FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 15, 2023
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Across the U.S., Communities Step Up to #WelcomeWithDignity
Washington – A beautiful thing is happening all across the country. Rather than echoing the divisive behavior of many politicians, U.S. Americans are welcoming people seeking safety to their communities. Following are examples and quotes from leaders quietly helping newcomers settle in and follow the asylum process. They know every human being has a right to seek safety.
Jean Jeef Nelson, Case Manager in San Diego and Tijuana for the Haitian Bridge Alliance, said:
As a humanitarian aid worker on the US/Mexico border, immigration is a Black issue because Black migrants are the most vulnerable. They not only face a perilous thousand-mile journey when fleeing their home country, but they are forced to face racism, discrimination, harassment and police brutality when asking for help. Just yesterday I laid to rest another Haitian migrant who suffered extreme health issues but was denied life saving treatment at the hospitals in Mexico due to racism.
In my role, I provide humanitarian aid and facilitate legal assistance. I drive several hours a day to answer medical emergencies, distribute community donations of food, clothes, diapers and other essentials to shelters across Tijuana where majority Haitian migrants stay. Once a month, the Haitian Bridge Alliance will team up with national partners for ’Know Your Rights’ events where our attorneys meet with migrants to answer all immigration concerns. Welcoming with dignity is important because as a Haitian myself, these are my brothers and sisters. I help with the same passion as if my life depended on it, because for those I help, it does.
Geronimo Ramirez (Maya Ixil), Community Organizer and Maya Ixil Interpreter with the International Mayan League explained:
Indigenous Peoples are displaced from our ancestral lands and forced to migrate because of the living legacy of invasion and dispossession at the hands of Colonial governments. These governments continue creating racist and discriminatory laws against Indigenous Nations, women and the LGTBQ+2S community; they criminalize our community journalists and Maya leaders. At every colonial border and here in the U.S., we are invisibilized, our identities and peoples are murdered. But thanks to allies who recognize our Indigenous identity and particular needs, we are collectively creating dignified processes to welcome our brothers and sisters seeking refuge.
One example is the Maya Promotores model as a community-led response to make sure Indigenous Peoples in the diaspora receive support in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner. As someone forced to flee, finding allies in the North gives me hope that others will join us in advocating for Indigenous Peoples’ distinct human rights and asylum for all who urgently need it. As Mother Earth continues to be attacked by transnational corporations we’re also being displaced due to climate disasters when Indigenous Peoples are the ones that protect our lands and territories and goods of the earth. We all play a role in working towards a more just and equitable refugee and asylum system.
When a rat problem blocked Team TLC NYC volunteers from continuing to hand out clothes and supplies at New York’s Port Authority, they found another way. Ilze Thielman and the team opened up “The Little Shop of Kindness” off Bryant Park, where people seeking asylum can shop for clothing, toys, and other basics—at 100% off (free).
Thielmann said: “Human beings have always found a way to communicate, especially where there’s love. And there’s a lot among these volunteers and these asylum seekers.” Watch this video to learn more about the Little Shop of Kindness.
Team TLC NYC is the New York chapter of Grannies Respond, an organic grassroots movement formed in response to inhumane Trump administration policies, but continuing to provide migrants support as the need is ongoing. Grannies Respond is now active in fourteen states.
The Refugee Congress was built and is led by people who came to the U.S. in search of safety. They know exactly what it’s like to start over here, and provide welcoming leadership all across the United States.
“As a refugee leader in Pennsylvania, I am proud to be involved in local welcoming initiatives that promote inclusion and understanding in our community. Through events, mentorship programs, and outreach efforts, we are working to create a more welcoming and supportive environment for refugees and immigrants,” said Joseph Sackor, Refugee Congress Honorary Delegate for Pennsylvania and refugee from Liberia.
He continued: “Last month, Texas Governor sent some migrants to New York and two made their way to Philadelphia. We are working with the city officials to give them City ID that would allow them to work temporarily in Philadelphia and open bank accounts. I believe that by working together, we can build a stronger and more vibrant community that benefits us all. As a refugee leader, I am committed to promoting welcoming initiatives and to helping newcomers feel more at home in our community.”
Luis Mejia, Refugee Congress Delegate for New York, said: “As part of my work to provide a welcome with dignity, I have held meetings with the Human Rights Office of the New York City Mayor’s Office to discuss the current problems in New York City, where we have created a direct channel of communication with them to provide mutual support, and where they showed their interest in continuing to support the work done with migrants, also in the daily work I have advocated for refugees, asylum seekers and asylum seekers are given the best support in their resettlement and supporting them with economic empowerment during this process creating partnership with several companies with the goal to have more and better job opportunities for the newcomers.”
“Every individual deserves to be greeted with open arms and treated with utmost respect, regardless of their background or origin. By fostering an environment of inclusivity and dignity, we not only create a welcoming space but also build stronger communities that celebrate diversity and thrive on compassion,” added Adam Sadda, Refugee Congress Delegate for North Carolina and refugee from Darfur.
Andreina Zuluaga, Refugee Congress Delegate for New Jersey said that “OVJNUGLOBAL and Mercy for my Neighbor are working together to help to welcome people with dignity. We organize clothing, food, and Info distribution for our asylum seekers and other new neighbors in New Jersey who come from all over the world (Central and South America, Africa, Middle East, China), and make sure we can provide them with resources and basic needs such as clothing, food and access to free legal services, while helping them to navigate the system in the city and connecting them with others service providers.”
In Chicago, private citizens and even police officers are stepping up where the city has not. Tom Terrell, the pastor at Christ Lutheran Church, described a pattern many are familiar with. When you see a need, you find a solution.
“Two weeks ago, we got the report that there were pregnant women sleeping on the floor of the police station. That was enough for me to say, ‘OK, we need to open up our church.’ We just went to the police station. I really didn’t have a plan. … But we walked through [the church], and I was like, here’s a space, and then here’s a space. And all of a sudden I thought, ‘I’ve got some spaces,’” Terrell said.
In Ohio, the Black Mauritanian community has been quietly opening up their homes to people seeking asylum, following an escalation of police violence and repression in their native country. The Mauritanian Network for Human Rights in US recently held a forum on how to apply for asylum at a CIncinnati hotel. More than 500 people attended. Amadou Dia, a leader with the Network, praised the community’s response and invited Ohioans of all backgrounds to get involved. The Network is partnering with the Ohio Immigrant Alliance and others across the state to set up donation drives, fundraisers, and housing solutions for the new Ohioans.
We know there are literally hundreds if not thousands of examples like these. To share them with the campaign, email email@example.com.
Join the movement and sign our pledge to #WelcomeWithDignity.
The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign for asylum rights is composed of more than 100 organizations committed to transforming the way the United States receives and protects people forced to flee their homes to ensure they are treated humanely and fairly. To learn more and join our campaign visit: welcomewithdignity.org