Update: The Lights 4 Liberty national vigil and day of action to end human detention camps will be held on Friday July 12, 2019 around the United States. We are posting all Lights 4 Liberty rally info here. To find other nearby ways to get involved or get updates on the movement, visit our Brightest listings or Families Belong directly.
Under the Trump administration’s directive, ICE, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division, is committing one of the largest, direct human rights violations in America since Roosevelt’s internment of over 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. In 2017 alone, the agency arrested 110,568 people, a 42% increase over the same period the year before.
Thousands of immigrant families have been swept up, separated and had members detained in ICE raids – many of them long-standing U.S. residents with no criminal record. Dozens of detainees have died or been assaulted while in custody. And federal authorities are even unable to locate 1,475 children who should have been responsibly placed in foster or protective care.
Worse, under Jeff Sessions’ new “zero tolerance” policy, any illegal border crosser is immediately arrested (and separated from any children they’re with), without the ability to request asylum through the proper channels.
Most recently, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley (and the press) was denied access to an ICE detention center in McAllen, TX, where the Senator observed “children [most of them 12 years old or younger] in cages” and little kids sleeping on concrete floors.
My visit to the McAllen processing center was a harrowing experience. Children were in cages. People were distraught. Kids were ripped from their parents’ arms. It’s unconscionable that we are treating them this way. pic.twitter.com/LmtCmKYx84
— Jeff Merkley (@JeffMerkley) June 6, 2018
ICE, DHS and the Trump administration’s treatment of immigrants is cruel, heartless and inhumane, so much so that the United Nations’ Human Rights Office has directly called on President Trump to “immediately halt” its accelerating policy of separating children from their parents and detaining them.
So what can we do about it? If you’re someone concerned with the fair treatment and well-being of others, what are some of the best ways you can contribute?
Here are several immediate actions you can take today:
- Support Local Organizations Fighting on the Front Lines
While protest can be cathartic, social media outrage can help spread awareness (particularly by keeping the hashtag #FamiliesBelongTogether trending), and blocking ICE vehicles might interrupt a deportation or two, one of the most constructive things you can do is help one of several grassroots organizations actively working to help immigrants and migrants and defend them from ICE and other aggression. Puente, a grassroots migrant justice organization in Phoenix, wants communities to work together to keep a look out for ICE and gather information on raids, while taking legal and advocacy action to help fight back. Puente needs ongoing local volunteers and legal help, or you can donate to them directly.
Another admirable organization fighting on behalf of immigrants is The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) in Los Angeles, which provides pro bono legal services and runs community education and support programs throughout southern California. Others include Al Otro Lado and the Women’s Refugee Commission.
2. Lend a Hand (or a Dollar) to National Organizations Involved in Resisting Trump and ICE
In addition to perennial civil rights champions like the ACLU, there are a variety of other municipal, state and national organizations working to defend immigrants from deportation and inhumane detention.
– The Young Center for Children’s Immigrant Rights (with volunteer opportunities on Brightest in states that include Arizona, California and Texas)
– Brooklyn Defender Services and its legal network for immigrant defense
– Florence Project (FIRRP)
– Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CARA)’s Family Detention Pro Bono Representation and Advocacy Project
– The Immigrant Defense Project (IDP)
All of these organizations can accept a quick donation if you’re busy, and most also offer volunteer programs for both lawyers and people without legal expertise.
To find immigrant defense organizations in your local community (and ways to volunteer your time), try a Brightest search.
3. “Vote them out.”
The ‘them,’ obviously, is any member of Congress or other elected official who isn’t willing to stand up to ICE’s human rights violations and protect immigrant rights.
In the immediate days and weeks, one action you can take is to contact any local representative who sits on a committee or group responsible for Homeland Security (so, by extension, ICE) or immigration policy. Use a service like Resistbot to call, fax or write a letter expressing their concern about ICE’s detention of families.
Encourage your own representatives in Congress to speak out against immigration detention, especially if your representative serves on one of the committees listed below:
– Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, whose duty is to oversee Homeland Security. There are 15 states with Senators on this committee: Arizona, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Wisconsin (both Senators are on the committee), and Wyoming.
– House of Representatives Committee for Homeland Security, whose duty is also to oversee Homeland Security. There are 16 states with representatives on this committee: Alabama (3rd District), Arizona (2nd District), California (35th & 46th Districts), Florida (19th District), Georgia (1st & 11th Districts), Louisiana (2nd District), Massachusetts (9th District), Michigan (10th District), Mississippi (2nd District), New Jersey (10th & 12th Districts), New York (2nd, 4th, 11th, 24th, & 26th Districts), N. Carolina (6th District), Pennsylvania (4th, 10th, & 11th Districts), Rhode Island (2nd District), S. Carolina (3rd District), and Texas (4th, 10th, 18th, 21st, 23rd & 34th Districts).
– House of Representatives Committee on Oversight & Government Reform – National Security Subcommittee, whose duty includes overseeing Homeland Security as the Department’s work as it relates to National Security. 10 districts are represented in the National Security Sub-Committee: California (33rd District), Florida (6th, 7th District), Georgia (10th Districts), Illinois (2nd District), Massachusetts (8th District), Michigan (14th District), Oklahoma (5th District), Tennessee (2nd District), and Texas (23rd District).
– House of Representative Committee on Appropriations – Homeland Security Subcommittee, the group that sets Homeland Security’s budget which provides funding for ICE. 11 districts have representatives in this committee: California (40th District), Iowa (3rd District), Maryland (1st District), New Jersey (11th District), N. Carolina (4th District), Ohio (9th District), Tennessee (3rd District), Texas (7th, 28th, & 31st Districts), and Utah (2nd District).
If you need help with messaging, context on ICE and CBP or social media resources, the team at Detention Watch has put together this free toolkit.
But advocacy can only go so far: real change in how we treat and care for immigrant families and kids can only come this November 8th by voting for it. We need a Congress that will hold DHS and ICE accountable for its rampant abuses.
To find out your local representative’s stance on Trump’s immigration policy, use this helpful search tool created by NPR.
There’s also clear precedent from the Supreme Court that the federal government cannot make local police act as immigration agents. And, despite its funding and headcount increases under the Trump administration, ICE still has to rely on state and local police to help them identify people for deportation and enforce their toxic policies. As a result, your state representatives (and local police commission) can also play an important role in either enabling or blocking ICE’s actions, and may be easier to get in contact with.
What’s ultimately important – just like the March for Our Lives movement to bring about responsible gun safety reform – is keeping this story in the news cycle. In the past few days it’s been getting wall-to-wall front-page coverage, but as we know the speed and volatility of policy attack and unpredictability have made it hard for much of the media to sustain a consistent narrative since Trump took office.
One fact we do know however, is that today the U.S. has the largest immigrant detention system in the world.
It’s up to each and every one of us to free these kids and end it.