Saturday, April 29, 2017

May Day: Helping with the Migration Crisis Across Borders

For May Day, I will take part in one of the many marches against what trump is doing to immigration (I don't capitalize trump's name because he is not worthy). You can too: look at marches going on in A Day Without Immigrants!  More so, however, I will add my two grains of sand by writing about what we can do proactively to help immigrants today. 

I was thinking that, since trump was elected, he at least had to have a majority. Though that was never the case and he won through electoral politics, his popularity has suffered even more so since his election. A case in point: I was food shopping in my very conservative neighboorhood supermarket (I know: what am I still doing here?), when I saw a little note left for me on my car bumper, in response to a sticker I have: "Immigrants & Refugees WELCOME." 

The note said, verbatim: 
"Thank you for your bumper sticker. Immigrants & refugees are our neighbors" 😉
From this, I gather there is hope for everyone here in the United States: we are still a welcoming nation! I think my advice on helping asylum seekers and refugees, then, will come in handy, for those of you who really want ideas on next steps... 
Thinking about all this and how to present it then, I will tell you that I went to the Applied Anthropology Conference in Santa Fe — @SfAAnthro — a few weeks ago. Anthropologists and academics Alicia Re Cruz, Mariela Nuñez-Janes, and Ryan Kober invited my husband AndrĂ©s Pacheco and me to form part of a panel in this year's conference, Trails, Traditions, and New Directions. We were a very diverse group of academics and activists from both sides of the border — USA, Ecuador, and Mexico — and we presented a round table discussion on "'Witnessing' the Migration Crisis Across Borders." 

Here is the recorded podcast, which was very well-received:

Discussing our presentation among ourselves afterward, we were excited by the response from the mostly local audience, since Tuesday's session — when we presented — was scheduled for folks of the area. The interest generated and questions asked during the session means people are really concerned and want to take an active role in doing more for the immigration crisis. This critical point has been peaking for quite some time too, and it has now been exacerbated by this new presidency. 

After coming home, I received a letter from one of the audience who wanted to become more involved and needed ideas as to how to go about making an active difference in the lives of immigrants, to help them and to have them know we are on their side. 

Thinking about what I wrote to her in response, I decided to share it here, because I am sure she is not alone in wanting to make a difference. Immigrants — myself included — are under attack by immigration and even local and state law enforcement everywhere. I hope these ideas might spur you into action then, as immigrants need to know we stand beside them, and they are not the horrible migrants certain people purport them to be. 

Thus, we talked about reaching out to already established groups who are helping immigrants. Since she was from Santa Fe, we spoke about the great organization Somos Un Pueblo Unido, which has its website written in both English and Spanish for more inclusivity, or The Santa Fe Dreamers Project, which helps with legal questions specifically. Depending in what state you reside, there is a varied group of social service organizations you can become involved with. Right now, in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I am very involved in our pro se clinic for asylum seekers, and though our webside is currently under construction, we have been providing free monthly clinics to asylum seekers — mostly women and children — for over two years. 

We have helped many. 

Me helping refugee mom with baby, and loving it! 
Hopefully, you can find an organization that fits your needs, or even begin your own! 

In fact, if you decide to hold a meeting to begin your own organization, or even if you already have an organization but want more expert help, you might ask already established organizations to send a representative of their group to speak personally to you during your organizing meeting, to let you know what initiatives or similar actions you can take as a group. Since these organizations are in the midst of local actions — beside what they are doing nationally — it would be a perfect catalyst for you to initiate your own actions, using their suggestions. In this way, too, your potential members will become more invested, as they see actual people from the community doing wonderful things to advance solidarity for all.

Most groups enjoy speaking about what they do, and especially if they are involved in a local initiative, they want to spread the news. So doing local efforts is best, while supporting national initiatives.

There are other things you might be able to get involved with, if having local organizations does not work for you.

Writing your local representatives is always an option. There is a nifty little app called "resistbot," which you can set up by writing a text saying "RESIST" to 50409, and it will text you through what you need to do next. BUT you can send your senators and local representatives a daily text if you want, which can be awfully effective in getting your word heard. 

Try it; you'll like it! 

After you write to your representatives, however, you might consider presenting yourselves as a group to any such — especially those you think you might be able to sway with your vote —  not only to make demands, but to open up a dialogue. It is amazing what face-to-face meetings can do: congresspeople cannot sway you with pretty words having no substance, since you are right there and can challenge them on the spot. Of course, they can still lie, but it’s a lot harder to lie to their constituents if you are right there to catch them in the act! 

And if it becomes a true dialogue, you can then demand results after some time.

Writing editorials to your local paper is an excellent way to bring attention to a local problem. But you should consider doing so to national papers as well as local news, to show them that from all parts of the country — including yours — immigrants add positive value to society. Not only can you write your local papers, but if you dare, you can try to contact radio stations or even TV or internet channels to vocalize what it is you do. 

If you would like to write to detained refugees instead of going the legislative route, the national organization CIVIC has both visitation communities — where they can help you set up actual visitations if there is a detention center or jail near where you live — or also writing to detainees, becoming their pen pals, if you would like and are too far from detention facilities. Detained immigrants do love receiving mail, especially because they are in such despair (in the past few weeks, there have been two immigrant deaths, as well as a "successful suicide attempt" at the Adelanto Jail in California, because ICE does not listen to immigrants)! 

You do not know the power of words, in whatever language. So, the directors of CIVIC are amazing women, and you can ask them about writing to immigrants, so they can put you in touch with the exact person heading that front. 

Tina Shull, Adjunct Professor of History at UC Irvine and Soros Justice Fellow, has started an online publication and blog — IMM Print — for people who write stories about immigrants, whether they are fact-based or narrative non-fiction and poetry. You can also submit photography and art, and you can write in any language! 

If you get in touch with either IMM Print or CIVIC, the organizers there will be able to guide you in what it is you want to do, and you will be able to get not only a local audience but a national one as well. My piece, "The Justice of the Immigration Court and the Power of its Judge King," was one of the first published through their website. They have many more articles now since mine came out. If you like to communicate through writing, photography, or the arts, this is a powerful way to go. 

Another forceful way to help refugees and asylum seekers — which I mentioned when speaking at the conference — is to accompany immigrants who have to show up to ICE or go to court and are very scared to do so alone. Remember, most do not speak English, and this system can be not only baffling but downright inhumane at times. Look for an ICE office near you, or an Immigration Court, and you will be a great help just by accompanying immigrants to their meetings with ICE or to their court appearances. So if you know immigrants who need to go and are scared of deportation, I cannot stress enough how important it is — or what difference it makes to the treatment they receive from ICE — to see that these immigrants are not alone! 

I am not sure how you would find out who needs to go to such appointments, but I suppose if you know immigrants in the area, especially recent arrivals, you can ask them if they need support, or whom they know might need support. Local Immigrant rights organizations like the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), based in Los Angeles, Berkeley, or Washington DC, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) in various cities in Washington State, RAICES in different cities of Texas, or ASAP (Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project) in NY can all better guide you, depending what city you live in. These organizations might be able to help you identify immigrants who need and want help in your area. I am also attaching a recent list of organizations, if you need to find more in your area. Moreover, if you go to your local university law school, I am sure they will be able to help you, or direct you to a local immigrant organization that can. Lastly, in terms of finding immigrant organizations, here is a list of pro bono legal service providers throughout the United States. I am sure they would gladly receive the help, if you are willing to give it. 

The last thing I was going to suggest — if you know enough immigrants who could benefit — is to hold a Know Your Rights presentation. If you have a Spanish speaker -- or whatever language most immigrants in your area use -- you can ask interpreters to translate your talk as you speak, so all understand. The ACLU has plenty of materials you can use, in either Spanish or English, so you can help the immigrants you need to make them aware. Remember, KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. Here is a similar Know Your Rights presentation from CIVIC, in Spanish, or in English. If you cannot do a presentation but feel making copies of this material and distributing it would be helpful, then you'll be all set for copying and distributing. 

Within the ACLU materials are scripts in both English and Spanish that can also be made to wallet-sized cards immigrants can carry. If immigrants are picked up by police, they then do not have to speak but hand over these cards, and ask to talk to a lawyer instead. 

These cards are available to citizens and noncitizens alike.

Many immigrant rights organizations hold Know Your Rights presentations, and if you call them, they will gladly come out to an event you will hold, to make immigrants aware of their rights. 

My friend Immigrant Lawyer Paul Zoltan giving a
Know Your Rights presentation
These are enough suggestions to get something started in your area, so good luck with whatever you endeavor. I am sure there are a lot of people close by to where ever you are whom you can invite and would welcome your support in spreading awareness.

If you have any questions, just ask here and I will get back to you too. And if I do not know the answer, I will try to find out for you and let you know. So please, I welcome any questions: ask away! 

Good luck to you all, and thank you for helping those who do not have a voice to stand up for themselves. You do not know what your voice means to them, even if they cannot tell you... 

Happy May Day! 

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