Being an immigration attorney at a time when immigrants are under assault means that people often ask me what they can do to help.


Frankly, I am usually at a loss about how to answer this question. There are many ways to help, depending on what you mean by “help” and where your interests and abilities lie. The problem is, there is no magic bullet to solve our current difficulties. But there are things that people can do, both on the individual level and the collective level. I will discuss a few of those ideas here.



"I would have gotten away with deporting them all if it weren't for you meddling kids."


Volunteer with a Non-Profit
: There are plenty of non-profit organizations that assist refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants, and they need plenty of help. Such organizations can be found throughout the U.S. (here is a link to a list of organizations in each state), and they provide all sorts of opportunities to volunteer: Teach English or other skills, spend time assisting organizations or individual immigrants, help with job searches, resumes or job counseling. People with specialized skills can provide specialized assistance. For example, those lucky enough to be lawyers (gag!) can take a case pro bono, or—for a less burdensome commitment—attend a group event where you assist with immigration forms. Some asylum seekers need forensic medical exams or psychological reports for their cases, and could use expert assistance. Others need mental health therapy, or assistance navigating the DMV, Social Security Office or school or university bureaucracies. Still others need help with housing or public benefits. Many people who are new to our country are lost, and someone familiar with "the system" can provide invaluable guidance.

Also, many faith-based institutions, such as churches, mosques, and synagogues, have programs to assist non-citizens. My synagogue, for example, has helped refugee families from Syria and Afghanistan to resettle in the Washington, DC area. Synagogue volunteers assist with babysitting and setting up the new apartments. Some religious institutions are involved in the sanctuary movement, offering living space to non-citizens in an effort to shield them from deportation (ICE has thus far declined to enter churches to detain people). Perhaps you could encourage your church or mosque to consider joining this movement.

Get Involved Politically
: There are numerous opportunities here too, and not just at the federal level. A lot has been happening at the local and state levels (where it is often easier to have an effect). One group that supports pro-immigrant candidates is Immigrants List. A group that assists with impact litigation and public awareness is the American Immigration Council. Many local non-profits are also involved in advocacy for immigrants. You can find such groups here.

Reaching out to politicians can have an impact as well. During the Obama Administration, opponents of immigration famously mailed hundreds of bricks to Congress. This was a not-so-subtle message to “build a wall.” If the other side can advocate effectively, we can too. Congress needs to know that many Americans support our humanitarian immigration system. Unless we reach out to them, our representatives will only hear half the story. You can contacting your Senators here, and your Representatives here. You can find links to the different state legislatures here. You don't have to be a U.S. citizen to contact your representative. Anyone can do it.

Contact the Media
: There are many misconceptions about asylum seekers and refugees in the news. If you see an article or program that misrepresents such people, you can contact the journalists and let them know (contact info is often available on the journalist's website). I think it is especially powerful for refugees themselves to engage in such advocacy. It’s very difficult for stereotypes to survive in the face of individual truths, and so when asylum seekers and refugees tell their stories, it can be quite influential. Also, if you ask in advance, journalists will usually agree to keep identity information confidential, so you can talk to them without fear that your personal information will be made public.

Take to the Streets
: I’m of two minds about public protests. Sometimes, I think they are useless; other times, I think they are transformative. Of course, there are all sorts of protests from mass rallies to performance-art type events (and there was also our very own Refugee Ball back in January 2017). Such events can be inspiring and energizing for the people involved. They can also help coalesce disparate people into a unified group. Such events also send a message—to politicians and to the American public.

Hire an Immigrant
: The government is making it easier to discriminate against non-citizens. And in any case, it’s never been easy to get a job when you’re new to America. So if you have the ability to employ someone, why not consider an immigrant?

What if the intended employee does not have work authorization? Some people--such as people with asylum--are eligible to work even without the employment authorization document (the EAD card). It is obviously not legal to employ someone who is not authorized to work, but for many asylum seekers, who often wait months for their EAD, the only way to survive is to work without permission. Such people are frequently mistreated by employers. Hiring such a person comes with a risk to the employer as well as to the employee, and as a lawyer, I can't advocate for breaking the law. However, at least in my opinion, employing such people, paying them fairly, and treating them decently is an act of resistance against an immoral system.

Talk to People Who Disagree with You
: Advocates for immigrants have failed to convince the American public about the rightness of our cause, or at least we have failed to convince enough of them to win a presidential election. Rather than talking at people who disagree with us (as we often see on social media and left-leaning news outlets), we should be talking with such people. Speaking respectfully with people, listening empathetically and asking questions, and explaining a pro-immigrant view will not win everyone over to our side. But it might win over some. And even if we talk to people who disagree with us, and they are not swayed, a respectful conversation can help open doors later on. Anti-immigrant views seem to thrive in our current divisive environment. Perhaps if we work to tone things down and help move our country towards a more rational debate, it will also help immigrants. This needs to be done in big ways, but it also needs to be done in small ways, one conversation at a time. If you want to educate yourself about immigration issues, a good (pro-immigrant) source is the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which has policy statements on various issues.

So those are some ideas. Like I said, there is no magic solution for our current situation. But by supporting immigrants, in big ways and small, it is possible for each one of us to make a difference.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.