Immigration Justice is Racial Justice

Every year, YWCA USA organizes a nationwide campaign called “Stand Against Racism”. This campaign includes advocacy events, education PSAs, social media conversations, and so much more. This year, YWCA USA invited its local associations to host community activities designed to facilitate dialogue around the topic of immigration. YWCA chose this focus for its 2019 Stand Against Racism campaign because of the intimate relationship between immigrant justice and racial justice, a core mission of YWCA USA and its local associations. Throughout our nation’s history, and particularly in recent years, narratives around immigration have been shaped by an undercurrent of fear, hate, and ignorance. Negative stereotypes and scapegoating too often prevent us from imagining the immigrant–regardless of status–as a human being deserving of safety, health, respect, and dignity. Until the humanity of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers is recognized and honored, true justice remains elusive. As Emma Lazarus wrote long ago, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”

On April 27, 2019, YWCA Cambridge hosted “Refugee Resettlement in MA: Know the Facts” featuring speakers from outstanding organizations like the Refugee and Immigration Assistance Center (RIAC) Boston and the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition. Organizations like these and many others in the Boston/Cambridge area are doing the critical on-the-ground work of welcoming and supporting individuals and families who have come to the United States as immigrants, refugees, or asylum seekers, many of whom have endured years in unsafe or volatile environments while they applied for resettlement (many wait five or more years in this process.) The challenges facing immigrants and refugees continue upon arrival in the United States, as they are faced with tight labor markets, expensive housing costs, tangled bureaucratic systems, and unfamiliar social and cultural norms and practices.

Elevating marginalized voices like those of immigrants and refugees is central to the mission of the YWCA Cambridge. At our Stand Against Racism event this year, the YWCA Cambridge had the privilege of learning from those who have themselves gone through the process of seeking refugee status in the United States and who now devote their lives to supporting other immigrants and refugees.

Organizations like the ones listed below advocate for issues affecting this population and provide assistance in navigating this complex environment. Check out the following ways you can get involved!

Enroot’s mission is to empower immigrant youth to achieve academic, career, and personal success through inspiring out-of-school experiences. As a volunteer with Enroot, you can be matched with a student to be a mentor or a tutor. As a mentor, you are a role model, adviser, friend, and guide helping your mentee to dream big, set goals, and pursue them. All mentees in the Enroot Program are immigrant high school students in Cambridge and Somerville. Some pairs meet each week at Enroot’s office for structured activities, while others meet once a week to work on college applications at a local coffee shop. As a tutor, you are a one-on-one academic resource for an immigrant high school student in our Enroot Program. Tutees are all immigrant high school students in Cambridge and Somerville. Tutors help with homework, language skills, and study skills. Lean more here.

MIRA is the largest coalition in New England promoting the rights and integration of immigrants and refugees. With offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, they advance this mission through education and training, leadership development, institutional organizing, strategic communications, policy analysis and advocacy. Volunteers are crucial to much of their work, particularly citizenship services, voter registration, communications and events. They’re also grateful for behind-the-scenes help with data entry and other much-needed tasks. Or if you might be willing to staff a MIRA table at a community festival or event, they are setting up a team to do that! If you’re interested in any of those options, or you’re an artist or photographer, please email Marion Davis at mdavis@miracoalition.org to volunteer! Want to help immigrants become U.S. citizens or register new citizens to vote? They host monthly naturalization clinics and register newly sworn-in U.S. citizens almost every week. Sign up to volunteer on our Facebook page or at miracoalition.eventbrite.com.  Click here to learn more.

RIAC’s mission is to promote cultural, educational, and socioeconomic development in the refugee and immigrant community. To realize our mission, RIAC offers the following range of services to support successful resettlement and to promote self-sufficiency: Refugee Resettlement, Post-Resettlement Support Service, Community Education & Outreach, Counseling Services. RIAC is always looking for front desk volunteers, help with community events, translation services, and so much more.
Learn more here.

De Novo’s mission is to provides free civil legal assistance and affordable psychological counseling to low-income people. Our services combat the effects of poverty and violence by helping clients and their children meet basic human needs for safety, income, health and housing. De Novo draws on the expertise of 130 dedicated volunteer professionals to serve our community’s most vulnerable members. De Novo is always looking for volunteers for administrative tasks, the counselling program, and legal services. Learn more here.

Written by: Whitney Mooney, Fund Development Manager & Emily Irving, Board Member

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