It has been less than two months since a group of 160 or so Hondurans set forth from the town of San Pedro Sula and declared their intention to seek asylum in the United States or Mexico. In that short period, their ranks have swelled to the thousands, galvanizing attention from around the globe. The Sunday after Thanksgiving, a group of 500 unarmed Central Americans, including women and children, were met with tear gas and rubber bullets as they tried to approach the US border. Around 4,600 people are currently living in a makeshift shelter, in a Tijuana stadium, while they wait for their asylum claims to be considered. The mayor of that Mexican town has officially declared the caravan a humanitarian crisis.
This could continue to go on for months; in a sense, it has been going on forever, all over the world. But while the current news is shocking and saddening, it does not have to be paralyzing: You can help, from wherever you’re sitting right now, both the refugees at the American border now and the ones who will continue to face it in the future. We’ve pulled together a few organizations, platforms, and ideas to get you started.
Help the Border Angels stock the Tijuana shelter
Based in San Diego, Calif. this nonprofit organization is volunteer run and driven by the mission of humane immigration reform at the US border; among other services, they do water drops in the desert, educational outreach, and provide counseling. Right now, you can help Border Angels help the caravan refugees currently encamped in Tijuana by contributing to the registries they’ve set up at Target and Wal-Mart, which include everything from books and crayons for kids to socks, feminine care items, blankets, and first aid kits.
Engage with the real-life stories of refugees
The more the phrase “caravan of refugees” comes up in the news, the easier it becomes to forget that these are individual people, not an abstract monolith—so give yourself a reality check and get to know the stories of individuals who have been through the border crossing experience firsthand. Kino Border Initiative, which has two locations—one in Nogales, Arizona and another in Nogales, Mexico—has a collection of interviews with Central American immigrants on their site now.
Stand with RAICES and stay on top of the issues
Signing up for this immigration and human rights organization’s newsletter will deliver nuanced understanding of the refugee struggle right to your inbox, along with directives for how to help; while you’re at it, find the right way for you to stay informed about the evolving situation at the US border. Per always, knowledge is power.
Support the Texas Civil Rights Project
This Austin-based advocacy group has been deeply engaged in the fight to reunite families who have been separated at the border—their legal team is currently representing 381 families in their pursuit of immigration. TCRP also works with other Texas organizations on the ground with an ultimate goal of eradicating civil rights abuses at the border. Donating money, time, or even attention by way of sharing their social media posts, can go a long way in helping vulnerable families.
Follow The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project
An estimated 86% of detained immigrants go unrepresented in court due to access issues related to poverty. This Arizona-based nonprofit provides free legal services to men, women, and unaccompanied children in immigration custody in Arizona, as well as raise awareness for this lack of legal representation. Learn more about their work here.
Donate to The Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas
Located only 10 blocks from the US Mexico Border, this shelter has been up and running since the mid 1970s, and continues to keep its doors open in part through the generosity of volunteers and patrons. In the 1990s, the organization also developed programming it calls the Border Awareness Experience (BAE), an immersive educational tour meant to help people understand, face-to-face, what’s happening on the ground. Learn more, and find out how you can help support the mission, here. In addition, check out other shelters near the border working around the clock to mitigate the crisis to better understand what they are up against.
Stand with Lawyer Moms of America
Take the pledge set forth by this group of awesomely litigious mamas to speak up against the human rights abuses currently happening on the border.
Don’t forget: Keep on top of your representatives
The midterms may be over, but this isn’t the time to take a political break. If you don’t already understand the background, now is the time to educate yourself about what’s happening in Central America and the reasons why thousands joined the caravan’s march to seek asylum in the US and Mexico. It’s also the time to familiarize yourself with the basics of US policies about immigration rights, asylum, and the current administration’s actions. Talk to other people. Attend local and organize local awareness events. Put pressure on your constituents: Go to the US House of Representatives website and enter your zip code to find the right contact information; choose your state and do the same to find your senators. Remember that these elected officials work for you—so make your voice heard.