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After the Election: How to Support the Local Immigrant Community

Posted December 15, 2016 • Filed Under Immigration, Uncategorized

on-now after-the-election_-how-to-support-the-local-immigrant-community
Many people are concerned for the immigrant community in light of the recent election results. Interacting with and advocating for immigrants are tangible ways to take a stand against the fear and hate that seem to have set the tone of many national conversations about immigrants. Keep reading for a list of ideas of practical ways to get involved.

  1. Speak truth to power: Call or email your elected officials to support legislation that has the national interest in mind and protects immigrants. It is important to support comprehensive immigration reform that creates pathways to citizenship. Keep an eye on the news, or (especially in 2017) to track legislation that will influence immigrants and refugees. If you are unfamiliar with your elected officials, this is a good website to find their contact information and see bills they have introduced and supported. If you are local to Harrisonburg, here is the contact information for your elected representatives:

Bob Goodlatte, US Representative for VA’s 6th District

Mark Warner, US Senator for VA

Tim Kaine, US Senator for VA

  1. Educate yourself: Many arguments in public discourse are based on unfounded evidence. Familiarize yourself with some basic demographics, statistics, and information about immigration policy to objectively filter through information and respond accordingly. The Migration Policy Institute is a resource with comprehensive, non-partisan  information related to immigration. This article answers frequently asked questions and provides up-to-date statistics about immigrants in the United States. The Commonwealth Institute also produces informational reports about the important role of immigrants in Virginia, like this one. Combat ignorance by educating yourself and sharing accurate information!
  1. Donate your time and/or money to local organizations that assist immigrants and refugees: These agencies have the capacity to work with immigrants and refugees in the Harrisonburg/Shenandoah Valley area. Each organization has specific needs and ways to get involved.
  • Skyline Literacy is a local nonprofit that works with English language learners and helps eligible people on the pathway to citizenship. Some ways to get involved include making a financial donation and/or signing up to work as a Community Literacy Partner.
  • The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights is a national nonprofit that trains child advocates who intercede for unaccompanied immigrant children. The Young Center periodically holds trainings for people in the area who want to become child advocates for unaccompanied minors being held in the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Staunton, VA. Donate or volunteer.
  • Church World Service helps refugees transition to their new life in Harrisonburg. The CWS office will hold a Linking Communities training on January 7, 2017, from 9:00am-12:30am at Parkview Mennonite Church  for local families who want to get partner with newly arrived refugee families and be a part of their transition process. The goal of Linking Communities is to “form connections and strengthen the fabric of understanding, acceptance, and integration in the Harrisonburg community.” If you are interested, contact Rebecca Sprague at [email protected]. CWS also collects a variety of household items, nonperishable food items, toiletries, furniture, coats, cell phones etc. throughout the year. Click here for more information.
  • NewBridges Immigrant Resource Center, our organization, is in the process of making emergency kits to distribute to the immigrants we serve. The kits will include a zippered coin bag, a whistle, an emergency contact card, and a very small toy, and we anticipate that it will cost approximately $1,000 to create several hundred of them. If you are interested in helping to finance this project, please contact Alicia.
  1. Get involved at the Community Level: There has been a considerable amount of organizing in the Harrisonburg area already, most of it among the immigrant community. If you are bilingual in Spanish and English, your help as a translator will be integral in the coming months. Many foreign-born persons have been advised to create an emergency document that describes where all family members’ paperwork is kept and contains an action plan in case of an emergency (essentially a living will). Creating this type of plan is not something that is commonly done in immigrant communities, and it will be important in cases of family separation or other emergencies that may arise. Keep an eye out for  workshop opportunities to create these documents soon–translation support will be critical! For more information please contact Alicia.
  1. Identify yourself as an ally: Many people have been wearing safety pins on their clothing or bags as a sign that they are a safe person.  Another way to mark your self and/or your family as an ally is to immigrants is to place a “we’re glad you’re our neighbor” sign in your yard. Click here to get more information on currently available signs or to print your own.
  1. Speak up if you see injustice: If you see people being targeted or discriminated against for their perceived or actual immigration status, do not hesitate to file a report with local police by calling (540) 434-4436 (non-emergency) or 911 (emergency). Filming the incident with your smartphone may provide helpful evidence. Additionally, the Southern Poverty Law Center is collecting data about “hateful intimidation and harassment.” If you witness one of these incidents, report it here, and use #ReportHate on social media.

It is increasingly important to take action so that everyone, no matter where they are from, feels safe and at home here in the Valley and all across the country. Let’s do our part to help the Friendly City live up to its reputation by building bridges between communities and cultures and speaking up for love, justice, and hope.



About the Author: Lindsay Wright is a 2016 graduate of James Madison University, where she double majored in Communication Studies and Spanish. She is currently completing a nine-month internship at NewBridges, where she is producing content for the blog and getting experience working with clients. In her free time, Lindsay enjoys reading, cooking, and spending time outside in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. Contact Lindsay at [email protected].