Tuesday, December 1, 2020
Guest blogger: Allegra Upton, law student, University of San Francisco
With some holidays either already here or others quickly approaching, many may be wondering how they can give their time or resources to help support immigrants in a post-election world and during the height of another wave of COVID-19. Although not comprehensive, the following list gives concrete ways to support the U.S. immigrant rights movement today.
Learn More. Education is a powerful tool for change, and staying informed on the immigrant rights movement will increase your own awareness as well as serve these communities when it comes time to vote. The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) helps educate on the numerous protocols and policies that the current administration has implemented over the last four years. From Executive Orders to the Migrant Protection Protocols, Family Case Management Program, Metering, Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and alternatives to detention, the WRC can explain context and nuances of the current immigrant rights crisis.
Also consider subscribing to an immigrant rights newsletter, such as those provided by the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), the Immigration Institute of the Bay Area, the Migrant Center for Human Rights, and the Immigrant Legal Resources Center (ILRC), to name a few. Be sure to keep up with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)’s updates as well.
Contact Your Elected Officials. Contacting your elected representatives in support of immigrant rights serves two important purposes – (1) it shows your local leaders what matters to their constituents, which (2) then influences what bills and policy decisions your representatives support. The NIJC offers a helpful template email geared towards a current immigration topic to get you started on outreach; if you’d prefer, you can also call your elected representatives’ offices directly.
Volunteer Language Services. If you’re fluent in a second language other than English, consider donating your time to help interpret legal proceedings for NIJC or the Freedom for Immigrants (FFI), or help staff FFI’s hotline for immigrants in detention centers.
Offer Post-Release Support. Either remotely during COVID-19, or safely in-person once the pandemic is over, Freedom for Immigrants “needs volunteers to join a growing grassroots movement of post-release community care to demonstrate that we are far more capable of providing refuge to immigrants than ICE and corporate prison contractors.” For those interested, this kind of support includes helping recently released folks access food, shelter, healthcare, transportation, a lawyer, enrolling in an English class, bureaucratic errands, community integration, and other everyday tasks.
Give Pro Bono Representation. If you’re an attorney, consider donating pro bono hours to help represent those at the border or others in various levels of immigration proceedings. The National Immigrant Justice Center provides a current list of cases in need of pro bono representation as well as a guide on how to be a pro bono attorney in immigration. The Immigration Justice Campaign also provides up-to-date lists on attorney volunteer opportunities, which includes opportunities for paralegals, law students, and medical professionals as well.
Donate. If you’re financially able during these trying times, consider donating to organizations fighting alongside immigrants to improve immigrant rights for all. Some well-known organizations include the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), the Immigrant Legal Resources Center (ILRC), and the ACLU (you can also donate to your regional ALCU). Each organization uses its funds differently. For instance, donating to the NIJC gives someone access to legal services; giving to the WRC supports the Migrant Rights and Justice program, which has a long history of fighting for migrant children; and contributing to the ILRC can go towards supporting the organization’s work in its entirety.
There are also important grassroots organizations working to provide essentials (food, shelter, healthcare, and more) for folks at the U.S.-Mexico border. For instance, consider contributing to Contra Viento y Marea – a frontline resource center, community kitchen, and garden run by and for Central American migrants and refugee youth in Tijuana, Mexico.
Speak Up. In an era where social media is a touchstone for advocacy and open dialogue can influence public opinion, consider using your voice and platforms to educate and advocate on the immigrant rights movement. Start by following platforms such as @freethechildren2020, @ailanational, @immigola, @nilc, @sf_immigrants, @tps_alliance, @aclu_nationwide, and the @the_ilrc amongst others for updated information regarding various aspects of the immigrant rights movement. Then, tag or use trending hashtags to recirculate materials supporting the immigrant rights movement on your own social media pages.
Although this year has been anything but ordinary, these are some everyday ways that you can help make an extraordinary impact on the lives of immigrants. Working alongside immigrants at the individual and legislative levels is critical to combatting the adversity, injustice, and bureaucracy that exists within the U.S. immigration system today.
 Here’s How You Can Help Migrant Children, The Women’s Refugee Commission (Nov. 29, 2020), https://www.womensrefugeecommission.org/how-you-can-help-migrant-children/
 Types of Volunteer Opportunities, Immigration Justice Campaign (Nov. 28, 2020), https://immigrationjustice.us/volunteeropportunities/types-of-volunteer-opportunities/
 Julia Toepfer, Here’s How You Can Protect Immigrant Rights, National Immigrant Justice Center (Jul. 30, 2020), https://immigrantjustice.org/staff/blog/heres-how-you-can-protect-immigrant-rights