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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum

How Can I Help?

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Being an immigration attorney at a time when immigrants are under assault means that people often ask me what they can do to help.


Frankly, I am usually at a loss about how to answer this question. There are many ways to help, depending on what you mean by “help” and where your interests and abilities lie. The problem is, there is no magic bullet to solve our current difficulties. But there are things that people can do, both on the individual level and the collective level. I will discuss a few of those ideas here.



"I would have gotten away with deporting them all if it weren't for you meddling kids."


Volunteer with a Non-Profit
: There are plenty of non-profit organizations that assist refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants, and they need plenty of help. Such organizations can be found throughout the U.S. (here is a link to a list of organizations in each state), and they provide all sorts of opportunities to volunteer: Teach English or other skills, spend time assisting organizations or individual immigrants, help with job searches, resumes or job counseling. People with specialized skills can provide specialized assistance. For example, those lucky enough to be lawyers (gag!) can take a case pro bono, or—for a less burdensome commitment—attend a group event where you assist with immigration forms. Some asylum seekers need forensic medical exams or psychological reports for their cases, and could use expert assistance. Others need mental health therapy, or assistance navigating the DMV, Social Security Office or school or university bureaucracies. Still others need help with housing or public benefits. Many people who are new to our country are lost, and someone familiar with "the system" can provide invaluable guidance.

Also, many faith-based institutions, such as churches, mosques, and synagogues, have programs to assist non-citizens. My synagogue, for example, has helped refugee families from Syria and Afghanistan to resettle in the Washington, DC area. Synagogue volunteers assist with babysitting and setting up the new apartments. Some religious institutions are involved in the sanctuary movement, offering living space to non-citizens in an effort to shield them from deportation (ICE has thus far declined to enter churches to detain people). Perhaps you could encourage your church or mosque to consider joining this movement.

Get Involved Politically
: There are numerous opportunities here too, and not just at the federal level. A lot has been happening at the local and state levels (where it is often easier to have an effect). One group that supports pro-immigrant candidates is Immigrants List. A group that assists with impact litigation and public awareness is the American Immigration Council. Many local non-profits are also involved in advocacy for immigrants. You can find such groups here.

Reaching out to politicians can have an impact as well. During the Obama Administration, opponents of immigration famously mailed hundreds of bricks to Congress. This was a not-so-subtle message to “build a wall.” If the other side can advocate effectively, we can too. Congress needs to know that many Americans support our humanitarian immigration system. Unless we reach out to them, our representatives will only hear half the story. You can contacting your Senators here, and your Representatives here. You can find links to the different state legislatures here. You don't have to be a U.S. citizen to contact your representative. Anyone can do it.

Contact the Media
: There are many misconceptions about asylum seekers and refugees in the news. If you see an article or program that misrepresents such people, you can contact the journalists and let them know (contact info is often available on the journalist's website). I think it is especially powerful for refugees themselves to engage in such advocacy. It’s very difficult for stereotypes to survive in the face of individual truths, and so when asylum seekers and refugees tell their stories, it can be quite influential. Also, if you ask in advance, journalists will usually agree to keep identity information confidential, so you can talk to them without fear that your personal information will be made public.

Take to the Streets
: I’m of two minds about public protests. Sometimes, I think they are useless; other times, I think they are transformative. Of course, there are all sorts of protests from mass rallies to performance-art type events (and there was also our very own Refugee Ball back in January 2017). Such events can be inspiring and energizing for the people involved. They can also help coalesce disparate people into a unified group. Such events also send a message—to politicians and to the American public.

Hire an Immigrant
: The government is making it easier to discriminate against non-citizens. And in any case, it’s never been easy to get a job when you’re new to America. So if you have the ability to employ someone, why not consider an immigrant?

What if the intended employee does not have work authorization? Some people--such as people with asylum--are eligible to work even without the employment authorization document (the EAD card). It is obviously not legal to employ someone who is not authorized to work, but for many asylum seekers, who often wait months for their EAD, the only way to survive is to work without permission. Such people are frequently mistreated by employers. Hiring such a person comes with a risk to the employer as well as to the employee, and as a lawyer, I can't advocate for breaking the law. However, at least in my opinion, employing such people, paying them fairly, and treating them decently is an act of resistance against an immoral system.

Talk to People Who Disagree with You
: Advocates for immigrants have failed to convince the American public about the rightness of our cause, or at least we have failed to convince enough of them to win a presidential election. Rather than talking at people who disagree with us (as we often see on social media and left-leaning news outlets), we should be talking with such people. Speaking respectfully with people, listening empathetically and asking questions, and explaining a pro-immigrant view will not win everyone over to our side. But it might win over some. And even if we talk to people who disagree with us, and they are not swayed, a respectful conversation can help open doors later on. Anti-immigrant views seem to thrive in our current divisive environment. Perhaps if we work to tone things down and help move our country towards a more rational debate, it will also help immigrants. This needs to be done in big ways, but it also needs to be done in small ways, one conversation at a time. If you want to educate yourself about immigration issues, a good (pro-immigrant) source is the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which has policy statements on various issues.

So those are some ideas. Like I said, there is no magic solution for our current situation. But by supporting immigrants, in big ways and small, it is possible for each one of us to make a difference.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.

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Comments

  1. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Jason, it's wonderful to see someone making constructive suggestions on how to make things better instead of engaging in name-calling, ad hominem attacks on the people they disagree with.

    Nolan Rappaport
    Updated 07-25-2018 at 02:30 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  2. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Jason's call for civility and following the rules of respectful political advocacy and debate makes a great deal of sense in normal times, but these are not normal times.

    These are times when the discussion is asymmetrical - when one side is trying to get a message out about the positive contribution that immigrants have always made and are still making to our society, and the other side is led by a president who demonizes non-white immigrants in general (i.e. most immigrants) as "criminals" "rapists" "drug" dealers" "MS-13 gang members" and "terrorists" who are "invading" and "infesting" America as if they were rats and vermin; who constantly attacks even certain types of legal visas and procedures as "horrible" and the "dumbest immigration laws in the world", and who also tries to undermine the foundations of a free society on which our current immigration system depends, by making threats against the media, the judiciary and anyone else who opposes him.

    My above comments are not ad hominem attacks; these are quotes from Trump's own words and are matters of record which even Fox News cannot erase.

    And these words and threats are not just idle talk - they have consequences, as between 2,000 and 3,000 innocent, terrified young nonwhite immigrant children, many of whom will be scarred for life by having been detained in cages and ice boxes in the United States of America, not Dachau or Buchenwald, and some of whom may never see their parents again, have been finding out.

    How can we talk only about polite debate when the Attorney General of the United States, our chief law enforcement officer, reportedly laughs (and even repeats the phrase himself:

    https://www.vox.com/2018/7/24/176076...k-her-up-chant

    while a crowd of Trump supporters chant:"lock her up" about a rival politician whose only "crime" (that anyone has charged her with) was opposing Trump in the election and trouncing him in the popular vote by almost 3 million votes (despite the help from Russia's tyrant which even many of Trump's own supporters are now forced to admit that he received)?

    Don't Trump's supporters understand that "Lock her up", or "Lock 'em up" is exactly what Putin does to his opponents (the ones he doesn't kill, that is); and that that is why there was so much anger and outrage in both parties - and across the entire political spectrum, when Trump went to Helsinki to (figuratively speaking) kiss Putin's ring?

    (And by using the word "ring" here, instead of some other word that would come to mind for many people, I am following Jason's suggestion to be as nice and polite as possible here.)

    In view of Trump's threats to use the enormous power of the presidency to take action against businesses of people who oppose him, as in the case of Amazon, which is owned by the Washington Post's owner, Jeff Bezos, it was very encouraging to see the news that the fashion business of Trump's daughter Ivanka has been closed due to the boycotts of ordinary American (and no doubt immigrant) consumers as one form of protest against her father's nepotism and abuse of power.

    This is one more indication that playing nice is not the most effective way to oppose the clear and present threat to our entire immigration system, and our democracy, originating from the White House in Donald Trump's America.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 07-25-2018 at 08:02 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  3. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Jason's call for civility and following the rules of respectful political advocacy and debate always make a great deal of sense, whether Roger thinks the times are normal or not.

    And yes, Roger is the person I was thinking of when I contrasted Jason's approach to the approach of those who
    engage in name-calling, ad hominem attacks on the people they disagree with.

    Nolan Rappaport



  4. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    I will admit that I often wish I could join in with the people who think that being "nice" and "respectful" at all times is the best way to respond to the constant abusive and venomous attacks on non-white immigrants, on our legal immigration system, on elementary due process of law, and on our democracy itself coming from this president and his administration.

    And if Nolan wants to call repeating the president's own words verbatim and referring to his own actions of record constitutes an ad hominem attack, that is of course Nolan's right. He is of course free to define English (or in this case Latin) words anyway he wants.

    But if defenders of our current race-neutral, non-discriminatory immigration system - and our democracy - persist in being too, "respectful", too "civil", too "polite" in defending them, the time may very well come when both this immigration system and our democracy as we know it will disappear.

    Then, even the most polite, civil and and respectful opposition to Donald Trump will lead not only to frenzied mobs of Trump supporters calling to "Lock her (or him, or them) up," but that will become the actual result.

    It already is the actual result in the Russia of Vladimir Putin - for whom Trump has expressed so much friendship and admiration, and where even the most "polite" and "respectful" opposition can and does lead to being thrown in prison - or being murdered - by the regime.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 07-25-2018 at 09:01 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  5. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    After further thought, I have to admit that Nolan is right in stating that I am inevitably making ad hominem attacks on Trump in the course of my criticism of his policies. When someone accuses a president or other politician of following policies based on racial bigotry or trying to destroy democracy in America, these are of course unflattering statements about the person's character as well.

    If this site also included comments about issues not (yet) directly related to immigration, such as climate change, economic issues, or foreign policy, there would also be many unflattering things one could say about Trump's character. Obviously, this is not the place to go into these issues.

    However, even though this is also admittedly beyond the scope of this site, I trust that Nolan will not object if I say something complimentary (pro hominem?) about the president, even though, again, this is not directly related to immigration policy.

    Whatever else happened in Trump's meetings with Putin and Kim, these meetings have, at least for the moment, brought the world at least a step backward from a war that could end the human race, if not all life on earth (including immigration)!

    That is not a small matter. Let us hope this thaw will turn out to be something more than Neville Chamberlain's "Peace in our time."

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 07-27-2018 at 04:22 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  6. JDzubow's Avatar
    Hi Roger - I think civil debate is a tactic. It works in some case and not in others. But once we engage in the type of debate-style used by our opponents, it is difficult to step back from that. In other words, I think civil debate - even in the face of Mr. Trump and his supporters - is a more effective approach to improving the situation for immigrants. That is not always the case, and how we engage in debate needs to be considered in light of who we are debating with and our goals. But I think lowering our leel of discourse is unlikely to help us achieve the ends we seek. Take care, Jason
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