The difference between refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants…

It’s a very important distinction which affects every part of the process of entering the U.S and it’s critical for you to know if you expect to have an informed opinion on the matter. I’m only going to discuss the US process here as my illiteracy in most foreign languages makes researching their processes more difficult. We’ll start with immigrants, then asylum seekers and last refugees.

Global migration patterns have become increasingly complex in modern times, involving not just refugees, but also millions of economic migrants. But refugees and migrants, even if they often travel in the same way, are fundamentally different, and for that reason are treated very differently under modern international law. ( underlining added for emphasis

Immigrants/Migrants (referred to as Lawful Permanent Residents by USCIS/DHS)

According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, the definition of an immigrant is “any alien in the United States, except one legally admitted under specific nonimmigrant categories (INA section 101(a)(15))“. The non-legal definition of an immigrant is “a person who migrates to another country, usually for permanent residence.” (

For practical purposes, in this discussion, it would be someone who wants to come to America to study, to work, to live here permanently.  Within this broad definition, there are also asylum-seekers and refugees.  The difference is why they want to come to the U.S.

Economic migrants are choosing to leave their country of origin in order to seek out better economic conditions, etc.


According to the UN High Commission on Refugees, an asylum-seeker  is someone who says he or she is a refugee, but whose claim has not yet been definitively evaluated.  Bear in mind that the only world organization who has the authority to confer refugee status is UNHCR.

An asylum-seeker has left their country of origin in fear of their government or fleeing war and could also fit the following definition of a refugee but has not yet had refugee status conferred on them. Asylum-seekers may or may not be living in refugee camps (think Soviet defections on US soil we’ve all seen in movies), and may or may not be traveling with their families.


According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, a refugee is someone who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” (

In 2013, (unfortunately the latest year for which I can find compiled statistical data) the number of lawful permanent residents (aka immigrants/migrants) admitted to the US, was 990,553. In contrast, the number of refugees admitted to the US that same year was only 69,909.


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Posted by on November 20, 2015 in Uncategorized


New Role

In the last few weeks, I have begun serving my community through our church, Christ Community Church, in a new way. Our church has had a relationship with World Relief for several years, but had no one to take up the role of being the point person. This new role will have me developing a cadre of volunteers who are willing to welcome new refugees into our area. It is a role which fits the call of Jesus on my life which is to embody Micah 6:8.

He has shown you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly[a] with your God. Micah 6:8 NIV84

Our goal (mine and that of Christ Community Church’s Community Impact team and the beginnings of our team of volunteers) is to build relationships with refugees in the hopes that one day we will be able to share Jesus Christ with them and see them begin a personal relationship with him.

I have been super excited about this new role and have studied all that it entails. I’m daily reading and educating myself on who is a refugee, the process for identifying them and approving them for resettlement and what happens when they arrive on our soil. I’m reading leadership books and spending a lot of time planning. I am a researcher, it’s a passion of mine. I like to really understand things and dig deep. And I have done so on this issue and especially on this community partner, World Relief.

I’m excited to share with you what I have learned. Look for new blog posts over the next few days. I’m dividing the posts as it is a lot of information to digest. I will be linking to factual data, so please follow the links. I hope you will read all of them.  Feel free to share them with others who are wondering about refugees, particularly those who fear an influx of Syrian Refugees.

It is my humble prayer that God will use these posts to bring about a change of hearts and minds.

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Posted by on November 20, 2015 in adventure, faith, kingdom living, leadership


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Musings about serious stuff…

Hey reader,

Glad you’re still with me.

We are not likely to forget the stirring images we are seeing of the humanitarian crisis taking place in Greece, Hungary and Turkey involving people fleeing from Syria anytime soon. Like many people, I was stirred to action and went looking to help in a place where I could truly help. I found such a place in World Relief.  I had never heard of them and would probably have never heard of them if it hadn’t been for Ann Voskamp’s post urging action. She, along with The Justice Conference and World Relief launched a movement called #wewelcomerefugees.  You can find their website here.

So my first training as a World Relief volunteer was last night.  I learned so much that I had to share it.  The first thing that I learned was that the only entity with the authority to confer “refugee” status on a person is the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.  It’s their responsibility to stabilize and safeguard refugees and to mediate on their behalf.  They have 3 options for refugees – voluntary repatriation to their country of origin, local integration into the country where they are currently located or resettlement into a third country. No one is called a refugee until UNHCR says they are.  So you may have heard the Syrians fleeing their country called “refugees” or “migrants”. Migrant is the correct terminology until they have been conferred refugee status by UNHCR. The UNHCR is working in the camps to register migrants and determine whether they meet “refugee” status. You can imagine the nightmare this is.

The second thing I learned was the size of the problem and this astounded me. Here’s some data for you which pre-dates the current mass Syrian migration…

  • 10-12 million identified refugees
  • 30-40 million potential
  • Of the 10-12 million, approximately 1% get resettled in a third country
  • Only 22 countries take refugees to be resettled: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Uruquay and the US.
  • Average wait in a camp situation: 15 years (average!!)
  • Average wait to be resettled: 5 years
  • Refugees have to apply and countries have restrictions on who they will accept.
  • The US takes the majority of the 1% who are resettled. This year it was capped at 70,000. In 2016, the US will take 80,000.

This is a huge problem and we as Christians should be responding… but what’s the best way to help? There are three big things any of us can do.

  1. Pray!
  2. Donate to an agency providing food and services to people in the camps
  3. Donate to an agency who resettles refugees in the US

I encourage you to check out agencies through or before donating, find one that is reputable and give, please give.

36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:36-40

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Posted by on October 16, 2015 in Uncategorized


Did You Know #2….

In Did You Know #1, I shared that all slavery was not abolished by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.  In fact, it was not fully abolished until 1942 when it was ended by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Convict leasing was practiced primarily in the South and peaked in 1880, but was still being practiced in various forms until it was formally abolished. In this system, persons convicted of a crime were leased to landowners or private companies to work in plantations, mines on railroads, for logging etc.  Even a conviction for vagrancy would land you into the convict leasing system. As stated in Did You Know #1,a white person could ask a black man walking on the street if he had a money in his pocket. If the answer was no, they would report him for vagrancy and the white person would be paid a fee for finding an able-bodied man for the convict leasing system. The system of paying these fees encouraged further abuses.  If a white man asked if you had money in your pocket and you did, he would take your money and then ask the question again.  This time, you had none and were reported by that man for vagrancy.

Want to know more about the Not-Slavery Slavery that existed between the civil war and 1942?  Check out the following resources (book titles are linked to

Next up, the system of Peonage…

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Posted by on July 9, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Did You Know #1…

Did you know that the 13th amendment to the constitution did not abolish all slavery?  I didn’t.  In fact when I googled, “When did the 13th amendment pass?”  This is what I got.

  1. December 6, 1865
  2. Passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865, the 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States. The 13th amendment, which formally abolished slavery in the United States, passed the Senate on April 8, 1864, and the House on January 31, 1865.

Note that the entire text of the amendment is linked but not stated, which leads us to believe that all slavery was abolished.  It was not.  Here is the text of the 13th amendment as passed and ratified.

Amendment XIII

Section 1.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

After the passage of this amendment, it was a common occurrence in the south for an able-bodied black man to be arrested and convicted of vagrancy for simply having no money in his pockets.

Black men who were unemployed for even a short time were at high risk for being channeled into the prison slavery system. The practice was called convict leasing and it served as an important part of the Not Slavery-Slavery system of that time.  The convict leasing system had risen up to fill the need for cheap labor after most slavery was outlawed and the threat of the “lease was a powerful source of intimidation”… Convict leasing was also referred to as “the chain gang”. – The Wheat Money by Kristi Tyler

Whites were paid a fee for identifying a black person as a good worker for the convict leasing system.

Did you know about the full text of the 13th amendment?

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Posted by on July 9, 2015 in Uncategorized


This one life matters, what will you do with it?

“Look, you have this one life. If you keep being selfish and unkind, it’s going to come back to you. Ask yourself why you’re scared, why you hate.” – Clemantine Wamariya

Sometime in 2013, I joined a Facebook group called Transracial Adoption. It’s purpose is to bring together all parts of the adoption triad (Adoptees, Birth Mothers and Adoptive Parents) to tell the truth about how it is to be an adoptee of a different race than your parents.  I have learned so very much and my perspective has been molded so much by this group. It’s made me a better parent to my boys… not perfect by any means, but better.

Regularly there are posts of articles to this group from varying different perspectives. Listening to these perspectives has been on of the things that also helped me change my perspective on life, parenting and my faith (see Why I did a 180).

Today, there was an interesting link to a blog post written by a woman who survived Rwanda, Clementine Wamariya. She was a refugee in Africa for years, and then moved to the US. She is a public speaker, blogger and a great storyteller. I am sure she is many more things as well. I read the entire post and in the last paragraph was the truth nugget I posted at the top of this post.

If you keep being selfish and unkind, it’s going to come back to you. Ask yourself why you’re scared, why you hate? Volumes could be written in our collective journals answering these questions if only we would ask them of ourselves. But we, Americans, alas, are not so self-reflecting.

This is the question I will unpack for a few days.

What are you reflecting on?

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Posted by on July 3, 2015 in Uncategorized


How you say it…

I watched a beautiful video on facebook today. Here it is:

It reminded me of how powerful my words can be.

Some of you might wish I would stop posting about racial injustice, however, I know how powerful words can be and so I post.

  • I post so that my children will know that their mother fought hard against the injustices they will face.
  • I post so that my black friends know that they have an ally in me.
  • I post, always hopeful that some of my white friends might read what I have shared or what I have written and allow it to challenge their view of the world.
  • I post because I am a follower of Christ and he calls me to love others and sometimes love means pointing out sin. I wish I was more like him because he would do it differently. I’m working on that.
  • I post because to stop posting would mean that I believe my words don’t matter.
  • I post because to stop posting would mean that I surrendered to the idea that the world can’t be changed, or even one person can’t change.
  • I post because to stop posting would mean that I believe racism in all its forms, (institutionalized racism, racist individuals and racist groups) has been eliminated.

So I will post.

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Posted by on June 24, 2015 in Uncategorized


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