How You Can Help Refugees Right Now

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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