I’m on a conference call with a respected foundation. I’m pitching them an idea for a new project. It goes OK. I’m not sure if I will get the money. I’ve gotten used to uncertainty. It is the life of an artist. It has been my life for over a decade. My life as an activist on the other hand is something I am still getting used to. I work at the intersection of art and activism. I focus my work on immigration and feminism. The last few years have been tough to say the least.
As soon as I hang up, my phone rings. It’s a number I don’t recognize. I hesitate to answer. I think it might be a spam call. I don’t want to hear a robot telling me about how I need another credit card, but then I think, “What if it’s not?” I answer, slightly annoyed.
“Hello?” I say.
“Hola. Se encuentra Paola.”
This is the “What if…”
On the other end of the phone is a woman looking for help. Her sister crossed the border illegally, turned herself in to Border Patrol, and died in their custody. The woman I am speaking with is undocumented. She is caring for her niece and nephew who saw their mother die. She wants to know if I can help. She needs a lawyer.
A couple days later, I get a text from a source inside a detention facility. She’s an employee of the facility. She’s not a migrant, not a refugee, simply a concerned citizen. She tells me there is a little girl who tried to commit suicide inside the facility. The little girl was separated from a family member over three months ago. All she wants is to get out … any way possible. My source wants to know if I can help. The little girl needs a lawyer.
Another day. Another text.
I get a What’s App message from a family I met on the caravan. They were one of the lucky ones. They made it into the United States. They asked for asylum. They went through the process. They were denied. Now they are the unlucky ones.
The caravan seems like a lifetime ago. Last November, thousands of people had enough. Enough deaths in Guatemala. Enough rapes in El Salvador. Enough poverty in Honduras. They did they only thing they could, and walked north.
The images of thousands of women and children walking north inspired me to do the only thing I could do. Tell the stories of the families of the caravan. I met so many families as I walked with them on their journey north. Each one of their stories seared into my heart. Each hopeful dream a prayer I lifted up. Each What’s App message a plea for help.
My phone buzzes again. This time it’s an Instagram notification. I open it. A stranger asks how they can help the refugees, the migrants, the unaccompanied minors, the children who have been separated from their parents, the undocumented immigrants that have been detained by ICE…
This word dings in my phone. It lights up my room at night. It doesn’t let me sleep. It’s a word that has responsibility. It’s a word with depth, connection and hope. It’s a word that requires action. It’s a plea that I cannot turn away from. It’s a demand that we must all heed. If you’re reading this, I assume it is because you, too, feel compelled to help. You understand that no matter how horrific, how heartbreaking or how cruel the situation becomes you cannot turn away. You must face whatever the present holds. The Trump administration is counting on you to tire; they are expecting you to get overwhelmed by the cruelty, they want nothing more than for you to give up.
“How can I help?” is the question I am asked most often. The answer isn’t as easy as everyone wants it to be. But there are ways you can help. You can make a difference.
There are so many organizations doing incredible work trying to keep migrants and refugee families together. You can always donate to the larger well known organizations but I prefer to give to organizations that are more grassroots and fighting on the front lines. Here are some that I recommend, as well as many other ways to offer help.
Donate to organizations that offer legal support.
Donate to organizations that offer humanitarian support.
Miles 4 Migrants (Donating frequent flier miles to reunite families.)
Follow these accounts to stay informed.
Knowledge is power. You must stay informed. Things change quickly under the Trump administration. Keep these websites handy and follow these amazing immigration activists to stay informed.
Alida Garcia, she’s a lawyer turned organizer. Vice President of Advocacy at Fwd.Us
Jess Morales, alumna of Hillary for America and chair of Families Belong Together.
Erika Andiola, Chief of Advocacy at Raices.
Volunteer your time and expertise.
We need people power to help migrants and refugees. Please volunteer if you can!
Organizations that need Spanish speakers:
Remote intake for Lawyers for Good Government
Translators for CAIR Coalition
Translate with the Dilley Pro Bono Project
Translate for Immigration Justice Campaign
Translate for No More Deaths
Organizations that need immigration lawyers:
Other opportunities to volunteer:
SIFI (part of the Southern Poverty Law Center)
When a new injustice is thrown our way call your member of congress right away. Tell them how you feel. Demand they fight back. Vote them out if you are unsatisfied. Take your rage and organize. Go to the streets. Remember progress is never guaranteed nor is it continuous. Progress depends on each one of us, and progress must be for all of us.
So what can you do to help?
Protect one another.