Welcome to the Immigration Welcoming Working Group (IWWG).

We’ll update materials on this page periodically.

Some background about the IWWG:

  • Began in approximately 2017.
  • Meets the 3rd Tuesday of the month from 6:00-7:30 pm.
  • Our purpose is to live out our faith by caring for immigrants through education, advocacy, and service.
  • Anyone can join the group who’s interested in learning more about service to immigrants. Members do not have to members of Plymouth, and there is no term limit.
  • Please refer to our annual plan for more specifics.


How You Can Help During September

Witnessing God’s love for all people, we stand with and advocate for immigrants through partnership, direct action, education, and support for local immigrants, as well as related organizations.

As part of our advocacy program, the Immigrant Welcoming Work Group compiles actions and local events held in support of immigrants and immigration issues. We urge you to perform some of these actions and/or attend some of the events! Content is updated monthly.

If you take any action listed in this summary, please notify Tom Haigh, jthaigh45 (at) gmail.com, for tracking purposes. If you have content for future updates, please submit to Janine Sieja, janinesieja (at) gmail.com.

  1. NEW Take actions in support of our Afghan allies during this perilous time. Write a letter to President Biden concerning Afghans in dire need of refugee status, using Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Services’ online guide to compose and send your message. Sign a petition to protect Afghan refugees, sponsored by RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. And write your Senator to support Afghans during U.S. withdrawal, sponsored by MoveOn.org.
  1. In the wake of a Texas judge’s order to partially end DACA, petition President Biden and Congress to create a path to citizenship, before the August congressional recess. The reconciliation package before Congress must protect undocumented people, including DACA recipients, TPS holders, farmworkers and essential workers. Sign a petition, or dial 832-610-3896 (or make a phone connection online) to speak with your Senator. SPONSOR: United We Dream.
  1. Tell President Biden to reopen the U.S. border to asylum seekers. Since March 2020, a Trump administration order has resulted in deportations of more than 643,000 people, including children. Today, thousands of migrants are stranded along the Mexican side of the border in makeshift camps and other unsanitary conditions without access to adequate support services, where they face high rates of kidnappings and violence. Ask the Biden administration to stop these expulsions, and protect the health, safety, and human rights of all who seek refuge at the southern border. SPONSOR: American Friends Service Committee.
  1. Urge bold action on immigration using an easy, step-by-step letter-writing guide. Add your voice to those calling on President Biden to keep the promise—urge him to make good on the decades-long pledges Democrats have made to the immigrant community. SPONSOR: The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).
  1. Urge your U.S. representative to support the Palestinian Children and Families Act.R. 2590 halts U.S. taxpayer funding of any Israeli government actions against Palestinian youth and property. Tell you representative not to fund human rights violations—Palestinians are refugees on their own land. SPONSOR: American Friends Service Committee.
  1. Express support of comprehensive immigration reform to Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith and encourage their efforts toward bipartisan action. Unless Republicans join Democrats, there is no chance of a reform measure passing. Let Klobuchar and Smith know regularly that this is an issue of tremendous importance to their constituents by calling their Minnesota and D.C. offices—you could alternate every week.
    • Amy Klobuchar: 612-727-5220, 202-224-3244
    • Tina Smith: 651-221-1016, 202-224-5641

Talking points:

  • We must have comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to
    citizenship for over 11 million immigrants without documents.
  • We are especially concerned about protection from deportation for resettled
    refugees who often have green cards but have not yet become citizens, but they
    are facing deportation because they committed a crime.
  • After having lived in the U.S. for a median of 15 years, they are being
    jailed by ICE and facing return to a country they often no longer know and facing
    separation from their spouses and kids.
  • This is cruel and unusual punishment. It is inhumane, unjust and uncivilized.
  • It’s emotional and psychological torture of those being deported and their
    loved ones remaining in the United States.
  1. NEW Join a monthly vigil to stand with our immigrant neighbors who are facing deportation, and stand in opposition to ICE practices that dehumanize and terrorize. This month’s vigil will be held at 7:30am Tuesday, Sept. 7, at the Whipple Federal Building). For more information, email Tom Haigh. SPONSOR: Interfaith Coalition on Immigration (ICOM).
  1. NEW Plymouth’s Immigrant Welcoming Working Group is co-sponsoring a refugee family through the Minnesota Council of Churches. When we are assigned a family (as early as September), we will need individuals and families ready to help set up an apartment and gather supplies for the family, as well as to help with cooking meals and other non-contact tasks when the family arrives. Getting ready will take many hands! Please email Joan Thompson, Erika Charlesworth-Seiler or Jerry Davis if you can help. Please send your email address and phone number so we can contact you when we receive notice of our family’s arrival.
  1. Review your investments to ensure they align with your values. Are you supporting corporations that profit from private prisons and detention centers, or violate worker rights in other countries? Learn to discern and make changes accordingly. SPONSOR: American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).
  1. The Asylum Coalition for Transition – Twin Cities (ACT-TC) needs help furnishing a home for an asylum-seeking family who will be living at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Hopkins. ACT-TC is an informal group of interfaith congregations who are compelled by faith to actively befriend the stranger. You can donate needed items (new or gently used) or gift cards (Target or Cub) via SignUpGenius. Gift cards can be mailed to the church at 500 Blake Road South, Hopkins, MN 55343 (note the campaign). You can drop off donated items at the church Monday-Thursday during normal working hours, but please call 952-935-3457 to confirm someone is available to receive your donation. For questions, contact Paul Bohnsack at bohnsackps@frontiernet.net.
  1. Help the Green Valley – Sahuarita Samaritans put water in the desert, among other kind services for migrants. They are a worthy organization doing valuable work.
  1. Buy a handmade bordado from an Etsy shop and support women refugees.
  1. Support the Casa Alitas program, which serves migrant families who have left their home countries to escape violence and poverty by providing short-term shelter and help to reunite with family members in the United States.

Learning and Teaching

  1. NEW Talk about immigration with your family—whether you are an immigrant, an ally or beginning to learn about the U.S. immigration system. Download a free family conversation guide from RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.
  1. NEW Immigration is a complicated issue. It’s helpful to have some background, and a great start is to watch the video “U.S. Immigration – The Basics” by Alyson Ball. She is a Samaritan, working with asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants in Arizona and Virginia. Ball keeps up-to-date on immigration issues and gives presentations throughout the United States. This 53-minute video will get you acquainted with basic immigration history, law and practice.
  1. Read the Center for Victims of Torture’snew backgrounder, “Arbitrary & Cruel: How U.S. Immigration Detention Violates the Convention against Torture and Other International Obligations,” which illustrates how the dehumanizing and cruel policies and practices in the immigration detention system violate the Convention against Torture, and makes the case that the system must be eliminated for the United States to comply with international law.
  1. Watch two short videos (one minute each) by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS): One shares a truly terrifying projection of 100,000 unaccompanied children at the U.S. Mexico border this year; the other is a lovely prayer for migrant children.
  1. Check out this beautiful and powerful “visual op-ed” (“cartoon” doesn’t do it justice!) on border wall construction.
  1. Guest columnist Brian Fauver, who hosted two asylum seekers in his home, argues in Boulder Weekly—in well-reasoned detail—why migrants need compassion, not surveillance.
  1. The Biden administration’s prioritization of immigration is encouraging, but there is a critical priority that has yet to be addressed: ICE’s deadly and inhumane detention system. Detention Watch Network created analyses and recommendations to help us collectively make sense of the shifting political landscape:
  1. Read any of the diverse and fascinating articles about unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border in the collection Opinions in Print by the Green Valley-Sahuarita Samaritans.

If you take any action listed in this summary, please notify Tom Haigh for tracking purposes. If you have content for future updates, please submit to Janine Sieja.


Book Review

What Strange Paradise (Alfred A. Knopf, 2021) by Omar El Akkad

Reviewed by Joan Thompson

This summer, American newspapers are full of articles about migrants at our southern border.  However, migration to the global north continues worldwide, and both conflicts and climate change continue to fuel it.  In his excellent second novel, What Strange Paradise, Omar El Akkad reminds us that rickety boats filled with migrants still cross the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas.

Amir Utu, a young boy originally from Homs, Syria is the only survivor of a ship that goes down in view of resort lights on a Greek island.  When he flees into the forest, Vänna Hermes, a fifteen-year-old who feels estranged from her parents and the island where her northern European family has tried to start a tourist hotel, hides Amir from authorities.

In alternating chapters titled “After” and “Before,” El Akkad explores the children’s flight across the island as Vänna trying to keep Amir from the authorities.  The “Before” chapters explore Amir’s journey from Homs to Alexandria and events that lead him to accidentally be on the boat.  These chapters reveal the character of those traveling with Amir as well as some of the reasons they are leaving home and the dangers of human traffickers to young migrants.  While civil war drives Amir from Syria, he remembers his father telling him of the drought that, in part, led to the war, a reminder that climate change ties to unrest.

Both Amir’s and Vänna’s observations tell us much about migration. Additionally, El Akkad complicates the behavior of the main military officer trying to track down the children, Colonel Kethros, and the apprentice smuggler, Mohamed, trying to keep order on the boat.   Each reveals much of what citizens of the global north think of migrants from the global south, yet each man also reveals much about himself.

What Strange Paradise is a beautifully written exploration of the global issue of migration with finely drawn characters whose complicated motives give the novel strength.