Refugee Zoo
Photo provided by: 
Dorene Wernke

Refugee/Immigration Ministry

Advocate for Afghan Refugees 

From our partner Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services

The tens of thousands of Afghans who have arrived in the U.S. need a pathway to real and lasting safety.

Most Afghans brought to the United States through Operation Allies Refuge entered the country on humanitarian parole, which only temporarily allows people fleeing danger to remain in the U.S. These Afghans will need to find another pathway to safety before their parole expires.  

Currently, one pathway available to newly arrived Afghans is asylum, a paperwork-intensive process with years-long backlogs that have prevented thousands of people from finding safety in the U.S. In order to make successful asylum claim, these Afghans will be asked to provide proof that a person would face violence in their home country – in relation to their work with Americans, with women’s rights groups, with reporting on corruption, and more. These documents are the same ones that Afghans were advised to destroy in order to escape or elude the Taliban during the evacuation.

Afghans should not be penalized for how the U.S. evacuated them and the means by which their family was able to reach safety.

To ensure that Afghans find real, lasting safety in the U.S., Congress must pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would allow Afghan humanitarian parolees to seek legal permanent residence in the U.S. Send a message to your Representatives in Congress today and urge them to support the Afghan Adjustment Act!

From our partner Catholic Charities USA: Action Center

More information about Afghan immigration status:


Ways to Help Families in Minnesota:

The most needed items for refugee families as they resettle:


A Prayer for Our Country

We know, Lord, that you yourself are a migrant.

You experienced the trials of the refugee, having fled as a child with your parents, Joseph and Mary, to Egypt. We know your special love for those with no other possession but one another, and you.

Move our hearts, Lord, and the hearts of our leaders to love them as you do, to love them with your love, to be your love for migrants at the doorway of our country.

  • I promise to pray for Immigrants and Refugees, and to help my parish plan an activity to raise greater consciousness about this issue on the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
  • I promise to invite my family and others in my parish to also pray for this intention.

The Basilica of Saint Mary is proud to partner with Lutheran Social Services to co-sponsor refugee families who are starting new lives in Minnesota after living in refugee camps throughout the world. We are also grateful for our partnership with Advocates for Human Rights, as we support families in the community seeking asylum in the United States. 


Since entering this partnership in December 2015, the Basilica’s refugee committee has:

  • Welcomed families to Minnesota. Circle of Welcome Teams have developed relationships with each family, helping them learn about and assimilate to life in the U.S. Financial contributions from the Basilica community have helped support each family. Learn more about each family here.
  • Collected 126 backpacks full of school supplies to benefit refugee families in the area.
  • Hosted educational talks and films, including discussions led by the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota’s executive director and documentaries looking at realties faced by immigrants.

Read about the Refugee Committee’s work in Basilica Magazine.

Refugee Family News - News and updates on the families we are welcoming.


How you can help

  • Join the committee. Committee members are invited to monthly meetings (1st Saturday of each month) and notified when volunteers are needed. Volunteer opportunities include setting up families’ apartments, welcoming families at the airport, letter-writing campaigns, packing supplies and organizing events. Time commitments for volunteer opportunities vary; they can be weekly, monthly, quarterly or one-time functions.  
  • Join a subcommittee. Four subcommittees work on different projects:
    • Circle of Welcome Teams: Groups of four mentors work directly with each refugee or asylee family to help families adjust to and learn to navigate life in their new community. Circle of Welcome team members go through training with Lutheran Social Services and Advocates for Human Rights, as well as basic Safe Environment training of Archdiocese. They are required to make a one year commitment with the family.
    • Advocacy: This subcommittee is also a subset of Voices for Justice. It organizes educational programs and community action on issues including immigration, racism, homelessness, prison reform and faithful citizenship.
    • Collections: This group organizes collections to benefit refugee families, like the fall’s school supply drive.
    • Communications: This group promotes the committee’s work through blog entries, articles, bulletin updates and other means.

To join the team or ask for more information, please contact Janice.


Frequently asked questions

What is the Basilica’s relationship with the families?

We are co-sponsors working with Lutheran Social Services to facilitate a partnership with families. The Basilica’s role is to help families get acclimated to life in the United States.

We help with rent for the first six months and provide basic grocery and household items. We also help the family get acquainted with aspects of living in the United States such as finding work, enrolling in school, making appointments and navigating the public transportation system. 

The Basilica has welcomed twenty-two families to Minnesota since early 2016 and is preparing to welcome more. Read about the families here.

Why are we working with Lutheran Social Services?
Lutheran Social Services already has the infrastructure to help place refugee families in supportive environments; the group has worked with refugees since the end of World War II. The Basilica thought this partnership would make for the most efficient and fulfilling use of resources and time.
Learn about how LSS supports refugees.

How much money has the Basilica raised? What is the money used for?
In December 2016, the parish raised more than $17,000, enough to sponsor two or three families.  Most of the money is going toward basic living expenses for each family's first six months here: rent, furniture, food, and other household items.

How have refugees been vetted?
The State Department's website describes how refugee families were vetted prior to January 2017. Several news outlets have also written about the process of vetting undergone by the Basilica's first two families, including CNN and CBS

How many refugees are there worldwide?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has more facts and figures on the nearly 34,000 people forced to leave their homes each day because of conflicts and persecution, and the more than 21 million refugees around the globe.