words, phrases and, in some cases, whole paragraphs, appearing not only in other newspapers, but also highlighted on your blog, Redefining Welcome! Again, I think what your staff has done in trying to craft your message, through the repetition of talking points, which themselves are interspersed with personal anecdotes and warm reflections, has been masterful. Congratulations to you and your team for such a fine effort!

That being said, I think that most people sitting in Lutheran pews would find it—distasteful doesn’t quite describe it—disconcerting that an agency acting on behalf of their Church takes such a public role in trying to influence not only their vote, but also the votes of their elected representatives. Here I don’t mean to suggest that that is the only problem as I see it. LIRS has taken an active role in supporting not a general call for immigration reform, but a specific call for the passage of legislation modeled on S.744 passed by the Senate this year. My dyspepsia, if you will, is only magnified by the clear facts concerning LIRS’s sources of funding. I imagine that folks sitting in Lutheran pews believe that LIRS is a charitable organization financed primarily through their tithes and offerings, or perhaps through private grants, or perhaps even further through some sort of modest governmental assistance. In actuality, as you are intimately aware, LIRS is chiefly funded by the Federal Government, and indeed could not function without that funding. The following information is available from your 2012 audited financial statements (p. 4):

Support by participating church bodies:            $      869,488
US Government and State:                               $ 40,417,752
Loan Servicing Fees (refugees):                       $   1,630,183
Other Revenue:                                                 $      638,028

Total Support and Revenue:                           $ 43,555,450

Thus, 92.8 percent of LIRS’s income is received from the US Federal Government. Here you can see why I would believe that a reasonable person would question an intense, public marketing campaign by a 501(c)3 (tax-exempt) NGO (non-governmental organization) such as LIRS, which benefits from federal tax dollars (at this point the use of those dollars is materially irrelevant), and which benefits from travel loans made to immigrants, to influence both public and legislative opinion, which ultimately could increase said NGO’s support and revenue.

That’s why I asked, and unfortunately did not receive an answer to, the following questions:

  • Does the LIRS have a lobbyist in Washington, DC? If so, is this person full-time or part-time? If full-time or part-time, does the lobbyist solicit senators or members of Congress regarding specific pieces of legislation?
  • What percentage of LIRS’s budget is set aside for lobbying or promotion of specific legislation, such as S.744 or the US House’s version of this bill?

Further, you ask about whether or not I’ve read Immigrants Among Us,[1] published recently by the LCMS’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations. While I appreciate the effort made by Rev. Dr. Leopoldo A. Sanchez M. in serving as the primary author of this work, and while I have not studied it in great detail, I would like to offer a few preliminary remarks. First, as I hope that you’re aware, CTCR reports are opinions, not the “positions of Synod” or canon law as the report readily admits.[2] Second, the “main goal of the report is to offer some biblical principles and guidelines” to Christians regarding their “responsibilities toward their immigrant neighbors.”[3] In the historic, orthodox, confessional Lutheran tradition, that would require marshaling pertinent Bible passages dealing directly or tangentially with the topic at hand, as well as deducing the Bible’s teachings from these passages through the ministerial use of reason (some portion of your church’s tradition rejects such logical deduction).

However, admitting that Bible passages dealing directly with this topic cannot be found, the report proposes to divine “foundational biblical values… that must inform the church’s actions among immigrants regardless of their status in society.”[4] Thus, the thrust of the report is entirely normative, although not based on clear passages of Scripture. The report further admits the lack of biblical “proof texts,” and instead proposes to explore an “interpretive framework” or “consensus of values” pertaining to the topic, presumably found in Scripture.[5]

Having thus abandoned the historic, orthodox, confessional Lutheran approach to interpreting the Scripture, the report offers principles and guidelines devised by the CTCR for navigating this thorny issue. However, the main goal is not directed to immigrants, either legal or illegal, document or undocumented (the report provides very detailed guidelines about which words to use depending on one’s audience), but rather to “Christians,” presumably those children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of German immigrants sitting in the Lutheran pew (here I confess that I’m not entirely “white,” am a non-original-Lutheran, and have both Latino- and Asian-American cousins), most especially those, as the tenor of the report goes on to show, Lutheran Christians, who believe in the rule of law, national sovereignty, and while having even a big heart toward immigrants of all sizes and colors and legalities, who nevertheless believe along with St. Paul that “all things should be done decently and in good order” (1 Cor 14:40 ESV).

To accomplish its goal, the report is required to resurrect a previous CTCR report, published in the turbulent 60’s: Civil Obedience and Disobedience (1966). From that document the report reanimates, like Frankenstein’s monster, the moral relativist principle of “Sin if your heart tells you too, but just be willing to suffer the consequences.” Reductionism is likewise evident in the report, which focuses specifically on the (entirely human!) difficulties of reconciling the Fourth and Fifth Commandments in specific circumstances, while avoiding a clear discussion of the rest of the Second Table and, apparently, any Word of God for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16 ESV) to illegal immigrants, who may be violating just civil laws, thus violating God’s law and ordinance.

Again, while I have not completed a full analysis, I find two most egregious passages, one of which you quote: “Among Lutherans who sincerely want to show mercy to their immigrant neighbors and also obey civil authority, there can be a reasonable spectrum of opinions and a variety of debate positions concerning what is—and what is not—just, good, reasonable, orderly, and peace building for society in current immigration law.”[6] Note carefully the language. The report not only provides a description, a “spectrum of opinions and a variety of debate positions concerning what is… and what is not,” it also provides a norm: “there can be.” This moral relativism sleight-of-hand permeates the entire piece and, sad to say, it is not the first time, allegedly lacking any clear passage of Scripture, that the CTCR has advocated for granting permission to disputants over moral, ethical, and legal issues, as opposed to providing normative guidance onl based on clear passages of Scripture, or the ministerial use of deductive syllogisms. The second outrageous passage, likened unto Alinsky Rule No. 12 (“Pick a target, freeze it, personalize, and polarize it”), is the following, where Dr. Sanchez describes “interference with the Gospel”:

In a more likely scenario, imagine vocal public opposition to illegal immigration by a zealous citizen, who is also a member of the congregation, in the particular context of church-sponsored missionary activities in an increasingly immigrant neighborhood. This can be described as an example of the interference described above, insofar as his opposition will most likely become an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel in the community.[7]

Note the clear equivocation. The Gospel becomes the proclamation of the Gospel, as determined by the group proclaiming. The opponent, then, not necessarily to the Gospel, but to a particular application of the Law (or, in this case his or her response to a perceived lack of an application of existing civil law) becomes the enemy. To prove the point, simply substitute “abortion” for “illegal immigration” and “abortion-supporting neighborhood” for “increasingly immigrant neighborhood.” The simple fact is that this scenario relies on the unstated premise that illegal immigration is not morally wrong. The Church must proclaim the law that abortion is the unjustified killing of an innocent human life, regardless of the consequences on a pro-abortion neighborhood, but it must not support civil law that gives the appearance of hindering the Gospel to immigrants, whether or not that actually is the case. This is Law-Gospel reductionism.

So, the end results of the report are, first, that it creates space for breaking the civil law, so long as a Christian is secure in his or conscience (the reliance on Kant is quite evident) in doing so (regardless of the objective divine law in Scripture, natural law written on the human heart, of the biblical mandate to obey earthly authorities so long as temporal commands do not violate divine or natural law). The second result is that it demonizes those who would advocate against this approach, and who would seek to uphold the historic, orthodox, confessional Lutheran interpretation of Scripture, and the historic, orthodox, confessional Lutheran understanding of all Christians’ obligation to love his or her neighbor, that obligation entailing all Seven Commandments of the Second Table, and not just Commandments Four and Five.

Ms. Hartke, you suggested early in your e-mail that, based on your reading of my blog, Bioethike, you fear that we might view newcomers to the U.S. differently. I do not think that that is the case at all. I believe that immigration is a natural human right that should be supported by civil law in order to encourage human flourishing. But people are social by nature. Further, nations are extensions of communities, which themselves are extensions of the human family. Families function best when all members are treated fairly and equally. But God has placed us in specific places, at specific times, in concrete vocations, in specific families, and in specific national families, for purposes only know unto Him. Human flourishing is not limited to the United States, and our national family should do its best to encourage other nations to assist in making the lives of their national families more fair and equal. To that extent that they cannot do so, we welcome their national family members as our own.

Yet what I have envisioned above is one of true Christian values, true Christian charity that is wholly self-sacrificial in nature. Such a vision would be like the one shared by the early Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, which reached out with the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments, first to fellow Lutheran immigrants (here I think of Rev. Stephanus Keyl, son-in-law of our first president, C.F.W. Walther), but then also to other Christians as well. Such a vision would also have a strong connection to mercy work among Lutheran immigrants, as the history of the old Lutherisches Pilgerhaus on State Street in New York City shows.

But I am beginning to believe that my vision, which I perceive to derived from the old Orthodox Lutheran tradition, is based on different philosophical and theological first principles than yours. What is becoming apparent, as I ask you and others these questions, is that LIRS provides services to the US Federal Government, and beyond that the United Nations, which seek to shift populations in order to achieve certain international population goals. To some extent it also appears that LIRS serves Big Business, in that you aid in providing cheap labor from more-fertile immigrants, whose children and grandchildren will support an ever-burgeoning social welfare system. And it appears that you do so while proclaiming to do the Lord’s work. Yet if I look at your financials, it appears that you are doing the State’s work and accomplishing chiefly to justify the ends of the State. To this has been added, at least on the LCMS side, a piece of theo-political literature, which apparently seeks to justify, on the basis of scriptural interpretation foreign to Lutheranism and faulty reasoning, the work of LIRS.

Yet as to your kind invitation to coffee and conversation in the hope of creating space for the Spirit to work, I must thank you profusely. However, I prefer to believe that Spirit also works through the asking of genuine questions and the giving of honest answers.

To that end, I will ask again,

  • Will the LIRS pay more, beginning in 2018, for the 2007 bond issue it took out with LWR? How does the LIRS, apart from comprehensive immigration reform, plan to meet that financial obligation?

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Robert C. Baker


[1] Commission on Theology and Church Relations. Immigrants Among Us(St. Louis: The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, 2013).

[2] Immigrants 2.

[3] Immigrants 8.

[4] Immigrants 11.

[5] Immigrants 18.

[6] Immigrants 33.

[7] Immigrants 31.

Latest LIRS-linked op-ed jumps the shark: Opponents of S.744 are “extremists”

I think that immigration reform, at least from the Lutheran perspective, has just “jumped the shark”.

Just look at the language used by Rev. Eloy Gonzalez, pastor of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS), in Irving, TX. In an undated op-ed appearing a few days ago in the Irving Rambler. Gonzalez writes:

As pastor of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Irving, I’ve observed that part of what’s holding up solutions is that the immigration debate tends to magnify perspectives and judgments at the extremes.

But extremism neither solves problems nor reflects American values. Once we permit ourselves to wander into the borderland at either extreme—either the extreme that fails to recognize the need to protect our citizens from those who intend to do harm, or the extreme that vilifies people simply for who they are and where they were born—we showcase the worst of the democratic process. Thankfully, these extremes did not stop the Senate from passing just and compassionate immigration reform, but extreme rhetoric continues to lead to pain for real people every day until reform becomes a reality.

Natch, the article is highlighted on Refining Welcome, the blog piloted by Linda Hartke, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

Gonzalez “jumps the shark” by serving up a fresh, hot dish of red herring. Of course, everyone wants to avoid extremism and rhetoric, which is bad, bad, bad. But S.744 isn’t extreme, it is good, good, good. Go S.744!

Or so Rev. Gonzalez’s rhetorical fallacy goes.

Anybody got the Fonz’s number?

LIRS VP would ask Jesus to “sweep in” immigration reform; He’d give her a Buddhist robe and rice bowl

This stuff really can’t be made up, people.

Stacy Martin, vice president for external relations at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, has penned an interesting perspective on our Lord and comprehensive immigration reform. Her article appears in Sojourners magazine, and has been highlighted by Linda Hartke, president and CEO of LIRS, on her blog, Redefining Welcome.

Sojourners, of course, is a progressive/liberal social justice magazine with admitted financial ties to George Soros.

Sojourners is also listed on Redefining Welcome’s blogroll:

Picture 29

Anyway, here are some choice quotes, followed by some commentary:

In the exchange depicted in Matthew 22, Jesus says “the faithful” are not defined by how well they uphold every rule. He suggests it is not the business of religion to determine who is good and who is bad. “The faithful,” Jesus maintains, are defined by how much we love God with that same stubborn commitment with which God loves us. And that is determined by how much we love our neighbors.

Well, it is the business of religion (and philosophy and law) to determine who is good and who is bad, but let’s move on. Here we have a logical contradiction. If “the faithful” are not defined by rules, then “the faithful” cannot be defined by how much we love God and our neighbor, which are moral rules. According to Martin, Jesus contradicts Himself. I suspect if we delved a little further, we’d find a confusion of Law and Gospel and the Two Kingdoms.

According to Jesus, the term “neighbor” refers to all those we may consider “other”:  immigrant, soccer mom, inmate, CEO, addict, elected official—all those that, if we were to spend a year living as beggars, we would discover are actually the hands and feet of the very God we serve.

While potentially anyone could be our “neighbor,” according to Jesus, our neighbor is not any abstract “other”. First and foremost our neighbors are those with whom we already are in relationship: our mothers and fathers, our sisters and brothers, our teachers or students, our grocers, plumbers, and hairdressers. Spiritually, our neighbors are our brothers and sisters and Christ, beginning with those who are part of our congregational family.

And while we have an obligation of love towards those whom we do not share an intimate or close physical or spiritual relationship, it is not the Bible, but the philosophy of consequentialism, that seeks to make us responsible for everyone, everywhere, at all times. That responsibility is the purview of Almighty God, who in His providential care provides for all creatures, human and non-human alike.

Speaking of consequentialism, while Martin argues against “championing” comprehensive immigration reform merely on the basis of economic or political gain or on the basis of “rule following” (presumably, obeying the law), she nevertheless resorts to consequentialism by arguing for reform in that it would, among other things, expand the church’s social ministry and reduce cultural differences. (Wait! I love Greek Fest! And I though we were all in with cultural diversity/multiculturalism!)

But here’s the moneymaker:

IF JESUS were here in body, I would be one of the first in the room to encourage him to sweep in reform today and, in so doing, make life much simpler. In response, I’d venture to say, he would likely sigh and state, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

After this, he would probably hand me a bright orange robe and my beggar’s bowl, bidding me safe journey for the path ahead.

Until today, I was totally unaware that Jesus liked orange. And Buddhism. And S.744.

Additional LIRS-affiliated op-ed springs forth

Wilmont Day, an administrative officer for the Montana VA, has written an op-ed, which appeared in the Helena Independent Record September 4.

As expected, Redefining Welcome, a blog maintained by Linda Hartke, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, highlighted the article on the same day.

These things are coordinated, folks.

Along with sharing his personal story and folding in boilerplate verbiage about the economic benefits of comprehensive immigration reform, code for Pass the House version of S.744 Now, Mr. Day lets part of the cat out of the bag. He writes:

The reality is also that both Montana and the United States have graying populations with birthrates below the replacement level. This means that our state (and America) needs to worry about filling a workforce left vacant by retirees — a workforce whose taxes can replenish Social Security’s coffers. Immigrants who have access to a roadmap to earned citizenship can fill that critical dual role.

Oh, I see. It’s not that we’re merely redefining welcome, or arguing purely on utilitarian grounds for passage of legislation that will benefit us financially.

(For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:10)

All this has also to do with benefiting from higher immigrant fertility rates which, with resultant population increases, will financially support ever-expanding social service programs.

Thanks for clarifying that, Mr. Day.

Next LIRS-connected op-ed appears

<p>Bishop Julian Gordy</p>

Using the shopworn, utilitarian “benefit” argument in the title, the next op-ed coordinated by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service has appeared, this time in Columbia, Tennessee’s The Daily Herald. In it, the Rev. Julian Gordy, bishop of the ELCA’s Southeastern Synod, repeats familiar talking points issued by previous op-eds appearing throughout the country:

The Congressional Budget Office knows it; they calculate that S.744 would reduce federal budget deficits by over $200 billion over the next decade.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce knows it; they issued a report on how immigrant entrepreneurs are strengthening the economy and creating jobs as immigrants have always done.

The Immigration Policy Center knows it; their research finds that immigrant businesspeople and consumers already add billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to Tennessee’s economy.

True to form, the op-ed was showcased on the LIRS blog, Redefining Welcome.

Of course, what’s not mentioned by Bishop Gordy is how frequently wrong CBO’s markups are. One recent and egregious example is the cost of Obamacare. Here’s Merrill Matthew at Forbes, back in March of this year:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) now claims that the president’s signature health care legislation will cost hundreds of billions of dollars more than originally predicted.  So naturally, the media are running headlines claiming ObamaCare will cost less.

No serious policy person ever believed the original CBO gross cost projection of $938 billion (over 10 years) made when the bill was rammed through Congress in March of 2010.  Working to achieve an acceptable CBO “score” (i.e., cost projection) is just part of the game Washington plays with legislation—and the American people.

To begin with, the costs in the legislation were back-loaded: Many of the costs won’t emerge until the latter half of the initial 10-year projection, ending in 2019.  And sure enough, when the CBO issued its update in March 2011 the 10-year gross cost projection through 2021 jumped to $1.44 trillion.  The just-released 2012 projection tags the gross cost at $1.76 trillion through 2022—nearly twice the original cost.  Surprise!

I’ll post more on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Immigration Policy Center later.

Hey LIRS: Advocacy and honesty is a good combination!

Questions for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

This morning, I emailed Linda Hartke, the President/CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, the following questions about her organization:

  1. Where in the US does the LIRS resettle refugees? If resettlement occurs indirectly through other LIRS affiliates, where are these located?
  2. Does the LIRS have a lobbyist in Washington, DC? If so, is this person full-time or part-time? If full-time or part-time, does the lobbyist solicit senators or members of Congress regarding specific pieces of legislation?
  3. What percentage of LIRS’s budget is set aside for lobbying or promotion of specific legislation, such as S.744 or the US House’s version of this bill?
  4. Does the LIRS expect that its workload will increase or decrease if the House passes immigration reform? If the workload increases, does the LIRS anticipate that it will incur a greater refugee caseload? If so, how much does the LIRS expect in terms of number of refugee cases handled and the dollar amount of increased service fees?
  5. How long, in terms of months, does LIRS direct assistance, whether cash, helping refugees navigate state and local social services, health care, education, etc., last for a typical refugee?
  6. What percentage of LIRS or LIRS-affiliate refugees is fully financially self-supporting after three months? Six months? A year? Two years?
  7. What percentage of refugee “travel loans” does LIRS legally keep from refugees, as reimbursement for servicing the loans? 25%?
  8. What process does LIRS follow when refugees are late on their travel loan repayments? What happens when refugees are unable, due to lack of work, health issues, etc., to repay their loans?
  9. What percentage of LIRS refugees requires state or local public assistance? What kinds of assistance? Medicaid? Food stamps? What other kinds of public assistance?
  10. How does LIRS define a “successful” resettlement? What percentage of LIRS refugees are deemed “successful” after three months? Six months? A year? Two years?
  11. Will the LIRS pay more, beginning in 2018, for the 2007 bond issue it took out with LWR? How does the LIRS, apart from comprehensive immigration reform, plan to meet that financial obligation?
  12. What direct contact or follow-up with refugees does LIRS or its affiliates make after three months? Six months? One year? Two years?
  13. What is LIRS’s protocol, or the protocol of its affiliates, for cooperation and communication with local (rural, town, city, county, parish) or state authorities? Does such cooperation and communication occur before refugees are settled in a locale? During the resettlement process? Or does it occur only as problems arise?
  14. What is LIRS’s estimate of the economic burden on local or state governments and/or social service providers for every LIRS or LIRS-affiliate refugee?
  15. What percentage of LIRS refugees have HIV, AIDS, mental illness, TB, hepatitis, malaria, or other life-threatening, debilitating, or communicable diseases? How and when, if appropriate, is this information communicated to local public health authorities?
  16. What percentage of LIRS refugees has previous criminal histories? Does LIRS reject or refuse to place refugees with a criminal past?
  17. What percentage of LIRS refugees have served in non-US armed forces, or have been members of foreign non-government militant groups?
  18. What percentage of LIRS refugees are Lutheran? Christian? Members of other religious traditions?

Fourth LIRS talking points op-ed found

Picture 28

Apparently, word gets around!

On August 6, Lafayette (IN) Journal and Courier published an op-ed by the Rev. Joshua J. Burkholder of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Frankfort, IN with verbiage similar to the three articles we’ve examined before. The article was synchronously highlighted by the LIRS blog, Redefining Welcome.

BURKHOLDER (August 6): The common sense bill that’s badly needed from the House would create a road map to earned lawful permanent residency and subsequent citizenship for undocumented immigrants and their families. It would establish laws that are humanely enforced by limiting the use of immigration detention and extending community support programs.

BAH (August 8): What form would an effective, common-sense House bill take? First, it would set forth an earned roadmap to lawful permanent residency and eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants and their families. It would also ensure the just and humane enforcement of U.S. immigration laws by reducing the use of immigration detention and widening community support programs.

HOMANS (August 22): An effective bill would establish a roadmap to earned lawful permanent residency and subsequent citizenship for undocumented immigrants and their families. It would put in place laws that are humanely enforced by limiting the use of immigration detention and broadening community support programs.

BURKHOLDER (August 6): An effective bill would also protect families from separation and guarantee a sufficient supply of visas for families seeking to reunite. Furthermore, it would provide adequate resources to ensure the smooth assimilation of refugees and migrants. Finally, the bill would include better protections for American citizens and migrant laborers.

BAH (August 8): We also need such a bill to protect families from separation and guarantee a sufficient supply of visas for families seeking to reunite. Moreover, an effective bill would make adequate resources and protections available to ensure the successful integration of refugees and other vulnerable migrants. As a final measure, we need a bill that better ensures the protection of U.S. citizen and migrant laborers.

HOMANS (August 22): A common-sense bill would also preserve families from separation and better guarantee a sufficient supply of visas for families seeking to reunite. Moreover, it would provide sufficient resources to ensure the healthy assimilation of refugees and migrants. Lastly, the bill would include better protections for American citizen and migrant laborers.

BURKHOLDER (August 6): It’s crucially important that the House acts immediately to pass this kind of fair and comprehensive immigration reform bill.

BAH (August 8): The fact is, we need the U.S. House of Representatives to act right away and pass a common-sense comprehensive immigration reform bill.

DAY (August 20): We need to ask our elected representatives to deliver a comprehensive immigration reform bill right away.

HOMANS (August 22): All this makes it crucially important that the House of Representatives act now to pass a fair and comprehensive immigration reform bill.

BURKHOLDER (August 6): Our stance is not unique; it unites us with a majority of Americans for a new law that keeps families together and offers a road map to earned citizenship for 11 million aspiring new Americans.

BAH (August 8): This stance unites me with the majority of Americans who are calling for reform that keeps families together and offers a roadmap to earned citizenship for 11 million aspiring new Americans.

HOMANS (August 22): Our commitment … unites us with a majority of Americans seeking a new law that keeps families together and offers a roadmap to earned citizenship for 11 million aspiring new Americans.

BURKHOLDER (August 6): An effective bill would also protect families from separation and guarantee a sufficient supply of visas for families seeking to reunite. Furthermore, it would provide adequate resources to ensure the smooth assimilation of refugees and migrants. Finally, the bill would include better protections for American citizens and migrant laborers.

BAH (August 8): We also need such a bill to protect families from separation and guarantee a sufficient supply of visas for families seeking to reunite. Moreover, an effective bill would make adequate resources and protections available to ensure the successful integration of refugees and other vulnerable migrants. As a final measure, we need a bill that better ensures the protection of U.S. citizen and migrant laborers.

HOMANS (August 22): A common-sense bill would also preserve families from separation and better guarantee a sufficient supply of visas for families seeking to reunite. Moreover, it would provide sufficient resources to ensure the healthy assimilation of refugees and migrants. Lastly, the bill would include better protections for American citizen and migrant laborers.

BURKHOLDER (August 6): Our stance is not unique; it unites us with a majority of Americans for a new law that keeps families together and offers a road map to earned citizenship for 11 million aspiring new Americans.

BAH (August 8): This stance unites me with the majority of Americans who are calling for reform that keeps families together and offers a roadmap to earned citizenship for 11 million aspiring new Americans.

HOMANS (August 22): Our commitment … unites us with a majority of Americans seeking a new law that keeps families together and offers a roadmap to earned citizenship for 11 million aspiring new Americans.

BURKHOLDER (August 6): It’s crucially important that the House acts immediately to pass this kind of fair and comprehensive immigration reform bill. Granted, it will take members of both parties reaching across the aisle to put our national interests ahead of squabbling, but that is an achievable goal.

BAH (August 8): The fact is, we need the U.S. House of Representatives to act right away and pass a common-sense comprehensive immigration reform bill.

DAY (August 20): We need to ask our elected representatives to deliver a comprehensive immigration reform bill right away.

HOMANS (August 22): All this makes it crucially important that the House of Representatives act now to pass a fair and comprehensive immigration reform bill.

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