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5 Ways to Help Undocumented Immigrants

5 Ways to Help Undocumented Immigrants

Because inaction is not an option

Sign reading WE ARE ALL IMMIGRANTS alongside a yellow Star of David

It's easy to feel helpless in the face of the Trump administration's accelerating crackdown on undocumented immigrants living in the United States and crossing the southern border. As Reform Jews, we know that inaction is not an option.

Jewish tradition places great importance on just treatment of immigrants; our faith demands of us concern for the stranger in our midst in at least 36 ways. Leviticus commands, “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love them as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” [19:33-34]. Our own people’s history as “strangers” reminds us of the many struggles faced by immigrants today, and we affirm our commitment to create the same opportunities for today’s immigrants that were so valuable to our own community not so many years ago. (Learn more about the Jewish values that guide us on immigration issues.)

As with much activism, you can have the most impact by acting in your local community - a theme that comes across in many of these suggestions for how to take action. Here are five ways you can make a difference in the lives of millions of undocumented immigrants today: 

1. Connect with migrant-led organizations and interfaith immigration coalitions in your area

Ask the local groups about the best role you can play. Participate in any training that is offered. You can find a local group at Informed Immigrant. Some ways that allied faith communities can be helpful are the following:

2. Make sure local law enforcement does not collaborate with ICE

Immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility – not state or local.  Contact police and sheriff’s offices to tell them not to facilitate ICE raids, and to demand that they inform local officials and the public if they have received a request to cooperate with ICE. 

3. Denounce the deportation raids before they happen.

Write op-eds in newspapers, spread the word on social media, hold public awareness events, and get media coverage. Post on social media and activate your networks to drive calls to the national Immigration and Customs Enforcement office and to Congress. Continue to engage in digital advocacy. Show that the Jewish people stand for loving our neighbors and against inhumane treatment of immigrants. Clergy can be especially powerful in doing this. The Know Your Power Social Media Toolkit  and Defend Against ICE Raids- Digital Toolkit are both great resources. Make sure to use the #FamiliesBelongTogether hashtag if you post on social media. Sample messages to post and communicate to government officials are:

  • President Trump’s recent threat to ramp up the deportation of families in the interior terrorizes immigrant communities, with direct consequences for children, youth and families. 
  • This proposal is family separation 2.0, only this time it would be taking place in backyards across America. 
  • Raids cause long-term harm to children’s health and wellbeing, including U.S. citizen children. Research shows that children who witness a parent’s arrest, particularly in a home setting, are more likely to suffer mental health and behavioral problems. 
  • Raids also put an unnecessary strain on communities, including schools, childcare providers, faith-based institutions, and other organizations that serve immigrant families.
  • Targeting children, youth and families in an effort to sow fear and “send a message” is misguided, immoral, and runs contrary to who we are as a nation. 
  • We call on Congress to ensure that ICE and CBP are not given additional resources to apprehend, lock up, separate, and deport children, youth, and families.
  • We urge state and local officials to speak out against this proposal and equip their communities with the resources they need to support families impacted by raids. 

4. Offer physical sanctuary in your congregation’s building.

To do this, consult with a lawyer. Here is a webinar on how to offer sanctuary made by the American Friends Service Committee; here is video from a Reform congregation in Denver that serves as a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. The staff of the Religious Action Center can put you in touch with other congregations ready to host so you can offer support to each other.

5. Develop or join live actions in your area

Protest and prevent deportation raids in your local community. Keep an eye out for events or organize your own (we can help). Here’s an example of an interfaith rally against deportation raids that took place in Milwaukee with members of the city's Jewish community.

Learn more and receive ongoing updates at rac.org/immigration

Dr. Julia Paley is the director of immigration justice for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Dr. Julia Paley
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