LIRS Overview & Programs
Learn more about LIRS and the programs available to the LIRS network.
Who Is LIRS?
Who is LIRS?
For over 80 years, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service has been a champion for immigrants and refugees from around the globe. As the largest faith-based national nonprofit dedicated to immigration, our legacy of compassionate welcome has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who have sought safety and hope on American soil.
In partnership with community-based legal and social service providers nationwide, LIRS has helped over half a million immigrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America. Our Programs largely fall into one of two categories: Children and Family Services and Resettlement and Integration Services.
LIRS Resettlement Network
In FY 2023, LIRS administrates the R&P program through an affiliate network of 66 affiliates (including 16 URM sites) in 24 states across the country. Click the next tab for the full list.
LIRS Resettlement Network Partners
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Resettlement and Integration Services UNIT
Reception and Placement: In partnership with the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), LIRS is one of nine national agencies authorized to resettle newly arriving refugees to the United States. As one of the oldest and largest agencies, our national network consists of a network of local nonprofits across the country working to help refugees secure homes, work, and essential community resources.
Economic Empowerment & Workforce Development
Matching Grant Program: LIRS provides employment and case management services to refugees, asylees, and other immigrants with the goal of economic self-sufficiency through employment within six months of enrollment.
New American Pathways: In partnership with the Walmart Foundation, LIRS provides career upskilling and advancement to refugees and other immigrants around the country, allowing them to move from 'survival’ jobs into meaningful careers.
Refugee Career Pathways: LIRS assists refugees to advance their education and career goals through activities like career counseling, mentorship, and internships.
New American Cities: LIRS provides career-focused case management, career development opportunities and trainings, and job placement support to refugees and immigrants past their initial resettlement period.
Refugee Empowerment and Wellness Services
Preferred Communities Program: The Preferred Communities' Intensive Case Management program is a client-centered program that empowers the most vulnerable to achieve their highest degree of independence through education, individualized/ trauma-informed case management, and holistic community integration support. Funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, this program serves our most vulnerable refugee and other ORR-eligible populations by providing critical interventions for clients within their first 5 years after arrival.
LIRS Migrant Services programming focuses on four key program areas: 1) Migrants are welcome; 2) Build social connections and reduce isolation while in detention; 3) Stabilize & empower within 72 hours of release; and 4) Continuous care & support long-term post-release
Respite and Welcome: LIRS coordinates services for asylum seekers at the southern border, departing immigration detention, and at their final destination, including the provision of necessities such as food, clothing, and hygiene supplies, medical triage and basic care, Know Your Rights counseling, and emergency housing, and case management services.
Detention Visitation: LIRS works with a network of organizations and congregations that provide support to migrants in detention by visiting them and writing letters.
Children & Family Services UNIT
Safe Release Support sites perform background checks on potential guardians to ensure that children are reunited into safe and secure homes. Safe Release staff identify various needs of the family such as pro bono legal counsel, food banks, counseling services, English classes, job training, and medical care, and connects them to these services. During the 2018 family separation crisis, LIRS was one of only two agencies working to reunite families.
Transitional Foster Care for Unaccompanied Children
LIRS’s care affiliates provide services to particularly vulnerable children, such as minors under 12, pregnant/parenting youth, sibling groups. All children in transitional care receive individualized assessments, acculturation and adaptation services, case management, education, weekly group and individual counseling, legal support, mental and medical health care, and access to religious services.
Long-Term Foster Care for Unaccompanied Children
Unaccompanied children without family reunification options but who have the possibility of receiving legal immigration protections are placed in Long Term foster Care where they receive ongoing case management support as they integrate into their new communities. Children in Long-Term Foster Care are placed with loving foster families until their immigration case is resolved. Typically, children in long term foster care will transition into the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor program.
Home Study and Post-Release Services
For particularly vulnerable unaccompanied children, LIRS services include community-based case management services which include: inspection of home environments once the child and the caregiver are together in the home, connect families to community resources and empower families with resources and knowledge to make the best informed decisions for their children and family in a variety of important life decisions, related to school, legal representation, medical health, mental health, recreational and religious services.
LIRS Mobilization and Faith Relations Department
The Mobilization team provides programming for individuals and communities across the US who are eager to support the LIRS mission, such as hands-on activities, educational toolkits, faith-based resources, advocacy, and training opportunities. This department also recruits volunteers and co-sponsors to support LIRS affiliate partners. To learn more about connecting with volunteers in your area through the Mobilization team, please contact Outreach@LIRS.org.
LIRS Resettlement Team Roles
Resettlement Program Staff and Roles
Located in Baltimore, Maryland, LIRS administers its programs through a network of partner organizations, called affiliates. In February 2019, Krish O’Mara Vignarajah became the President and CEO. LIRS manages its R&P program from within the Programs division, which is overseen by the Vice President for Programs, Lee Williams, who began in his role on August 17, 2020, and is comprised of two units: Resettlement & Integration Services (RIS) and Children & Family Services (CFS). Megan Bracy, who began in her role in October 2019, is the Director for RIS providing strategic direction and overall management of all refugee resettlement, employment, integration and migrant programs.
Resettlement Sub-Unit: Within the RIS unit, the Resettlement sub-unit has been strategically structured to ensure cost-effective management with an emphasis on high program outcomes and compliance. This sub-unit is led by Bianca Nelson, Associate Director for Resettlement. Each year, LIRS assesses R&P staffing needs to meet new goals and programmatic priorities to manage its network of affiliates. In FY 2019, the unit was restructured to create an R&P Quality Team dedicated to strengthening R&P Program outcomes network-wide. This innovation led to higher levels of program quality as measured by a 100 percent fully compliant rating for affiliates monitored by PRM in FY 2019.
The R&P Pre-Arrival team is comprised of seven staff who are tasked with the effective placement of refugees, SIVs, and URMs throughout the LIRS network. The team is led by Helen Pursel, the Assistant Director for Pre-Arrival. The team performs all processing functions to ensure the best placement for all newcomers, file family reunification petitions, respond to refugee case inquiries, and provide fraud prevention oversight.
The R&P Post-Arrival team is comprised of five staff responsible for reporting, training, performance improvement plans, and provision of technical assistance and guidance to the LIRS network, in addition to client learning through Cultural Orientation (CO), and affiliate staff learning. This team tracks network staff training compliance, coordinates training for new directors, ensures the quality of training initiatives and provides technical assistance support for the R&P program. Additionally, this team maintains the R&P online resource pages on LIRS Connect. The team is led by Sawsan Al Sayyab, Senior Program Officer for Post-Arrival.
The R&P Quality team is comprised of six staff members and ensures the LIRS network is in full compliance with R&P requirements. The Quality team conducts all monitoring activities and maintains the quality of monitoring systems, ensuring responsiveness to network trends and changes to R&P policy. The Quality team monitors the LIRS network through remote and on-site monitoring and intensive post-monitoring follow-up. Liz Cione, Senior Program Officer for Quality centralizes all monitoring activities. The Quality team plans, coordinates, and conducts all monitoring activities and maintains monitoring systems and data. Additionally, this team oversees I-94 and Social Security delays for the LIRS network.
The Community Partnerships team is comprised of two staff members and ensures new resettlement partners have the tools and resources needed to resettle refugees and Afghan parolees throughout the U.S. This team also works collaboratively to administer the Remote Placement program, which resettles refugees outside 100 miles of our affiliates, and engages community partners to connect refugees to resources.
Unaccompanied Refugee Minors: Supported by the Pre-Arrival team and housed within the CFS department, the URM program (unique to only LIRS and one other national resettlement agency) is comprised of the Program Manager for URM who works to place URMs and provide child welfare expertise to the LIRS network through training and technical assistance. Additionally, as of FY 2021, LIRS will serve as the Designee for the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program (URD), being required by ORR to be the national resettlement agency to serve URMs in Texas.
Integration Sub-Unit: Through cross-unit collaboration, the Integration Unit allows LIRS to provide innovative strategies related to economic empowerment, overcoming client vulnerabilities, skills-building, and social connections.
For contact information of LIRS staff, please see the LIRS Who to Contact list on LIRSConnect!