There is a strategy to this administration’s speedy leap into policy-making. The further people travel from the initial outrage, the harder it becomes to mobilize them around a common goal – in this case to support religious minorities and immigrants. The bet Donald Trump and his advisors are making is that by the time 2018 rolls around, most people will have moved on with their lives.
And as the narrator notes in Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River, “Routine is worry’s sly assassin.”
Thus it is important to pair public protest and electoral efforts with ongoing relationship-building between affected communities and potential partners and advocates. Harmful policies are harder to ignore if you know that your fellow co-worker, church goer, or friend is suffering as a result of an existing policy or law. It is harder to embrace extreme measures against Muslim Americans or immigrants if you have met someone who falls into one of these categories, heard her story, and grasp the basic facts surrounding the issue.
So whether you mobilized on January 28 to hold signs or provide legal services at the airport , or you opted-out but are hoping to make a long-term difference, here are 5 practical ideas to build bridges and advocate for the rights of immigrants and religious minorities in your community:
- Educate yourself about the facts behind the existing Refugee Vetting Process: http://www.cvt.org/refugee-vetting-process
- Recruit 3-4 people in your faith community to organize an advocacy event or program.
- Reach out to a congregation of a different faith tradition and organize an interfaith activity or event. For a powerful example of this kind of community-building, check out the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom.
- Encourage your own congregation to issue a formal statement in support of humanitarian values, cultural diversity, and religious freedom.
- Hold a bake sale, fun run, or other activity to raise awareness and fundraise for an organization serving refugees and/or immigrants.
- Contact your alma mater or a nearby college/university to ask how you can support immigrant and international students, as well as students belonging to religious minorities.
- Consider reaching out directly to offices that serve international and/or multicultural student life.
- If you have space, offer to host students who may need to stay in the country over school breaks to avoid losing valid US Visas if they travel internationally.
- If you have time, volunteer in an adult basic education or English Language Learner program through your community college.
- If you are a lawyer with experience in immigration law, offer free or discounted legal services for affected students and staff.
- If you are a community organizer, offer to serve as a mentor for student groups organizing for change.
- If you belong to a local congregation representing a religious minority, build a relationship with similar groups on campus (ex. Muslim Student Association).
- If you have financial resources, offer to sponsor a Dreamer (i.e. undocumented student) who cannot receive federal aid.
- Invite a knowledgeable speaker to share his/her story at your business, nonprofit, school, faith community, professional association, public library, community center, etc.
- Word of Caution: don’t ask a random colleague or someone in line at the grocery store; immigrants are not walking resources to be paraded around for learning purposes. Either invite someone you know well, or work with a local organization that has the connections to bring in a compelling volunteer speaker for you.
- If you don’t know which organizations are doing relevant work in your area, it is worth trying your city or state name + some combination of these key search terms based on your interest: immigrant, refugee, asylum, gender-based asylum, DACA, Dreamers, legal, resettlement, housing, financial aid, adult basic education
- Fundraise online for legal and/or resettlement organizations that will be on the front lines of future resistance efforts. There are a long list of organizations worthy of support, but some key prospects:
- American Civil Liberties Union
- International Refugee Assistance Project
- National Immigration Law Center
- International Rescue Committee
- Check out organizations providing resettlement services in your state: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/orr/state-programs-annual-overview