Starting on June 20th, awareness campaigns are launching in the United States and around the world to commemorate World Refugee Day, showing solidarity with people who have been forced to flee their home countries due to various circumstances.
For many of us, the issue of refugees immediately brings to mind immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border each day. Although immigrants and refugees are two distinct categories of people under US immigration law, we feel compelled to contribute in some way.
The immediate question that arises is, “How can I support them?” The answer is not always obvious because it involves addressing the needs of immigrants for security, economic inclusion, and social integration—needs which each citizen already strives to ensure for themselves and their families.
The good news is that by asking this question, you are already halfway there in terms of contributing to this cause, at least in terms of your personal capacity. Empathy and awareness of the issue are the two most important requirements for getting involved in such a sensitive matter present in our community.
Here are some ways to connect and support this cause:
Learn more about the issue:
To cultivate awareness about this and any other social cause, you need to stay alert to all sources. This includes recognizing personal cases within your family, friend groups, community, and workplace, as well as consulting articles, documentaries, films, or related events. Listening to music, reading literature that addresses the topic, and patronizing establishments where immigrants work or purchasing items made by them all provide opportunities to learn more about what is happening. Knowing that we are part of the solution is an important motivation that comes from being close and sensitive to the situations immigrants face.
A movie, “Under the Same Moon,” starring Kate del Castillo, Eugenio Derbez, and Adrián Alonso (Carlitos), offers a human perspective on the migration experience . In this story, Carlitos embarks on a journey to the United States to find his mother, an undocumented immigrant living in Los Angeles, California, after the passing of his grandmother. Through the innocent perspective of a child, the challenges immigrants face during their journey are indirectly depicted.
Furthermore, references to the challenges faced by migrants can be found in various music genres. The iconic Mexican norteño music group, Los Tigres del Norte, sensitively portrays the sentiments of the community in their famous song “De paisano a paisano” (From Countryman to Countryman).
Consider making a donation:
There are nonprofit organizations that focus on providing services to immigrant children, families, and refugees. Donations are their source of funding to continue their social mission of advocating for asylum seekers, immigrants, and refugees.
One option for donating is RAICES, which provides free legal services to detainees at the border. They operate in various ways, including organizing staff, volunteers, and pro bono lawyers to support immigrant families within the US legal system.
You can also consider donating to Sueños Sin Fronteras, a support collective led by Latinos and people of color working at the intersection of reproductive justice and immigrant justice. They promote access to healthcare services for immigrant and undocumented communities in San Antonio, Texas.
Additionally, Grassroots Leadership is an organization whose social mission is to build a more just society where immigrants can enjoy their rights. They focus on issues related to immigrant detention and deportation, both in Texas and nationwide. Donations to them help them continue their important work.
Stay alert to the measures promoted by your elected representatives:
One way to support immigrants is by staying active in the political processes taking place at various levels of government. The generation of public policies in any area is driven by an agenda of which you are a part.
Take action, participate in protests, engage in debates on social media, or sign petitions. Call your elected officials, and write to them through traditional means, email, or on their social media platforms. Call them during radio or television interviews. In other words, be part of that living organism that creates a dignified social environment and respects the human rights of every individual.
We Welcome, an organization focused on promoting immigrant rights, recommends contacting elected officials with a message like the following:
Dear [Representative/Senator’s Name],
As a constituent, I urge you to solidify the permanent contributions of immigrants who are integral parts of our communities and to approve significant and bipartisan immigration reforms. I have been deeply disturbed by much of the rhetoric coming from lawmakers in recent weeks that dehumanizes migrants and seeks to block asylum protections at the US southern border. I urge you to work towards finding solutions that uphold human dignity and support the interests of the American people.
Approximately 78% of agricultural workers, who have maintained our food supply and ensured that Americans have food on their tables during the COVID-19 pandemic, were born outside the United States. This includes undocumented individuals, guest workers, lawful permanent residents, and naturalized citizens.
Around 130,000 Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders are currently contributing as essential workers, and nearly 30,000 DACA recipients are working in healthcare in the United States. However, both groups face uncertainty regarding their future in the United States.
I ask that you please support legislation that would provide Dreamers and TPS holders with protection from deportation and the opportunity to obtain permanent legal status, as well as any legislation that reforms and modernizes our current agricultural worker visa program, ensures workers are authorized, provides additional protections for workers, and creates a pathway to citizenship for current unauthorized agricultural workers.
Furthermore, I urge you to work towards creating permanent and bipartisan solutions that facilitate orderly border management while protecting the legal right to seek asylum.
Now more than ever, I urge you to take long-awaited action to pass these necessary immigration reforms.
Take to the streets and join local movements whenever a migrant advocacy organization with solid foundations makes the call.
Sharing and liking posts “moves mountains,” and digital social media platforms are also public spaces. Raising awareness about the reasons people migrate and sharing verified information is a way to take action.
It is suggested that you go deeper and verify that the resources and information you access is validated, as irresponsible sharing could have the opposite effect or lead to misinformation and fake news.
Volunteer at the border:
Your time and energy are of high value. You can volunteer and make a direct impact on the lives of people in immigrant situations. Local options may vary, from organizations providing direct legal support to community kitchens and food distribution centers.
Getting involved with local human rights organizations is also an accessible option that can be a source of inspiration in your own life while actively supporting the social cause. One volunteer option is with Catholic Charities, which has several locations.
Other organizations to consider include United We Dream and CHIRLA. The former works to empower young immigrants to develop leadership skills, and organizational abilities, and run their own campaigns at all levels of government to achieve justice and dignity for all people, especially the immigrant community.
CHIRLA, on the other hand, is an organization that advocates for immigrants’ rights through community strategies aimed at changing public opinion on the topic and designing progressive public policies that promote human, civil, and labor rights for all individuals.
Now you know how:
You can commemorate World Refugee Day in various ways and demonstrate the power we all have to be agents of change in support of vulnerable immigrants. This includes those who arrive daily at the border between the United States and Mexico in search of better opportunities for themselves and their families.
Remember to participate responsibly.