Want to help immigrants during the pandemic but don’t know how? Here’s a list of actions that you can take to uplift your immigrant community. From reaching out to your local representative to donating to a COVID-19 fund, there’s always something to do.
By Jasmine Huang
As the pandemic continues to take its toll on America, the virus has revealed a vast number of inequities in the US healthcare system. While the country grapples with its limited resources of tests, ventilators, and protective covering, under-privileged American residents are struggling to stay afloat. Since the escalation of COVID-19 in the US, immigrants have largely been neglected by the government and targeted and detained by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE). To make matters more challenging, the Affordable Care Act leaves out undocumented immigrants, preventing them from getting coverage for medical services as basic as a visit or a call with the doctor. Approximately 7.1 million undocumented immigrants do not have health insurance and must depend on emergency departments. Without primary-care providers and told to avoid overloaded emergency departments experiencing this unprecedented pandemic, immigrants are caught in a state of limbo.
After publishing an article about COVID-19 resources accessible for immigrants who are unable to see a doctor, without healthcare, undocumented, or all of the above, this piece will focus on steps that can be taken to assist immigrants. If you have spare time––some of these actions take less than five minutes!––or some spare change, here’s a list of measures you can take to help disadvantaged immigrants during the pandemic:
Reach Out to Government Leadership
Writing to your elected official alerts them of issues their constituents are thinking about. When enough people contact a Senator or representative about an important topic like immigration, they have to start paying attention eventually and do something to address it. Calling their offices also helps. If you’re unsure about what to say, use the email template as a guideline for talking points.
- Email your member of Congress or tweet at them to demonstrate your support for the Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act. Sponsored by Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) in the U.S. Senate and Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Lou Correa (D-CA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, this piece of legislation would ensure that immigrants are included in the relief package bill, prohibit law enforcement from encroaching in certain areas like the hospital and health care centers, and do much more.
- Demand Congress provide COVID-19 relief to everyone living in America, including immigrants––documented and undocumented.
- Email Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to push for ICE to release families from detention centers and allow them to remain safely together during the coronavirus pandemic. Click here to send an email and here to sign the petition.
- Using RAICES' embedded algorithm, tweet at your representatives and call for them to allow families and organizations to post bonds online. The DHS already has an electronic bond payment system, known as eBond; expanding this to immigrants would let families shelter together during COVID-19 and improve the system.
Organizing and Demonstrating
Not everyone has the privilege and security to organize for an issue they care about (which is why we included other ways you can help) but if this is something you can do, here’s resources for how to do so safely, six-feet apart. Organizing and demonstrating not only generates awareness about the unfair treatment of immigrants during the pandemic––it also brings about greater conversation, interest, and resolve to address the issue .
- The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) is an organization that provides affirmative, defensive, and litigation services for low-income immigrants. Operating out of San Antonio, Texas, they’ve also compiled a detailed document for organizing a car rally (with social-distancing measures still in place!) outside of immigrant detention centers. In addition, they’ve created a toolkit that contains information discussing everything from their principles to why action is so important now. If you’re interested in strategies for independent organizing and have a bit more time on your hands, this is the place to look.
Signing and Sharing Petitions
Petitions do a lot more than most people realize. As individuals sign and share them, petitions gain traction and develop a campaign that reflects the public’s sentiments. In the process of signing, a list of people who are passionate about the particular subject matter is also created. Petitions raise money, but they also––and most importantly––create action.
- Sign and share the ACLU’s petition to the DHS to fight against family separation.
- Sign and share the #StandWithImmigrants petition to show your support for immigrants, protect their rights, and ensure fair treatment and due process for everyone.
- Sign and share the ACLU’s petition to hold Customs and Border Patrol accountable for inhumane child detention.
There is always work to be done. If you have a little extra time on your hands, try reaching out to your local organization benefiting immigrants and see if they have an already-established volunteer program that you can join. Volunteers keep the organizations moving and are the back and bone of many nonprofits and charities that fight the injustices immigrants face.
- If you’re interested in providing additional time and effort, #StandWithImmigrants petition has checkboxes to notify them of potential volunteers with useful skill sets. Educators, social workers, and paralegals are a few of the experts they’re looking for, but volunteers simply with the willingness to work with immigrants are welcome.
- The Immigration Justice Campaign was established to aid immigrants in fighting for due process and for justice. On their webpage, they have resources like online webinars to educate potential volunteers who are interested in helping immigrants but do not necessarily have a background in law. Other webinars outline opportunities for learning about the current situation for immigrants in detention during the coronavirus and how volunteers can do something.
- Based in Seattle, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) lists contact information for anyone interested in volunteering. There are options for those who can assist in translating, working pro-bono cases, developing community defense, or––for college graduates who intend to study law or law graduates––conducting in-person interviews for potential clients and more.
Donate, Donate, Donate
Donate money to the groups that need it. Plenty of organizations that fight for immigrants’ rights may sometimes rely on bail funds to help their protesters get out of jail following a demonstration; donations can also go to funds for sponsoring and helping immigrants adjust to the States.
- The National UndocuFund is sponsored by the immigrant youth of United We Dream. Formed to compensate for the deepening impact of COVID-19, the National UndocuFund is a means to provide direct financial assistance for undocumented immigrants who need it.
- Damayan Migrant Workers Association aims to uplift low-wage immigrant workers to fight for their rights. Working primarily with Filipino immigrants, they hope to put an end to labor trafficking, labor fraud and wage theft, and call for fair labor standards in order to obtain socio-economic justice.
- Freedom For Immigrants - Bay Area Immigration Bond Fund focuses on empowering immigrants of the San Francisco Bay Area by assisting in their immigration cases. Bond payments can increase access to counsel and fair hearing. By developing a fund to make sure that individuals aren’t stuck in detention, the Bar Area Immigration Bond Fund seeks to challenge a system that criminalizes immigrants and negatively impacts their lives, oftentimes for the long term.
- Kids in Need of Defense provides legal aid and defense for children who arrive in America unaccompanied but also prioritizes their mental and emotional well-being through social service. Their many goals include supporting kids through social and legal services while also walking them through the traumas they might’ve experienced.