Is it helpful for individuals to go down to the border?
June 20, 2018 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Is there value in Americans going down to the border between the US and Mexico versus staying here and donating the money we'd use to travel? I've seen requests for volunteers who have legal experience. What about people who don't?

Looking for firsthand perspectives and resources, blog posts, articles, etc. to help address this question. I'm asking this so I can be informed in spreading the word within my networks about how people can help. This is relevant with the current approach the administration is taking with families -- but will continue to be relevant even if/when the family division policy is changed.

The people in my network could travel between several days to several weeks or months. Some can work remotely and could stay for a while. Some are bilingual in Spanish and English. Racial identity varies but (because of where I live) most would be white. Assume they will donate regardless.

I'm wondering about things like volunteering for local organizations, helping with intake, interpreting, and being a witness / sharing out stories. If having people on the ground would just be annoying, that would be good to know. I'm trying to avoid taking up the time of staff at the front-line organizations with inquiries, especially if this isn't something they're likely to want.
posted by ramenopres to Law & Government (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
If you have an actual, specific, asked for skill like a law degree or translation fluency, find a specific organisation and go in coordination with them. If not, do not take up the beds in very short supply; send money instead.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:05 PM on June 20, 2018 [12 favorites]

I've definitely seen comments from organizers on the twitter telling people to wait until a call is actually made, which may or may not happen.

My suggestions would be:

1. Follow these orgs on social media so that you'll know exactly what they're requesting.

2. Follow local immigration orgs on social media so that you don't miss local call-outs.

3. If you want something on the ground to actually do - and I totally feel that - contact local orgs about volunteer opportunities. People whose daytime schedules are flexible will probably be precious to a lot of groups. Needs might include all kinds of things, from court observation to accounting to...other stuff I haven't even thought of. No matter where you are, people are being arrested, separated, detained and deported in your region. It is not just happening at the border.

4. You can also banner - meaning find a highway bridge that has a sidewalk and stand there holding a banner (or other signs) during rush hours. This is something I've seen people self-organize to do, just families or friend-groups. Another thing folks can do on their own is raise money - hold a garage sale, hold a party, send a begging letter to your well-heeled friends.

5. Someone on here - prepfara, I think - posted about making a little paper booklet giving resources about the situation and how to help and distributing it at sympathetic businesses, the library, etc. A really good "why deportation is bad" brochure or booklet that spoke to local concerns would be a good thing to create.

There's more to do than sending money, even though there's no call for people to travel yet.
posted by Frowner at 1:17 PM on June 20, 2018 [11 favorites]

When I asked about helping children at the border a few days ago, someone posted about The Young Center, which is looking for volunteers to serve as child advocates in Chicago, Houston, San Antonio, Harlingen, Phoenix, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C. You can't just show up though. From the website:

Volunteering as a Young Center Child Advocate means being a reliable, trustworthy, and professional presence for children who are in federal custody, and accordingly, we have a thorough clearance and training process. We get to know prospective volunteers through an initial screening interview, an application and reference check, and at the required two-day training.

In order to be eligible to enter the detention centers, volunteers must also submit to an FBI background check, a child abuse and neglect (CAN) background check, and a medical screening for tuberculosis.

Once assigned to an individual child, each Child Advocate receives continuing training, support, and supervision from the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights.

Not sure if this exactly answers your question, but it is directed to people who can help with their physical presence rather than just donations.
posted by FencingGal at 1:23 PM on June 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

Mariame Kaba (@prisonculture) is someone who has been fighting again mass incarceration and injustice for a long time, I find her perspective and insight incredibly valuable. As recently as two days ago (she tweets lot so I cant seem to find it for a link) she said, to paraphrase: many people will be tempted to go and help, but for now they should wait on specific asks as they emerge and are vetted through existing organizations, their coalitions and partners. She also said she would follow up if the wait-for-requests stats changes to "we need xyz now"
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 1:48 PM on June 20, 2018 [6 favorites]

From the ACLU of Texas.
posted by tamitang at 2:13 PM on June 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

contact local orgs about volunteer opportunities.

I signed up today to be an English tutor to refugees in my city. You don't need to speak their language (although I'm sure it doesn't hurt).
posted by AFABulous at 8:59 PM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

On June 30 there will be nationwide demonstrations against family separation. There are also refugee and immigrants advocacy groups in most major metro areas. Demonstrate and volunteer locally, send money to the border.
posted by latkes at 9:01 AM on June 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

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