If you're like me (and probably every other decent person who heard any news at all this week), you're having a tough time sleeping through the night without being haunted by nightmares of infants and children locked in cages, screaming for their families. In fact, you're probably having a tough time getting through the day without thinking about the same thing, too. You're desperate to do something beyond calling your representatives, signing petitions, and donating money... but what? There is another way to lend a hand: by finding volunteer opportunities to help refugee families.
Of course donations are always welcome (and much needed) by the organizations that step up and try to save the day during times like these, but some of them are in dire need of help with actual hands, too. From clerical work to interviewing refugee families to visiting the incarcerated, there's a range of opportunities open right now. Some require volunteers to have a special skill or two (paralegals, lawyers, and people who can speak Spanish are in high demand, as you might expect), while others are limited to certain states or cities. Still, there are ways to volunteer for just about anyone, anywhere. And if you don't find something on this list that you can manage, consider reaching out to local organizations (churches, shelters, etc.). They'll likely accept all the help they can get in their efforts to aid the families suffering in this horrible crisis.
All of that said, you shouldn't stop making phone calls and writing checks and adding your name to lists of resisters. That's all very important work as well, and sometimes it's impossible to really jump in there and get involved on a physical level. But if you can swing the volunteering thing, your help in these areas will be tremendously appreciated. (And you might just feel slightly less powerless.)
1. The Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights
The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights needs people to volunteer as child advocates in Chicago, Houston, San Antonio, Harlingen, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York. Child advocates are adults who "spend time with and advocate on behalf of an individual unaccompanied immigrant child while he or she is subject to deportation proceedings," and volunteers of all professions, cultures, races, social backgrounds, and ethnicities who are at least 21 years of age are eligible to help (though there is a "particular need for bilingual volunteers who speak Spanish" at the moment).
2. Dilley Pro Bono Project
A partner in the CARA Family Detention Project, the Dilley Pro Bono Project "is committed to ensuring that detained children and their mothers receive competent, pro bono representation, and developing aggressive, effective advocacy and litigation strategies to end the practice of family detention." They're now recruiting attorneys, law students and paralegals (bonus points if you're fluent in Spanish).
3. Legal Aid Justice Center
As they work to get children held by ORR released and reunited with their families, the Legal Aid Justice Center is looking for volunteers who live in the Virginia area and are willing to help with everything from administrative tasks to translating during meetings.
4. Texas Civil Rights Project
For those who happen to live near the border, this organization needs volunteers to take declarations from families. Specifically, they need people to help lead intake efforts in Brownsville, Laredo, El Paso, and Alpine, Texas; they also need volunteers to travel to McAllen, Texas to help interview families. Must have legal or paralegal experience, and speak Spanish, Mam, Q’eqchi’ or K’iche’.
5. Freedom For Immigrants
With an immigration detention visitation program reaching over 40 jails nationwide and the largest national toll-free hotline for people in immigration detention, Freedom for Immigrants is searching for people who are interested in becoming visitor volunteers, hotline advocates, and/or helping to provide other types of assistance.