I woke up on a recent Saturday morning to horrific news; Trump’s ban on immigration had been enforced immediately. People were stranded in airports and were asked to return to their points of origin. I can’t imagine if I were them — being denied entry to the place I now call home; the land where my work, career, and aspirations are; the community to which I belong now.
Not being able to reunite with one’s family just because one happens to hold the wrong kind of passport is appalling. But what’s worse is that Trump has denied entry to Syrian refugees for an indefinite time. They are running away from carnage and oppression. Denying asylum is like telling them, “I know they’re killing you, and your children are dying, but I don’t care,” even though resettlement in the US is their only beacon of hope. It is discordant to what America has always believed in. Didn’t The Declaration of Independence mention that all men are created equal and they are entitled to certain unalienable rights, such as the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Isn’t the Statue of Liberty a symbol that signifies freedom from oppression? What about refugees fleeing from persecution in Syria, aren’t they entitled to life and freedom too? They’re every bit as human as you or I.
How Can We Help Refugees?
The executive order (EO) banning refugees from Syria remains unchanged despite some development in letting permanent residents from the other six countries into the US. But I believe that change is possible even by the smallest constituent of society: Us. We are capable of doing something in the midst of this humanitarian crisis. Even though we might not have the resources and power to change the EO, we can at least do something to help the refugees who are already here in the US, and specifically in this case, in the Bay Area.
1. Contact Your Representatives and Senators to Support Refugee Resettlement
Contacting Senators and Representatives helps to make your voice heard. The more input they receive on a certain issue, the more they will prioritize it. Failing to do so will leave your concern out of the policymaking process.
Here is a list of senators and representatives in California: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/CA
Here is a sample script which you may use when contacting them: https://www.rescue.org/announcement/urgent-take-action-now
Your time and effort mean a lot to those who need it most. Here are some suggestions of where to volunteer:
- You can contact affiliate partners of Office of Refugee Resettlement for volunteer opportunities. These agencies provide resettlement services such as referrals for short-term financial and medical assistance, job development, and English as a Foreign Language services.
- Contact The International Rescue Committee for volunteering programs. They have offices that help with refugee resettlement in Oakland and San Jose.
- Contact local mosques to enquire if they have any voluntary opportunities or assistance for refugees. These are some of the larger mosques in the Bay Area: Muslim Community Association (Santa Clara), MCC East Bay (Pleasanton), Oakland Islamic Center and South Bay Islamic Association (San Jose).
- Give a shout out to any FB groups that you subscribe to in your local area and ask if they know any refugee families who have just arrived and need help. Chances are someone will know and can direct you to them/local initiatives that are pooling resources to help them. We can help by giving information about job opportunities, affordable housing options, being mentors to young refugees, etc.
Here are some suggested organizations which accept donations for assisting refugee resettlement:
- International Rescue Committee
- GiveLight Foundation
GiveLight foundation is currently helping to resettle 13 orphans in the Bay Area. GiveLight’s main objective is to support orphans who are the victims of natural disasters and extreme conditions like wars. Learn more about GiveLight here.
Before you donate, make sure to check with your employer if they will match your donation to these organizations. Not only will you be contributing financially, donation matching will also increase the support given to these agencies.
4. Create Awareness
You can write, blog, or talk about how refugees add value to our community. People are more likely to listen to personal recommendations from those with whom they are close. Make sure that you are objective and non-judgemental when spreading the message.
Remember, no contribution is too small. We CAN do something, and together, we CAN make a difference!
Whether you have time to act as a professional mentor or even help with groceries. You can make a difference along with the International Rescue Committee
To connect with a wider group of immigrants in the Bay Area we have been meeting with local organizations that provide essential support to refugees.