How You Can Help Refugees Right Now

How You Can Help Refugees Right Now
How You Can Help Refugees Right Now

Donald J. Trump’s ban on Muslims from a list of seven countries from entering the United States is no longer an issue of politics but rather an issue of basic human rights. Regardless of your political views, I hope you can agree that denying people their right to legally enter the country to visit their children, see their dying parent for the last time, or complete their education is simply cruel and inhumane. It is a cruel way of rejecting those who have fought the hardest for this country and serves only to show how broken this country’s democracy truly is. Moreover it sets a poor example for countries such as Iran that have enacted reciprocal laws banning Americans from entering into their country. The failing leadership we’re seeing in the U.S. right now has an impact not only on Americans but on the whole world, particularly those living in countries on the ban list or frequent travelers who may be more limited in where they can now travel. At a time like this, it is our job to step in, speak out, and utilize our skills to help those who cannot help themselves and restore humanity to its pre-Trump state.

What is the ‘Muslim ban’?

On January 27, 2017, Donald J. Trump, the President of the United States, signed an executive order enacting a 90-day travel ban on citizens of seven countries in the Middle East and Africa from entering the U.S. These countries include Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen. The countries actually involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE – are not included on the ban list. Interestingly, Trump also owns properties in those same countries.

The executive order also suspends the U.S.’ refugee system for 120 days. Rather than capping the number of refugees accepted in 2017 at 110,000 as previously planned, that number will now be capped at 50,000.

There is much doubt that the executive order Trump signed is legal. Specifically, it may be in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which banned all discrimination against immigrants based on national origin.

READ MORE: An Open Letter to My Non-American Travelers

Who is affected?

Citizens of the seven countries listed on the ban list are undoubtedly affected. All have been detained at the airports, and many have been deported back to the country they came from.

However, this ban extends beyond just citizens of those countries. Its poor drafting seems to indicate that U.S. green card holders are subject to detainment and possible deportation as well. Increasingly, I have been reading stories of citizens of Spain or other completely disinterested countries that have been deported back to their country because they merely traveled to one of the seven countries on the ban list in the last six months or year.

5 ways you can help

1. Call your representative

The easiest way to help is to call your representative. While not everyone has the resources or skills to help, everyone has a voice. We live in a country that prides itself on democracy, and we need to use that voice to help our brothers and sisters in our own country as well as abroad.

If you do not know who your representative is, you can easily find out by clicking on this site and entering your zip code. Once you know who your reps are, you can find their contact information by clicking on their name, or by clicking here for senators and here for representatives. If for whatever reason you are unable to reach your representatives by calling their offices directly, you can call the Capitol switchboard number: 202-224-3121 to be connected to your representative.

Once you get a hold of your representative, talking to them is easy. All you have to say is your name, where you’re from (give them your zipcode), and which policy you are opposed to. In case you’re still unsure of what to say, feel free to use this script provided by Muslim Matters:

Hi, my name is _______ and I’m a constituent of Representative _______/ Senator _________. I’m calling because I’m concerned about President Donald Trump signing an executive order restricting immigration from Muslim majority countries and ending the Syrian refugee resettlement program. This executive order goes against our shared American values of religious tolerance, diversity, and nondiscrimination.

I’m calling to see if Rep. _________ / Senator ___________ plans to publicly oppose Trump’s decision to sign this executive order?

[If there are any questions, reiterate your concerns.] Yes, please express to Rep. ______/ Sen. ________ that Trump’s executive order doesn’t represent our values, and that I am asking him/her to take a principled, public stand against this kind of intolerance.

Thanks for your time.

2. Donate

If you have resources at your disposal, please consider donating to one of the organizations that has taken an active stance against Trump’s travel ban against the seven countries on his ban list. At the forefront of these organizations is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The ACLU was the first to file a lawsuit against Trump’s executive order and has raised over $24 million in donations to date. Another organization that has been key in providing aid to refugees is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The UNHCR provides supplies, such as medicine, hygiene kits, and sleeping bags to refugees in war-torn areas. Another organization that resonates strongly with me as a lawyer is the International Refugee Assitance Project (IRAP), which provides legal aid, legal representation, and policy advocacy on behalf of refugees. Here is a more comprehensive list of charities you can donate to during this time.

Many local organizations and churches have also organized donation initiatives for clothing, food, toiletries, household supplies, and more. If you are not able to donate your money, perhaps you can consider donating unused items you already have in your possession that would be better utilized by someone more in need.

3. Welcome refugees into your home

One thing refugees need that we can all provide is community and confidence that they are being supported and spoken for. There are many ways you can show refugees your support. You can welcome a refugee family into your home for dinner or host an afternoon play date with your children and theirs. You can take them out to lunch or a coffee and be there to listen to their story.

Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel has challenged members of the Chicago community to host immigrants who have been granted legal status under the state’s DREAM Act for a meal at their homes or in neighborhood restaurants, following the issuance of this statement:

One hundred years ago, the people of Chicago opened their hearts and their homes to my grandfather when he immigrated to this great city, fleeing the pogroms of Eastern Europe in search of freedom and opportunity. In that spirit, in the coming days my family and I will host DREAMers attending Chicago Public Schools and Chicago City Colleges for a meal, a conversation, and a recognition and celebration of all that unites us, rather than what divides us.

I am asking every interested resident of the City of Chicago to join us by hosting a similar meal in your own homes and at restaurants in your own neighborhoods, or by sharing welcoming words through a phone call or email. At a moment of unease and vulnerability for so many, let’s come together as a city and put action behind our words and the values we hold dear as a welcoming city. Lets show the world that the City of Big Shoulders is also a city of big hearts.

Chicago has been affirmed as a “sanctuary city,” which means local law enforcement will not – and may not – assist federal officials in identifying undocumented immigrants.

READ MORE: What the Trump Presidency Means for Minorities in America

4. Hire a refugee

If you are a business owner, one big way to help refugees is by hiring them to work at your business. Many refugees who have been fortunate enough to make it into the U.S. before the travel ban was enacted have found themselves without jobs and without a means to support themselves. By providing them with a job, you are providing them with more than just money to pay for food, clothing, and accommodations, but you are providing them with a hope for the future.

We have seen some businesses step up to the plate in this regard already, such as Starbucks, which has pledged to hire 10,000 refugees worldwide in the next five years.

5. Volunteer legal services or translation services at airports

Since the first two detainees were held at JFK Airport the night Trump signed the executive order banning travel from certain countries, lawyers from around the nation have signed up to volunteer their time and services at their local airports to help detainees and their families navigate through this tough time. I have to say that in all my time of being a lawyer, this was the first time I felt truly proud to call myself a lawyer, as I watched and joined my fellow lawyers in using our skills and expertise for good. There is also a huge need for translators, particularly those who speak Arabic or Farsi, to volunteer their time at airports to help translate between detainees/family members and lawyers. If you possess any of these skills, I urge you to volunteer your time at your local airport where detainees are being held and join in the effort to restore to these refugees their basic human rights and dignity.

How You Can Help Refugees Right Now

Author: Diana Chen

Recently left my job as an attorney to pursue the work-from-anywhere/travel-everywhere life. I blog about traveling the world with a full time job, confronting your travel addiction, and pursuing your passions without going broke. Just got back from a 12-countries-in-3-months stint and currently prepping for a month along the Adriatic Coast.

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48 thoughts on “How You Can Help Refugees Right Now

    1. Thanks, Midori! It’s so important for Americans to focus on unity and togetherness right now as we already have enough hatred and division. There are a ton of good people here trying to help out in any way we can!

  1. Good post. The world is broken. Americans – like the Brits (on Brexit), have been duped by self-serving lying politicians and mainstream media outlets. American Citizens need to unite – no more pointing fingers. This ‘Trump’ scenario was caused by lying politicians on both sides of the debate. America was broken before Trump, and it’ll stay broken if measures to unite aren’t taken. Your 5 ways to help with this Muslim ban are great ideas. Thanks for sharing!

    1. You’re 100% right – Americans need to focus on unity right now more than anything. I sincerely hope the media learned from its grave mistakes from this election cycle and will focus more on sending unbiased, truthful messages (even if that’s not what the people want to hear) instead of sending out messages focused solely on driving up its own ratings. Everyone makes mistakes; what’s important is that we learn from them!

  2. Thank you so much for this. Such an important issue to address and I think it’s great that you not only talked about the problem but listed some ways you can help. I know I can feel powerless and that helps me feel like I can do something. Thanks!

  3. Thanks for this Diana. Its well written gets straight to the point and full of information. It’s so sad to see whats happening in the USA right now. But in times like these, as well as showing people’s worst sides, it brings out the best in people too and brings communities together. Over the coming months and years, that’s what we need to focus on.

    1. So true, Claire! Despite all the negative things happening right now, I have been so impressed and encouraged by everyone who’s stepped in to help! Seeing lawyers who typically charge $1000/hour volunteer their time and services for free really shows refugees and immigrants how much some people here really do care about them and want to help them. You’re absolutely right that we need to focus on unity moving forward.

  4. It’s incredible to see how quickly downhill things can go in our fragile world. I’m happy to call myself a Canadian, living in a country that has a wonderful immigration system, welcoming many new immigrants each and every year. This is a great & topical article that I hope has some influence on everyone that reads it. Well done.

    1. Thanks, Adam. My parents have lived in Toronto for the last 7-8 years, so Canada is my second home, and it is really such a welcoming place. Toronto in particular is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and everyone seems so accepting of other cultures there. Hopefully the US can learn from its neighbor up north!

  5. I am from the UK but am currently living in Peru. I have been so shocked by the activities of the past week, it so terrible. I just keep waiting to see what he does next 🙁

    1. Yes, we have all been pretty shocked. I don’t think anyone expected something like this to happen so soon after his inauguration. Hopefully if Americans unite and take action now, we can stop some future damage from being done. Enjoy Peru!

  6. Thanks for writing this post, Diana! A lot of times, I’ll feel overwhelmed by what’s going on in the US right now. I really appreciate the concrete tips you shared — especially the website to look up your representatives (which I just did!) and the script I can use when I call them. Keep up the great posts!

    1. Thanks Julianne, I completely know the feeling of being overwhelmed by all of this. I’m so glad to hear you just looked up your rep, and I hope others will do the same and make a quick call!

  7. Beautiful. If only more Americans thought like you. Sadly, Trump’s illness is spilling into Canada and I have seen my fair share of hate on my FB wall as well…this needs to end before someone does something they can’t come back from

    1. That’s really sad to hear, Christine. I’ve always thought Canada is such a warm and welcoming place. My parents have lived in Toronto for the last 7-8 years, so Canada is my second home, and I’ve always been impressed by the amount of diversity and openness in Toronto. If we all unite together and take action now, I think we can still stop future damage from being done.

    1. Yes, it is a very difficult time right now for our Islamic friends, and I am constantly saddened by stories of people being turned away solely based on their religion or nationality. I have however been very encourage by the number of people who have stepped up to help during this difficult time. I hope more people will continue to do so moving forward.

    1. Thanks so much! I have been very encouraged to see the number of people volunteering their time and expertise to help as well. Hope this effort continues moving forward, and matters don’t get worse here.

  8. I was on a tour of Palestine recently and the last thing the Palestinian tour leader said before leaving the tour was, “Free america from Trump”. Not everyone is a refugee from the 7 countries listed, maybe they should write blogs about saving America.

  9. This is such a brilliant post getting straight to the point and showing ways people can help, I plan to post this on my private FB page for my American friends. I am currently travelling and have met quite a lot of Americans who all say that their country is in a mess. I am in agreeance with the comments about the UK and USA and how we should all be uniting right now yet for some crazy reason, our countries are going backwards in time! Thank you for taking the time to write this caring post where people can take action. #feetdotravel

    1. Thanks so much, Angie. Your sympathy and encouragement are so important and uplifting during this time. Hopefully we can unite as a country and do the right thing. #feetdotravel

  10. Great post Diana on such a disappointing development. Australia’s treatment of refugees is equally as ugly (or worse maybe) and hope that one day our politicians will listen to the growing pleas of compassion. Sharing this in the hopes that people will act on it.

    1. Thanks for reading and sharing, David. I was not aware of Australia’s mistreatment toward refugees but it seems to be a trend internationally these days. We absolutely need more compassion in the world, and hopefully we’ll get there by uniting together and fighting for what’s right.

  11. It is definitely heart wrenching to hear so many stories of refugees and it makes me wonder why all countries can’t come together and eradicate the root cause itself- terrorism.

    I know with all the political scene changing poor and innocent people irrespective of any religions are getting affected. Hope peace prevails.

  12. As someone who is always looking for ways to help, even when apathy seems easiest, I love seeing this sort of post! I’ve already contacted my representatives, and am getting involved in helping out on the campus where I work. Thanks for sharing some great tips and information 🙂

    1. That’s wonderful, Laura! Campuses are great places to spread awareness and unite for a cause. Keep doing what you’re doing & hopefully our joint efforts will help drive out fear and promote compassion.

  13. A very important post and great to see so many people uniting to show their support for refugees and ensure that America is still a country that welcomes people of all races, nationalities and walks of life. Thank you for writing and sharing!

    1. Absolutely – that is such an important message to spread about America and is the reason so many immigrants have come into this country. Thanks for reading – I am confident that together we can make a positive change.

  14. I am looking at what happens nowadays in the world, and I get more sad about the future of humanity. Great post, it makes me happy to see that good people are still around!

  15. Great post, a lot of useful information in this article. I am happy to see people uniting to support the refugees and more important, to stand for what they believe in. I am looking at US, UK and now even at my own country – Romania and I am disappointed. Hopefully something will change soon.

  16. Diana, thanks for taking the time to post this. So often we think we are unable to help and you’ve given us ways we can. Thanks to James Robart who had the sense and authority to legally suspend the ban. I totally agree this is not about politics, it’s about basic human rights. I know you donated your time at O’Hare and I admire you for tackling this issue head on. Good on you!

    1. Thanks so much, Shona. Judge Robart is a hero, and hopefully the 9th Circuit can continue what Judge Robart started. On a more positive note, the disaster that is the EO has made lawyers into heroes, and that in and of itself is a miracle. At the same time that all of this has made me question humanity, it has also restored my faith in humanity as so many people have eagerly donated their time, expertise, money, and other resources to help those who can’t help themselves. I’m confident moving forward that these people will continue to unite and fight for what’s right.

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