6 Ways to Help Immigrants and Refugees
Written by Benjamin Callanan, Potencia Marketing Coordinator
Immigrants and refugees make up an important part of US society and culture—they are the future of this country and necessary to its success. However, success for many people coming to the US for the first time is difficult. Going back even further, our country has a long history with immigrants.
According to the United States government:
In 2018, the country admitted over 22,000 refugees.
In 2015, there were over 44 million foreign-born residents in the US.
That same year, we admitted over one million immigrants.
Source: The Migration Policy Institute
Immigrants and refugees face a very tough transition process. Moving into a country with a different culture and a different language is an incredibly harrowing experience for anyone. In addition, immigrants face other problems ranging from finding housing to looking for work. Now is as important a time as ever to help out! Here are six ideas for how you can help:
1. Providing temporary housing for Immigrants and Refugees
It’s not uncommon for refugees and immigrants to have limited housing options when they first arrive. This can often land them in dire straits in homeless shelters or even into issues with the law.
Airbnb has an initiative for refugee housing called “Open Homes”. You can offer space or a room in your home and Airbnb will connect it with refugees and asylum speakers. Airbnb provides lots of assistance to smooth the process for homeowners and refugees alike. This is a wonderful way to give back that can have a huge impact on people forced to leave their homes.
Another group is Room for Refugees, a very successful UK-based organization that is currently in the process of expanding to the US. In 2018, they helped provide 83,000 nights of shelter in the UK with over 7,500 hosts—that’s wild—watch out for them!
2. Helping Immigrants Learn English
One of the biggest obstacles to success in a new country is language, and English is one of the hardest languages to learn. Volunteering to teach and mentor a newcomer learning English can have a long-lasting impact.
There are a number of different practices that exist for children, such as in-school programs. Unfortunately, adults don’t have as many opportunities for English education, even though one in ten US workers are limited in English. That’s why groups that provide these services are so important!
Potencia is a nonprofit based out of Medford, MA. It links up tutors, most of whom are college students, with immigrants and refugees to teach English—check it out here!
3. Helping immigrants find jobs
Due to cultural and language difficulties, it can often be challenging to find work in the US for newcomers. Language affects every part of the hiring process, from the search for a job to the interview. Those who don’t speak English have a major competitive disadvantage.
Source: Pew Research Group
Upwardly Global is an organization that helps immigrants find employment and coaches them on cultural differences and job interviewing, among other skills. If you are interested in volunteering, you can sign up here. This is a great way to help immigrants find meaningful work and acclimate to a different country.
4. Bringing immigrants into the broader community
One of the hardest parts of moving to a different country is feeling a sense of community. While many immigrants are able to join cultural groups who share their home culture, there’s often still a disconnect between immigrants and their local community. Often, when immigrants are unable to enter into a community they form their own, which may increase tensions and may make it harder for immigrants to find their way long-term.
Welcoming America is an organization that works to foster more welcoming communities. They set up community centers and projects across the country, which help create a community that actively works to help immigrants.
5. Assisting immigrants with legal issues
Often due to language and cultural barriers and a lack of familiarity with the US legal system, immigrants and refugees have a difficult time handling legal issues. CAIR Coalition helps detained immigrants handle their legal issues to ensure a fair system. They regularly enter prisons to work with detainees on their legal forms and in the courts.
Another way for residents and citizens to help is by assisting in bail payments. Posting bail is extremely helpful, for example, when trying to reunite separated parents and children. According to MarketWatch, bail can range from $15,00 to $80,000.
Conditions are challenging, especially for children. Getting them out of these situations is crucial. In 2020, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the federal government claimed that over 4,000 children were subjected to family border separations. RAICES is a group that helps advocate for and reunite children and their parents.
Last but not least, Lawyer Moms Action is another organization making a difference for newcomers. They’re a group of dedicated lawyers who are working across the country to provide legal services to those who struggle to access them.
6. Finally, another great way of helping immigrants is donating
Instead of giving your time, you can give money or used belongings. There are so many ways you can donate to immigrants, from gifts to groups that help with legal services, to donating household items.
You can even donate airline miles! There are organizations that use these to help bring immigrants to the US. In the case of Miles4Migrants, they are using airline miles to reunite families—mothers, fathers, and children back together again.
Donating is a great tradition in this country, and it's perfect for people who might be just too busy to volunteer.
There are many other groups out there that collect donations for immigrants and refugees. The International Rescue Committee and the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants are two of them. The IRC works with refugees all over the world, while the USCR works to empower immigrants and refugees in the United States. Both are amazing organizations that always need funds!
Learning from our neighbors
At Potencia, we believe strongly in helping immigrants and refugees and hope you find this useful.
All six of these areas are crucial touchpoints in assisting these groups. Jobs, homes, language skills, community integration, legal support, and funds are huge determinants in the success of immigrants and refugees coming to America. Helping in any of these areas can make a big difference in many people's lives.