Immigrant families in the U.S. have always suffered in numerous ways. The simple act of having to flee your home and homeland, of starting over in a new country where you might not even speak the common language, is hard enough. In the past, we’ve seen racist policies enforced, from the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act to the Japanese Internment Camps of WWII. Sadly, over the past few months, we’ve seen another terrible immigration policy cause trauma to countless families: the Zero-Tolerance Policy, which has allowed for the separation of children and even babies from their parents. It’s particularly difficult for many of us to sit around and hope that Trump’s “promise” to reverse the separations will actually take place. Instead, many people are getting involved in grassroots efforts to make sure these separations end sooner than later (and to provide support for those still awaiting their freedom). If you’re wondering how you might be able to help, check out these ideas and get to work.
Get Involved In A Rideshare Effort
There is a group of folks (mainly mothers) who have come together to help in an effort to bond out one immigrant mother at a time. Immigrant Families Together has already bailed out three moms and they’re working to raise funds for more moms. Additionally, they have compiled a network of volunteers who are opening their homes to these immigrant mothers to sleep for a night or enjoy a meal, as well as others who are literally driving these women across the country so they can see their children again. If you have a car or a home that you can open to an immigrant mother en-route to reunite with her kids, feel free to join them.
Volunteer To Visit Detained Immigrants
Many detained immigrants have zero support where they are. That means they rarely get any visitors to check in on them. Check out Freedom for Immigrant’s visitation network page which has contact information for individuals hoping to help in this effort. Even if you can only visit once a month, that can truly make a huge difference to these folks, especially those who are parents desperate to see their children again.
If You’re A Lawyer, Consider Taking On Pro Bono Work
One of the biggest issues right now for detained immigrants and their children is their inability to obtain legal representation. Right now, it’s absolutely vital to have access to lawyers doing pro-bono work. Visit the National Immigrant Justice Center page for a list of ways you can help take on this important work. You can also visit the Immigration Justice Campaign for additional opportunities.
Support The #AbolishICE Movement
Did you know that ICE has only been around since 2003? That’s right, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement began as a branch of the Department of Homeland Security (also started in ‘03), mainly as a response to 9/11. Today, they have over 20,000 employees who have used their position of power to not only detain thousands of immigrants, but to also abuse them. The point is, we do not need ICE (and likely never did), so support all efforts to end this problematic government entity. Abolishing ICE can be achieved in a number of ways, from electing officials who agree with the stance, to asking representatives in office to support the movement, to taking to the streets a la #OccupyICE, which inconveniences ICE employees (and really, why shouldn’t we make their jobs harder?) Even if you don’t want to or can’t join in one of these protests, you can always support those who are protesting by stopping by and thanking them or delivering food and water and other supplies.
Raise Funds In Any And Every Way
One of the main obstacles detained immigrants face is a financial one. How do they afford a lawyer? How do they bond out? And then, how do they raise money to travel to where their children are? How do they prove “economic stability” so that the government might release their children in their care? How do they provide for themselves and their families over the months or even years during which they fight to stay in this country? Raising money for organizations bonding out and legally representing these families is crucial, and there are many ways you can do this. Sure, setting up a button on your Facebook is one way.
But how about getting a little more creative? Folks around the country (including this group in Austin) are setting up bake sales to raise funds for organizations like RAICES. Or you can offer a service for a week or month where you contribute some or all proceeds to a nonprofit helping these families. Get together with friends and set up a punk show, a car wash, a used book sale, an art show, or anything else to raise money. Where there’s a will, there’s a way to help!
Contact Your Representatives At Every Level
I know we all know this, but it’s true. Find out who your local representatives are and find out where they stand on immigration, on the separation of families, and whether or not they support ICE. Write letters, e-mails, tweet at them, make an Instagram story and tag them on it, call them up, or even visit their office. Make sure they know you won’t stop until every child is reunited with their family, and maybe not even until all immigrants are no longer detained for simply crossing the border, or maybe not until ICE is completely abolished. And please thank those who are doing the good work in helping support immigrant families and their reunification. It really does go a long way.
And, Of Course, Donate!
There are so many organizations to donate to right now that are doing great work to help get immigrants released from detention and back with their families. Feel free to choose any of those below (or do your own Googling) and donate, donate, donate!