As we celebrate National Migration Week from Jan. 8-14, let us bring to the forefront the most pressing issues immigrants face and support them in their efforts to overcome those challenges. The theme for this year is “Creating a Culture of Encounter,” based on an appeal by Pope Francis which calls us to “look beyond our needs and wants to those of others around us.” Justice for Immigrants’ toolkit features many ways to support migrants, including prayer cards and event ideas. Here are a few more tips to continue supporting immigrants all year long. One of the best ways a community member can help their immigrant neighbors is to partner with a local immigration services program. There are many non-profit legal service providers that are willing to give workshops and informational sessions, but often lack the space or volunteers to do so. Community partners can help by offering available meeting space, time to volunteer, or assistance with outreach. To find a local immigration service provider, visit https://cliniclegal.org/directory. Paola Marquez, CLINIC’s Legalization Outreach Manager, focuses on building strong relationships between legal service providers and the communities they serve and can help you brainstorm new ways to be an ally. For more ideas on how you can help immigrants have access to legal services, you can reach out to her. Another way to help is to ensure that your community is a welcoming one. CLINIC offers a number of resources on Catholic social teachings and the ties between Catholic values and immigration. For example, CLINIC recently created a free resource inspired by Las Posadas Navideñas for communities to use during the holiday season. A celebration around Las Posadas provides an excellent opportunity for dialogue, but you don’t have to wait until next Christmas to hold such an event. Consider using any of CLINIC’s resources on Catholic social teaching to inspire community-building events: https://cliniclegal.org/cst. We should also seek to raise awareness about immigration issues. Consider hosting a movie screening or inviting a prominent lecturer on immigration to come speak at your next event. Plan or participate in a vigil for immigrants being held in detention. Reach out to both your Catholic Conference and local community leaders to see if you can participate in or host an event. Above all, do not be afraid to engage in a constructive dialogue with people who may disagree with you- CLINIC has you covered. From an advocacy perspective, it is vital that we help immigrants become aware of their legal rights. Many immigrants are not aware that although they may be undocumented, they still have civil rights that are protected by federal and state laws. Share CLINIC’s Know Your Rights guides for students and workers with parishioners and neighbors. These resources also provide ways immigrants can report incidents they encountered at school and work. Bolster this work by becoming an advocate for positive immigration policies. The lack of immigration reform at the federal level has encouraged state and local leaders to legislate their own solutions to what they see as a broken system. Many states legislative sessions will begin this January and, due to the current national debate regarding immigration, we anticipate that there will be an increased number of legislation attempting to limit immigrants’ ability to fully integrate. CLINIC has prepared a guide to help you follow your state’s legislative process and offer ways you can speak up for immigrants and urge local leaders to implement positive policies. Christy Williams, CLINIC’s Advocacy Attorney, supported several state Catholic conferences and CLINIC affiliates through legal analysis and suggested talking points to address how these issues impact immigrants and the programs that serve them during the 2016 state legislative session. In addition to online resources, you can contact her for direct support to help you address immigration-related legislation in your state. Please visit CLINIC’s website for more resources to help you understand the challenges immigrants face. Be sure to sign up for our newsletters to stay up to date on pressing immigration issues and new ways to help.
Paola Marquez is the Outreach Manager for CLINIC’s Legalization section. In addition to conducting outreach to parishes, Catholic schools, and immigrant communities, she also manages the Southeast Fellows Project. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christy Williams is an Advocacy Attorney at CLINIC who leads the State and Local Immigration Project. Christy monitors legislation in all 50 states that impact immigrants and provides advocacy support to state Catholic Conferences, Diocesan advocates and CLINIC affiliates in responding to these issues. She can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.