18 Ways to Help Immigrants & Refugees Impacted by Donald Trump’s Executive Order

exo-2Protester at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia (Paul J. Richards/ AFP /Getty Images); Background: The Jouriyeh family, Syrian refugees who arrived in California in August (Photo: Lenny Ignelzi / AP).

⊱ “The time is always right to do what is right.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ⊰

On January 27,  Donald J. Trump signed an executive order that banned  immigrants from seven Muslim nations (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia) from entering the United States for the next 90 days. New refugee admissions are suspended for 120 days. The Syrian refugee resettlement program was suspended indefinitely. Trump’s ill-conceived and illegal order has, predictably, thrown thousands of lives into chaos. Immigrants and refugees with visas are either being prevented from entering the country or are being detained when they arrive.

Federal judges in several states have temporarily blocks parts of the order.  Federal Judge Ann Donnelly of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn blocked deportations nationwide and granted a request from the American Civil Liberties Union to stop the deportations after determining that the risk of injury to those detained by being returned to their home countries necessitated the decision. However, there are reports that border patrol is defying federal judges’ orders. And many refugees and immigrants across the United States and the world are currently stuck in limbo.  They are either being detained by US Immigrations at airports and thus are unable to immigrate to America despite having legal visas, or they are unable to leave the U.S. for fear of being denied re-entry upon return.

We cannot remain silent as the Trump administration violates the U.S. Constitution with impunity,  instill fears, and rips apart families. We cannot sit idly by as the foundation and fundamental fabric of our society is being shredded. We must fight and we must assist those who have been left stateless and voiceless by Trump’s order.  The good news is that there are many ways to help those impacted by Trump’s order, both from within the United States as well as abroad. The following is a list of 18 ways in which you can contribute your resources, skills, and time right now. It’s not too late. 

1. Fund Organizations Helping Immigrants Currently Detained At U.S. Airports
On January 28, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); the National Immigrant Law Center (NILC), the International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center; Yale Law School’s Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization; and the law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton jointly filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Iraqi men who were en route to the United States on immigrant visas when Trump issued the executive order. Other notable organizations committed to challenging Trump’s executive order or assisting immigrants and refugees include Amnesty International, Arab -American Anti-Discrimination CommitteeCouncil on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Doctors Without Borders,  International Rescue Committee, Oxfam International,  the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR), and The White Helmets. The many refugees, immigrants, and valid U.S. visa holders languishing in airports across the country need information, legal representation, and social services. Making a financial contribution to the aforementioned organizations not only says you support their important work, it also helps subsidize the cost of an otherwise expensive process.

2. Call Your Elected Officials — Frequently
You can contact your elected officials by phone or email officials to express your concerns about the executive order. However, activists of all political stripes (myself included) recommend calling legislators — and not just venting in an email or on social media. To understand why a phone call holds more weight than an email and far outweighs a Facebook post or tweet, read this article.  Also, check out this helpful database that list contact information for senators and governors (but not House members) along with a summary of their public position on Trump’s executive order.

When calling your elected official, you may be asked to provide your name and city. Congressional aides need this basic information to ensure you are a constituent of the congressional member you’re attempting to reach.  Please be respectful to congressional aides and staffers. Explain the nature of your contact, namely that you are calling to ask your representative to reject Trump’s  executive order calling for an outright ban on individuals from seven Middle Eastern countries and the indefinite suspension of the Syrian refugee resettlement program. Alternately, you can also draft 3-4 sentences in your own words, perhaps sharing your own immigration or refugee story. There is no limit to the number of times you can contact your elected official.

3. Join An Airport Protest Or Welcoming Committee
Since the executive order and subsequent detentions were announced, people have been protesting at airports all over the country to demand that immigrants and refugees are released from detention and to welcome immigrants into the United States. Keep an eye on social media to see if crowds are gathering at an airport near you and consider heading over in-person to take a stand. No gathering near you? Consider coordinating an event with friends, family, and members of your community. This is still incredibly necessary. Despite the federal court orders, travelers continue to be detained and denied access to lawyers.

4. Provide Necessities To Those At The Airport
While it is unfortunately impossible to reach the individuals being detained at airports around the country, providing basic necessities to those outside of the secure area — families waiting indefinitely for detainees, lawyers and translators working pro bono to secure their release, and protesters, among others — is both necessary and welcomed. Consider heading to your local airport to provide food, snacks, drink, and other necessities to those who are waiting and working.

5. Offer Your Legal Or Translation Skills
Lawyers, human rights advocates, and translators are needed at local airports to gather information and to assist detainees and their families.  If you are unable to go to the airport, consider contacting a local immigration advocacy organization and letting them know you are willing to work pro bono or volunteer your translation services (e.g., the Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles, California needs Farsi and Arabic speakers to assist LAX detainees) to immigrants with legal U.S. visas who are currently stranded abroad. 

6. Encourage Your Religious Leaders Take a Stand Against the Ban
According to a  Pew Research Center, Islam is the world’s second-largest religion (after Christianity) and the fastest-growing major religion. Indeed, if current demographic trends continue, the number of Muslims is expected to exceed the number of Christians by the end of this century. Trump executive order is an anathema to the very religious freedom this country was founded upon. Perhaps this is why Trump’s announcement was met with an immediate backlash from leaders of nearly every Christian denomination, along with those of other faiths. They argue that Trump’s actions do not reflect the teachings of the Bible, nor the traditions of the United States, and they have urged Trump to let them get back to work — many of the country’s most prominent refugee resettlement organizations are faith-based. From religious leaders’ perspectives, backlash against Trump’s immigration policy may be the most ecumenical issue in America right now. Hundreds of prominent clergy signed onto a letter condemning the “derogatory language that has been used about Middle Eastern refugees and our Muslim friends and neighbors,” calling on Trump to reinstate the refugee program. While these efforts included many progressive and mainline denomination leaders, along with an interfaith coalition of other clergy, it’s not just liberals who are pushing back against Trump. A wide range of conservative Christian leaders, along with other relief organizations, have also spoken out against Trump’s order. Ask your religious leaders to join them!

7. Hold the Media Accountable for Islamophobic Coverage
In September 2014, a Pew Research Center survey found that 82% of Republicans are “very concerned” about the rise of Islamic extremism in the world, compared with 60% of political independents and 51% of Democrats. Similarly, two-thirds of Republicans (67%) say that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers, compared with 47% of independents and 42% of Democrats. Age and religious affiliation were also considered by the study with similar results: unfavorable, Islamophobic sentiments. To understand the pervasive anti-Islamic sentiment within America, some argue that we need not look any further than mainstream media.

Scholars of media studies, including British sociologist Christopher Allen, maintain that news agencies are largely responsible for propagating anti-Islamic or Islamophobic beliefs in the minds of their audiences. Although Allen acknowledges that the media is not the sole transmitter of Islamophobia, he argues “It is the most accessible and indiscriminate disseminator of such ideas in our global environment.” In the past decade, news agencies such as Fox News and CNN have tended to frame their news stories on terrorism in a way that has engendered stereotypes and instances of prejudice towards the Arab world. This, in turn, completely distorts the image of the Islamic faith as well as its 1.6 billion followers. We must hold our media accountable for allowing Donald Trump to use its airwaves to stir up unfounded fears and spew racists, anti-Islamic rhetoric unchallenged. We must hold media accountable for its disproportionate coverage of Muslim-inspired terror attacks both at home and abroad. We must boycott any media outlet that perpetuates false narratives or treats attacks against Muslims in our community or around the world as anomalies or non-issues.

8. Encourage Businesses to Hire / Invest in Immigrants and Refugees
Many tech giants have publicly condemned Trump’s executive order. The list includes Microsoft, Amazon, Expedia, Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, Facebook, Google and Apple. On January 30, two companies – Expedia and Amazonfiled a lawsuit against the Trump administration, arguing the executive order would hurt their businesses. As of Sunday, at least a thousand Expedia customers with passports from one of the seven countries had made travel plans that involve flights to, from or through the United States. Amazon said it was aware of 49 employees out of its United States work force of 180,000 who are from one of the countries identified in the executive order, nearly all of whom hold citizenship in another country.  At Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, 2000 employees crowded into a quad near the main cafeteria to protest the order. Employees carried signs like “Trump, Don’t Be Evil” and “Silicon Valley: Built by Immigrants,” while others chanted “No Ban, No Wall” into a megaphone. Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin participated in protest over the weekend. 

The finance, media, consumer retail, and energy industries’ responses to Trump’s order have varied wildly. The nation’s biggest banks (e.g., Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and Citibank), which rely heavily on immigrant labor, have taken a more moderate “we’re reviewing the matter” stance. Media and telecom companies (e.g., Time Warner, AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, Sony & Paramount) have been virtually silent, offering little or no public comment. Consumer and retail giants like Starbucks (which has pledged to hire 10,000 refugees), Nike, and Coca-Cola have publicly opposed the order, while other companies like Walmart and Target claim to be focused on assisting employees directly impacted by the order.  Similarly, the energy and heavy industry’s response has been mixed.  Companies like Ford, GE, and General Motors have publicly expressed concern or opposed Trump’s order. Yet other energy giants (e.g., ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Marathon, and Fiat Chrysler) have not responded to requests for comments.

Our message to business owners should be unified and clear: We will support companies (big and small) that are committed to hiring and assisting immigrants and refugees. We will encourage and pressure companies that have taken a “wait and see” stance. We will boycott companies that side with the Trump administration on this issue.  

9. Ask Local Colleges and Universities to Refuse to Release the Immigration Status of Their Students
The 62 institutions comprising the Association of American Universities (AAU), released a statement on January 28, urging government officials to end the travel ban “as quickly as possible.” The University of Michigan took its objections a step farther. On January 28, the university released a statement, saying it will flat-out refuse to release the immigration status of their students. “The University of Michigan welcomes and supports students without regard to their immigration status,” the statement said. “Campus police will not partner with federal, state, or other local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration law except when required to do so by law.”  Regardless of whether you are a student or alumni, ask your college or university to join the University of Michigan and refuse to release the immigration status of its students.  

10. Lobby Your Local Officials (Mayors) to Declare Your City a Sanctuary
In the United States and Canada, a sanctuary city is a municipality that has adopted a policy of protecting illegal immigrants by not prosecuting them for violating federal immigration laws in the country in which they are now living. Such a policy can be set out expressly in a law (de jure) or observed only in practice (de facto). The term applies generally to cities that do not use municipal funds or resources to enforce national immigration laws, and usually forbid police or municipal employees to inquire about a person’s immigration status. Federal officials must rely on local police to help enforce federal immigration laws, but the law doesn’t require local authorities to detain illegal immigrants just because their federal counterparts make a request. In fact, federal courts across the country have found complying with the requests is voluntary. Of the 168 counties where most of the 11 million illegal immigrants live, 68 sanctuary counties (or 400 sanctuary cities across the country) decline federal requests to hold arrestees in jail due to their immigration status compared to the 99 non-sanctuary counties that comply.

On January 25, Donald Trump signed an executive order directing the Secretary of Homeland Security and Attorney General to defund sanctuary jurisdictions that refuse to comply with federal immigration law. He also ordered the Department of Homeland Security to begin issuing weekly public reports that include “a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.” Ilya Somin, Professor of Law at George Mason University, has argued that Trump’s withholding of federal funding would be unconstitutional: “Trump and future presidents could use [the executive order] to seriously undermine constitutional federalism by forcing dissenting cities and states to obey presidential dictates, even without authorization from Congress. The circumvention of Congress makes the order a threat to separation of powers, as well.”

At least 37 sanctuary cities across the country are standing firm against Trump’s executive order.  On January 31, San Francisco sued the Trump administration, charging that its crackdown on sanctuary cities violates the state rights provisions of the U.S. Constitution. The move has broad implications for California, a state that aggressively protects immigrants who are in the country illegally from deportation. The state stands to lose more than $1.2 billion dollars a year in federal funding, most of it for healthcare, nutrition and other programs for the poor, according to San Francisco City Atty. Dennis Herrera. Boston mayor Marty Walsh is another example of defiance and protest. He vows to defy Trump’s executive order, even offering up city hall as a safe space for people who now felt threatened. Whatever the response, Walsh says he still has no intention of helping Trump’s mass deportations and that making cities poorer will hurt the whole country. “I’m keeping my policy as it is,” he says. 

Lobby your mayor to declare your city a sanctuary. Ask your mayor to publicly denounce the Trump administration’s inhumane and unconstitutional directives. If you live in a sanctuary city, contact the mayoral office to find out if they need volunteers or supplies to assist immigrants and refugees.

11. Individual Fundraisers
Consider donating funds to several individual GoFundMe campaigns started for immigrants who are stuck or in dire straits due to the executive order. Some of these campaigns include emergency funds for the Al-Rubaye family, who spent 10 years getting refugee status after the father was killed working with the U.S. military in Baghdad, but are now fearful of flying from Oregon to Texas meet their relatives; legal funds for a Nazanin, an Iranian Ph.D. student who left her U.S.-based school to visit her family and is now stranded in Iran; legal funds to bring the Assali family who, after waiting 13 years for a US visa, arrived at the Philadelphia International Airport from Syria on January 28 and were immediately detained and put on a flight to Qatar then sent back to Damascus; and funds to help the St. Louis refugee community via Timothy Evangelical Lutheran Church, which pays refugees airfare directly to the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.   

12. Join A Non-Violent Protest March or Rally 
 Tens of thousands of people peacefully came together across the country and around the world last weekend to protest Trump’s illegal, anti-immigrant order. This was only the beginning.  We must fight to ensure that this executive order is permanently grounded and never becomes the law of our land. Coordinate a public rally, march, or walkathon. If you don’t have the time to coordinate an event, make a donation to those who do and keep an eye on social media for events you can attend. 

13. Sign Up To Help Refugees In Your Community
There are nine voluntary agencies that have cooperative agreements with the State Department to resettle refugees. Contact your local affiliate for one or several of the agencies on this list in order to contribute your time or resources. It’s even more important than ever to help refugees already in the United States to ensure that they feel welcome, safe, and cared for under the Trump administration. Furthermore, creating an enormous volunteer list of Americans willing to help refugees will be a direct affront to Trump’s executive order.

14. Make Immigrants Already In Your Community Feel Welcome
It is certainly a somewhat frightening time to be an immigrant in the United States. Take the initiative to make immigrants already living in your local community feel welcome and safe; get to know them, spend time together, and learn about each others’ cultures. One of the best ways Americans can fight the anti-immigrant rhetoric perpetuated by the executive order is to continuously embrace immigrants and ensure they fell welcome in the United States.

15. Open Your Home To Those Stranded, Stuck, Or Helping
Trump’s executive order has left many travelers stranded in the U.S. and abroad. If you are in a position to do so, consider offering immigrants and/or their families a place to stay. This applies to people abroad and in the United States. Furthermore, families of detained immigrants as well as lawyers seeking to assist these individuals would likely be open to staying in a place close to the airport for ease of access, so consider opening your home to them if you are in a location nearby.

16. Spread The Word About Immigrants’ & Refugees’ Rights
Use social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to ensure that immigrants, refugees, and their families know their rights, particularly if they are planning to traveling to or from the United States anytime soon. Experts advise that arriving immigrants refuse to sign anything and insist on speaking to a lawyer. Families of immigrants being detained can also speak with some of the many lawyers currently installed for free in U.S. airports around the country. Additionally, current immigrants living in the United States are advised not to leave the country. The most commonly used hashtags across social are: #MuslimBan#NoBanNoWall#Resist, and #ResistTrump.

17. Share The Number For The Refugee Hotline
On January 29, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced via press release and Twitter that a 24/7 refugee hotline which allows New Yorkers to “report family members, relatives, friends or colleagues who they believe are passengers on flights coming into the state, but are missing or believed to be detained.” The toll free number for the hotline is 1-888-769-7243. Share the number widely, including on social media and at New York’s airports if you are a New York resident. Non-New York residents should request that their respective state congressional leaders or governors create a similar hotline or refugee network. 

18. Document & Share
If you go to an airport or rally, document the situation if possible. Things worthy of documenting include the location of the event (e.g., park, airport, courthouse, etc.);  name, nationalities, and native language of detainees; conversations with immigrant families (please ask for permission to record) or persons of authority, such airport security, US customs, or local law enforcement; and info regarding the number of attendees and their level of participation (e.g., 200 protesters, 42 police officers, 25 medical personnel, 12 lawyers, 9 translators, etc). You can also record your own experience or be a video eyewitness using a disposable camera, digital camera, or your phone. Information is power, and the more people that know about the damage being caused by Trump’s executive order, the larger the movement against it will become.

There is an urgent need to help all immigrants and refugees who are needlessly suffering from Trump’s misguided and unconstitutional executive order. Commit to doing as much as you can to assist those in need and protest the order. The goal is to make sure that Trump’s distorted, cruel, and hopeless vision of America never becomes our reality.  Thanks! 


Primary Sources:
Stephanie Williams, J.D. | International Human Rights Law Advocate – This is one of my fields of expertise.

Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States | Donald J. Trump (January 25, 2017) – Seeks to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities across the U.S.

Executive Order: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States | Donald J. Trump (January 27, 2017) – Seeks to ban immigrants from 7 Islamic countries and indefinitely suspends the Syrian refugee resettlement act

A New Yorker’s Guide to Upcoming Protests Against Trump’s Executive Orders -By Madina Toure | Observer

13 Ways To Help Immigrants & Refugees Affected By Donald Trump’s Executive Order -By Sarah Friedmann | BUSTLE

10 Concrete Ways To Take Action Against The Muslim Ban -By Erin Schrode | Huffington Post

Starbucks Pledges to Hire 10,000 Refugees -By Jill Disis | CNN Money

More than 2,000 Religious Leaders Sign Letter Supporting Refugee Resettlement | Interfaith Immigration Coalition

The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050 | Pew Research Center

How Americans Feel About Religious Groups | Pew Research Center

Creating Fear: How American News Outlets Perpetuate Islamophobia -By Omeed Alidadi (Boston College) | Progress Me

Sanctuary City | Wikipedia

How Sanctuary Cities Work, and How Trump’s Executive Order Might Affect Them -By Darla Cameron | Washington Post

Sanctuary Cities Stand Firm Against Trump -By Ruairí Arrieta-Kenna | Politico

San Francisco Sues Trump Over Executive Order Targeting Sanctuary Cities -By Moura Dolan | Los Angeles Times

Why Cities Will Protect Immigrants -By Mayor Marty J. Walsh | CNN (OpEd)

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