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20 Ways You Can Help Immigrants Now

While Congress stalls, you can take other kinds of actions to help immigrants in transition, in detention, and in crisis

In Lawton, Oklahoma, Satsuki Ina, right, and other Japanese Americans who were held in concentration camps as children hold photos of themselves to protest the Fort Sill military base, currently housing 1,400 migrant children. (Photo: J Pat Carter/Getty Images)

In Lawton, Oklahoma, Satsuki Ina, right, and other Japanese Americans who were held in concentration camps as children hold photos of themselves to protest the Fort Sill military base, currently housing 1,400 migrant children. (Photo: J Pat Carter/Getty Images) 

Immigrant children are dying in federal custody. Children in detention are being denied basic supplies like soap and blankets—and the Trump administration says that’s fine. Trump threatened then delayed mass immigration raids across the country, using the plan as a bargaining chip with Congress, while families are left in an ever-heightened state of uncertainty.

While Congress is continually being called to act, you can take other kinds of actions to help immigrants in transition, in detention, and in crisis. Here are 20 ways.

1. March and protest. Japanese internment camp survivors recently protested outside of an army base and former internment camp at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where migrant children will likely soon be housed, setting an example of how people can show up and speak out.

2. The Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps event aims to “bring thousands of Americans to detention camps across the country, into the streets and into their own front yards to protest the inhumane conditions faced by refugees.”

3. Helping pay immigrants’ bail is one of the fastest ways to help those who have been separated from their children, advocates say. Community bail funds can reuse the money paid if the person shows up for their court appearance.

4. Help pay for immigration counsel. Find organizations by Googling “indigent immigration defense” along with your state’s name.

5. Host an asylum-seeker or refugee in your home, with a group like Room for Refugees.

6. Immigration is federal law, but all politics are local. Tell your local law enforcement and government officials not to partner with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials for raids or any other purpose.

7. People of significant financial means could play a more active role funding nonprofit organizations that directly serve immigrants and advocate for legal reforms. Philanthropists can fund case management, human rights watchdog groups, research that drives policy, or higher education programs and scholarships for social workers who specialize in immigrant support services. The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy has several articles on how philanthropy can back immigrant causes.

8. Support local and national groups working to help immigrants, like Immigrant Families Together, RAICES, and the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. Local groups often hold community demonstrations and provide sanctuary, transportation, court accompaniment, and resettlement programs to immigrant populations, and they are in need of volunteers. Contact a local group and ask them what they need most.

9. Create a fundraiser. Immigrant Families Together offers a long list of potential fundraiser formats on its site, ranging from movie nights to silent auctions.

10. ActBlue Charities is a registered organization formed to democratize charitable giving. It provides a list of reputable organizations that work to help children at the border.

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11. Volunteer locally to mentor and tutor English-language learners. By teaching English as a second language, you can help people navigate American culture more successfully.

12. Join a pen pal or visitation program for detained immigrants, such as the ones run by First Friends of New Jersey and New York.

13. Immigrant-focused groups are creating resources to help people know their constitutional rights if confronted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Learn these rules and share them widely in your neighborhood and online.

14. Use art, music, social media, conversation, and other expressions and connections to draw attention to these issues.

15. If you work in education, create school curricula to help young people learn about human and, specifically, immigrant rights. Teaching Tolerance offers learning materials that facilitate the exploration of topics like race and immigration in the classroom and “explore the value of a diverse society.”

16. Donate air miles. Lawyer Moms of America is one group that contributes airline miles and funds to people in border shelters. This enables those who have achieved asylum to leave and makes space for new arrivals.

17. Donate household goods. Organizations like the International Rescue Committee and U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants give people with the basic supplies they need to establish a new life in the U.S.

18. If you can go to the border, you can join many others taking direct action there, from volunteer doctors and lawyers to those leaving water and supplies in the desert for immigrants.

19. Explore how we got here. To learn more about how the U.S. government can respond to the border crisis and the root causes of migration and displacement in the Northern Triangle (the Central American countries Honduras, San Salvador, and Guatemala feeding much of the migration), check out this blueprint from Human Rights First and other organizations. A few of the recommendations with the U.S. are “restoring timely and orderly” asylum processing at ports of entry and an increase in permitted refugees, immigration judges, and case management services for immigrants (such as the Family Case Management Program, which was terminated by the Trump administration in 2017).

20. Finally, do call on Congress to support legislation like the current Shut Down Child Prison Camps Act and Families Not Facilities Act. Or tell your senators and representatives to stop giving increased funds to the government agencies responsible for the rise in detentions.

What other actions can you take? Remember to practice self-care and do what you can, today.

Julia Travers

Julia Travers wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Julia writes about science, culture, and creative responses to adversity. Follow her on Twitter @traversjul.

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