It’s not easy to be an undocumented immigrant in this country, especially now. Still, people continue to risk their lives to come to the U.S. in search of more opportunities and a better life for their families. Since President Donald Trump took office, things have become more complicated, frightening, and dire for undocumented persons, which is why it is our job, as privileged American citizens, to protect our neighbors regardless of their citizenship status. But how do we support undocumented mothers, exactly, and especially on International Women's Day?
For one, we can use our power to be advocates for these mothers and, thankfully, this can be done in a number of ways. We can also provide emotional support for these moms and their families, who are no doubt feeling scared, overwhelmed, and unsure of their futures as the current administration continues to make bombastic promises about great walls, massive deportations, and travel bans. And we can always pitch in to help them, either with their kids, financially, or in other ways that seem small but are undeniably significant. After all, no amount of help is too small, and for an undocumented person all help is usually welcomed.
The first step towards supporting undocumented moms (hell, all parents), of course, is to simply ask them how you can be of service. If a mom or dad is unsure, or you simply want to surprise them with a nice gesture, try one of the following useful methods:
Assist Them In Finding A Path To Citizenship (If One Is Available)
There is no path to citizenship for many undocumented mothers, but there are still a few options for some. Perhaps she is able to obtain a Green Card through marriage, or qualifies for Asylum Status. While DACA and DAPA continue to be attacked, debated, and shelved by the current administration and our elected officials, those options are not entirely off the table. Some DREAMers are still able to obtain a Green Card via employment. And then there is the U Visa for Victims of Crime.
These avenues are often complicated and difficult to traverse, especially alone, so help an undocumented parent get the help they need to figure out if they can apply for any one of the aforementioned options.
Help Raise Money For Any Immigration Fees
Did you know becoming a resident and citizen isn’t something one can do for free? There are a number of fees associated with immigration documentation, many of which have gone up in recent years. If you’re able to help financially, volunteer to help pay for one or all of these fees.
Set Up A Fund For Other Expenditures
Undocumented people aren’t always able to do things us American citizens take for granted, like attend regular doctor check-ups or dental visits, let alone save up for their child's education, pay for day care, or obtain a babysitter Additionally, it’s not always easy for undocumented persons to obtain decent paying work. Having a financial safety net for emergencies is always helpful.
Find Free- Or Low-Cost Mental Health Help (If Desired)
Unless you are undocumented yourself, you probably can’t imagine the kind of stress most immigrant mothers face. Mental health is often the lowest of priorities, and at a time when there are unimaginable stressors in the undocumented mother’s life, such as simply making sure she isn’t detained while dropping her kids off at school. If you’re able to, ask her if she’d like someone to speak with, and set up an appointment for her at a free- or low-cost mental health clinic.
Volunteer With Or Donate To Organizations That Help Undocumented Immigrants
There are numerous organizations out there doing the hard work to help undocumented persons. The National Immigration Law Center defends the rights of low-income immigrants and provides legal counsel to those who need it most. Arizona-based Mariposas Sin Fronteras helps LGBTQIA immigrants held in prisons and immigrant detention centers, including undocumented queer mothers. The Black Alliance for Just Immigration assists African American and black immigrant populations to organize for racial and social justice. United We Dream is one of the largest organizations backing DREAMers, working to prevent families from being separated. The list goes on.
Become An Outspoken Advocate For Undocumented Immigrants
We will never make progress if we continue to allow xenophobes to be the loudest ones in the room. De-stigmatizing people’s undocumented status is an important first step in supporting these communities. Let folks know (in person, on social media, or on the phone with your local representatives) that you will not be silent until undocumented mothers, and all undocumented peoples, have a safe path to citizenship.
Offer To Teach English As A Second Language
Many undocumented persons speak English, while others do not. Regardless, everyone has a better chance of being able to defend themselves in this country if they also speak the language. Offer to teach an undocumented parent some conversational basics, at least, as well as important phrases and terms that might help them in the event they're detained, such as how to ask for a lawyer or how to inquire about their children. If the parent's children also don’t speak English, offer to teach it to them, too.
Offer To Babysit Their Children
Every mother needs some time off, and it’s no different for undocumented moms. If you are close to an undocumented mother, you can always offer to babysit and give her a little time to run errands or relax. No doubt she will appreciate the time.
Offer To Run Errands
Unlike mothers with citizenship in this country, going out even for some groceries can be a harrowing experience for an undocumented mom. Considering the rise in ICE raids, you can imagine there are mothers who are deciding to stay indoors and/or hidden in order not to be randomly picked up off the street. If she’s in need of supplies, but afraid of going herself, offer to step in.
Open Your Home As A Safe House For Them & Their Families
If the undocumented mother is worried about getting picked up in her own home, you can always volunteer to allow her and/or her family to stay with you for a while. Additionally, in the event she gets picked up by ICE, her kids (if they were born here) will need a safe place to turn to. Let her and her kids know they are more than welcome to stay with you.
Allow Them To Give You Power Of Attorney
The biggest way you can help an undocumented mother is by allowing her to give you Power Of Attorney in the event she is detained and/or deported. Power of Attorney means you’ll have legal right to make decisions over all her assets, including her children. This involves everything from managing and potentially closing her bank account, to collecting her unpaid wages, dealing with residential leases or home ownership issues, and, of course, deciding on custody for her children.
Essentially, you would need to be someone very close to the mother who has her best interests in mind. So do not push this option on an undocumented mother, especially if you don't know her. This is a great risk on her part, to be sure, so she needs (and should, and has the right to) feel 100 percent comfortable with this potential decision.
Regardless of how you choose to help undocumented mothers on International Women's Day, know there are, in fact, ways to help. Simply saying you "don't know how" is no longer an option.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.