I’ve compiled a list of actions to take in response to the recent news of the concentration camps for immigrants. If you’re here just for the list of resources and don’t need any background info, skip past the intro straight to the first heading, “First Step is to Pick Your Next Step”.
CN: concentration camps, cruelty towards immigrants, cruelty towards children, government corruption, mention of Japanese-American internment camps, reference to the holocaust
Note: Many articles linked in this post have extensive, detailed descriptions of the conditions of the camps. They are disturbing and they don’t include a content warning. Click at your own risk.
Today, I read something terrible; a story that possibly upset me more any other news story from our current administration and it filled me with helplessness.
Over the past year, Trump’s immigration policies have become increasingly strict and dehumanizing. Detention centers, separation of families without keeping records, poor hygiene, inadequate access to food, water, and medical attention, children in cages-- these were all themes among reports of the horrifying conditions our government was signing off on for immigrants, regardless of their documentation.
But in the last week, it came to light that not only is Trump using Fort Sill-- the base used to hold Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during WWII-- to hold immigrant children, but that our government is now using concentration camps as a strategy to manage the influx in immigrants coming to the US.
Concentration camps? Like, those concentration camps?
But why are these camps any different from the detention centers we’ve been hearing about for the last year? Elizabeth C. McLaughlin explains why:
“These concentration camps (let's call them what they are) will be under the control of the Department of Homeland Security, but within the Department of Defense. Unlike ICE facilities, which allow site inspectors inside, there will be no inspection of military-run camps.
The military will be able to deny access to anyone it chooses. No media. No oversight. Lawyers will not be allowed in. Human rights monitors will not be allowed in. The camps will also be protected airspace, meaning that no drones can fly over them to take pictures of what's going on inside. The Trump administration will be able to conduct itself in whatever way it wants to without anyone knowing what's going on inside.”
There are already many alarming reports of the severity of conditions within these camps, which will only get worse as time goes on and supplies continue to dwindle. Reading just how bad the conditions are only intensified my feeling of helplessness.
McLaughlin repeats through her twitter thread, “Don’t look away. Don’t look away.” Reading about something so terrible, that’s all you want to do. You don’t want to believe that it’s real.
But it is. It’s real. It’s here. And we have to face it.
As I read through the commentary of the situation, horror story after horror story, I kept seeing a thought in my own mind reflected in the comments of other people like me, those who were reeling from shock and anger but were trying to turn this energy into something productive:
What do we do?
The thought bubbled and lifted to the top of the conversations over and over but would then float away. And as I continued to scroll and read and scroll I found that no one really had an answer to this question. It was too big, too terrible, too overwhelming. So much so that many rejected the reality outright, leading to conversations consumed by the need to convince the disbelievers that yes, this is happening, yes it really is that bad. No one was giving direction or next steps. Helplessness was rampant.
I am not an expert in government policy or immigration or even boots on the ground activism. I can’t look at the political situation, evaluate it, and tell you what needs to be done on the large scale to prevent it from getting worse.
What I can do is gather already existing resources from people who do know what’s needed, compile that information for you, and give you encouragement to use it.
First Step is to Pick Your Next Step
There’s a lot of information here and indecision is stressful. Please don’t look at this long list and go, “Nope! Too much! Can’t do it.” Once you pick one specific action and commit to it, that feeling of overwhelm will lessen significantly.
Start with the first item on this list and ask yourself honestly if you can do it. If the answer is no, proceed to the next one. Don't spend energy on feeling guilty you can't do more. Keep reading and asking yourself until the answer is yes, and then do that thing. Your contribution is valuable. It is literally impossible for you to fix this on your own, which means each of us, as individual people, have to offer our piece collectively in order for change to happen. Don't let fear stop you from contributing.
Here we go.
Donate Time or Money for Established Organizations
Thankfully, you don’t have to start from scratch in offering your help. There are many organizations already working hard to address immigration problems who know exactly what kind of help they need and when. Most organizations primarily need donations, volunteer work, and lawyers to offer their services pro bono.
Lists of Organizations
The Texas Tribune published, “a list of organizations that are mobilizing to help immigrant children separated from their families.” Virtually all of these websites will have a button that says, “Take Action” or “Donate.” It’s in their best interest to make it easy for you to find out what you can do to help.
Raising funds in order to post bail for immigrants is also a specific urgent need. This article by Kari Paul includes an extensive list of organizations that are specifically looking to raise money for this purpose, scroll to the end of the article to find it.
These lists of organizations are long so if you have a tendency to get overwhelmed by too many options, consider sending one of these lists to five friends. Make a commitment that each of you will choose a different organization from the list to donate/volunteer for. Then hold each other to it.
If that’s still too many options, I repeatedly saw specific recommendations to donate or volunteer for RAICES and ACLU.
The ACLU website has a particularly impressive action page organized by cause and amount of time you have to offer. You can pick a specific cause, such as halting the separation of immigrant families, and sign up for an email list that will send you calls to action for just that specific issue.
Lawyers For Good Government
L4GG, an organization who’s mission “is to protect and strengthen democratic institutions, resist abuse of power and corruption, and defend the rights of all those who suffer in the absence of ‘good government’” just published this guide on what you can do through their organization to help immigrants.
In addition to looking for donations & pro bono lawyers they also have a program to donate your frequent flier miles to lawyers involved in their organization and they are in particular need of spanish/english bilingual folks who can volunteer as translators during remote interviews with asylum seekers.
Focus on Local
Simply Google the words "immigrant justice" and the name of your city (or nearest larger city) and look through the results to find efforts local to you and how you can help.
Participate in or Organize a Protest
Currently, Lights for Liberty is the organization doing the most to publicly organize protests and demonstrations that will target the locations of the current camps.
From their website: “On Friday July 12th, 2019, Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps, will bring thousands of Americans to detention camps across the country, into the streets and into their own front yards, to protest the inhumane conditions faced by refugees.”
The primary locations of the protests will be El Paso, TX; Homestead, FL; San Diego, CA, near the point of entry site from Tijuana; New York City, at Foley Square, and Washington, DC, in front of the Capitol building.
If you are interested in sponsoring their efforts, you can email them at email@example.com. There is also information on their website (scroll to the second to last section of text) on how to go about hosting your own vigil in your city if you aren’t near any of the primary sites.
Contact your Senate and House Representatives
This tactic is brought up for every issue that requires legislation and government intervention to really make an impact, but it is effective. It gets information about voter opinions to the people who can make a difference and depending on what you’re trying to achieve, it can clog up the workflow of their offices, preventing them from getting anything done until the issue is addressed.
Calling them on the phone is supposed to be more effective than writing an email or a letter. All three mediums are more effective if you contact your state representative, as opposed to contacting DC, and more effective if you personalize your message and make it clear it isn’t just the same script everyone else is reading.
Tagging or messaging politicians on social media is largely ineffective-- with the possible exception of the great Alexandria Occasio Cortez who seems to be more likely to respond to tweets from non politicians/celebrities that tag her in order to call her attention to a problem or to a useful source of information to share regarding a problem she already works for.
Tools to Make Contacting Representatives Easier
Be Honest with Yourself about What You Have to Offer
Tae Phoenix, an activist who is both Jewish and Latina, offered this advice: "Plan ahead: Write down your own personal bottom line and decide what you will do if it is violated. What would it take for you to step away from your job and participate in mass protests for multiple days? What would it take for you to risk arrest? What would it take for you to hide persecuted people in your own home? Make a plan for how you will do it and write that down, too. Reach out to a trusted friend and share your plans. Ask them about theirs. Hold one another accountable."
Don’t get caught up in thinking about all the things you should be able to offer. Really ask yourself what you can do sustainably. If you are pushing yourself past sustainability, be clear with yourself about how long you will do that before you take a break. This is an issue that will take a lot of time to resolve. You can’t wait to rest until it’s fixed. But maybe you could have more to offer in an emergency situation. Only you can answer these questions.
Take Care of Yourself
You have to use your oxygen mask on yourself in order to save others. Activism burn out is a real problem and even if you stay mostly on the sidelines, these issues are deeply upsetting. It’s natural to need to take time to process these emotions and to recover from their impact.
Brogan Driscoll on Huffpo discusses, “The Importance Of Self-Care For Activists And Campaigners,” including some recommendations on how to do so.
Abigail Davidson on Green Dreamer wrote this excellent article on how to care for your state of mind and keep your perspective healthy and productive while doing such emotionally draining work. The article is targeted towards environmental activists but the suggestions are fully applicable to any kind of large scale activism.
Most of the work being done in the public eye right now is toward educating the general public on the severity of these issues. I want to emphasize that there is a greater need for the actions listed above than there is for additional work to raise awareness.
However, if you find yourself talking to a friend on social media or a coworker and find their information is wrong, correct them when it is safe for you to do so. There are going to be significant efforts by the government to downplay or deny the claims made about the condition of the camps and we’ll see that reflected in the public’s opinions of the camps. To make sure you have the right info, check out the information below.
Useful Links & Articles
Before you read anything else, read Elizabeth C. McLaughlin’s twitter thread detailing the atrocities currently happening at the camps.
Jack Holmes wrote an excellent article on Esquire about the current situation at the camps as well as the historical significance of these developments.
From that article: “Many of the people housed in these facilities are not "illegal" immigrants. If you present yourself at the border seeking asylum, you have a legal right to a hearing under domestic and international law. They are, in another formulation, refugees—civilian non-combatants who have not committed a crime, and who say they are fleeing violence and persecution. Yet these human beings, who mostly hail from Central America's Northern Triangle of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—a region ravaged by gang violence and poverty and corruption and what increasingly appears to be some of the first forced migrations due to climate change—are being detained on what increasingly seems to be an indefinite basis.”
And this piece by Jonathan M. Katz in the Los Angeles Times covers the slow escalation of Trump’s immigration policies that have lead to this moment.
This twitter thread by Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg goes over the predicted normalization process of the current conditions, how things will get worse, and why we need to act fast.
This single tweet by Representative Jerry Nadler is powerful enough to stand on its own:
“One of the lessons from the Holocaust is ‘Never Again’ - not only to mass murder, but also to the dehumanization of people, violations of basic rights, and assaults on our common morality. We fail to learn that lesson when we don’t call out such inhumanity right in front of us.”
The National Immigrant Justice Center
The NIJC has a particularly good set of resources for immigrants and people who want to help them.
How to Help
In addition to being able to donate and sign up for their calls to action, they offer a 14-page informational packet that's designed to equip you to educate others on immigration issues including a FAQ and many stories of personal experiences from immigrants. Page 9 includes an extensive list of resources for finding legal counsel and more ways to help.
Resources for Immigrants
On the NIJC website, immigrants can find lots of information on different types of immigration and common issues immigrants face during that process, as well as information on how to connect with the necessary attorneys, all of which is listed in both Spanish and English.
ACLU also has an excellent page detailing the rights guaranteed to you under the constitution of the United States regardless of your immigration status. It’s available in both English and Spanish.
Newly Published Resources
Thank you to the many folks who have reached out and suggested additional resources and calls to action! Here's the list of new resources updated as of June 28th, 2019.
The New York Times published this article, "Children Shouldn’t Be Dying at the Border. Here’s How You Can Help," assembled by the Editorial Board, with a list of suggested actions including many helpful links along the same lines as the recommendations listed here. Of note was this paragraph:
"Report and document raids and arrests. The National Immigration Law Center has suggested reporting raids to local hotlines, such as United We Dream’s MigraWatch. Raices has urged that people verify any social media posts saying ICE has been spotted before sharing or retweeting them because false alarms could spread fear in immigrant communities."
If you are inclined towards organizing the efforts of others, this article on Medium by Together & Free has lots of specific suggestions of where those organizing skills can be put to use, especially on a local level.
For those who have been asking for ways to get supplies to the children in the camps (which are currently turning away donations), Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg tweeted the following opportunity for donations:
"🚨OPPORTUNITY TO HELP 🚨Catholic Charities in McAllen, TX is an aid center receiving 400-600 asylum seekers a day as they are released from detention. They need socks and medicine and toilet paper & other things. Here’s their wishlist. Help if you can."
I have heard about a movement for teachers to use their position as mandatory reporters as the impetus to report the conditions at the border as child abuse. I have tried to get more details from an organizer of this movement but have not yet heard back. This facebook post includes the details that I currently have.
Be On the Look-Out for More Information
It’s rare that Yopp publishes articles that are immediately responsive to the political climate of the last few days and as such, there are probably a lot of people working on more cohesive plans of action than I have detailed here that I have missed or that will be published in the coming weeks.
If you learn more specific information about what we can do to stop our government from putting immigrants in concentration camps, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with as much information as you have.
I will update this article as I learn about additional existing tools.
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If nothing else, share this article with as many people as you can. The more people read it, the more likely it will find people who have resources to devote to this cause, the more likely we can have a greater impact.
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We can do this.