Indy reader Carol Kreck, a retired reporter from the Denver Post and a longtime Denver resident, posed a question to Ask the Indy: How can we help immigrants and refugees in our community? What refugee organizations need volunteers?
The question was in response to Alex Burness’s article, “Colorado’s immigrant community is in panic mode,” which centered on the story of an undocumented immigrant and his citizen family. With the Trump administration threatening deportation sweeps in cities across the country, they told Alex they live in fear that immigration enforcement will one day knock on their door.
Kreck said she feels compelled to do something to help because, “we were all refugees, once.” The crisis at the border, with children still being separated from families and reports of overcrowded, dirty detention facilities is also inspiring her to act, she said.
Kreck’s response to the day-in, day-out news of increased ICE raids and human rights violations at immigrant detention centers is not unique. Another Ask the Indy questioner wanted to know what she could do to offer sanctuary to an immigrant under threat of deportation, writing: “I was working at [a charter school] in 2016 and know the very real fear of the children in families.”
The New York Times’ editorial board offered its own advice to those wishing to help, including calling representatives in government, attending protests and donating to humanitarian efforts.
In Colorado specifically, there are several ways one can help immigrants and refugees.
Volunteer and donate to local refugee organizations
“We need all kinds of volunteers,” said Sarah Jackson, the founder and executive director of Casa de Paz — a hospitality home that helps people who have been released from the ICE detention center in Aurora. According to its website, since its founding in 2012, Casa de Paz has hosted nearly 1,600 immigrants, including families waiting to be reunited with their loved ones in detention. Casa de Paz offers “visits and emotional support, shelter and meals, access to phones, WiFi, computers and transportation.”
“We are 100% run on volunteers, and have no paid staff,” Jackson said.
A complete list of its needs can be found here, and it includes meals for guests, groceries and household items. Casa de Paz arranges volunteer visits to immigrants in detention who are alone and have no one coming to see them. Volunteer trainings are held on the first Saturday of every month.
Jennifer Guddiche, the interim managing director of Denver’s African Community Center in Denver, said it, too, needs volunteers. The African Community Center resettles approximately one third of the refugees entering Colorado, though she stresses that this number has plummeted since the Trump administration placed a historically low cap on the number of refugees coming into the U.S.
Guddiche says the organization most needs volunteers willing to make a long-term commitment to help connect and befriend incoming refugee families. It could also use help in its youth program with volunteers who are experienced in after-school programs and mentoring for youth. She also stressed the need for drivers to take community members to and from their medical appointments.
Those interested in helping can visit Colorado Refugee Connect, which allows volunteers to list what they are able to do and then connects them to a refugee or organization in their community.
The Denver Foundation’s Denver Immigrant Legal Fund also offers a way for Coloradans to support refugees and immigrants in their community by donating money. The fund provides grants to nonprofit organizations that provide direct legal representation to current residents of Denver who are subject to potential deportation. In 2018, the fund distributed $382,000 in grants to four organizations, according to its website.
Educate yourself and your community
“We really want to make sure that with the threat of raids coming, the community is armed with the best tool — and that is knowledge of your rights,” said Ana Temu, the ACLU of Colorado’s immigration campaign coordinator.
Temu said she sees a flare in the eyes of immigrants who understand they have Constitutional rights, such as the right to remain silent, as “they come to the realization of ‘I am a part of this community and this community wants to protect me.’ “
“It’s empowering for me to see they are empowered,” she said.
Abolish ICE Denver is a grassroots organization in Denver that hosts regular protests in Colorado, including at the ICE detention center in Aurora.
The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) is an organization dedicated to building “a unified statewide voice to improve the lives of immigrants and refugees.” This includes holding protests, educating the Colorado community and advocating for immigration reform.
CIRC runs a hotline (844-864-8341) for people to report ICE raids that they witness. Witnesses may call the hotline as well to participate in their project “Your Voice is Power, Colorado is Listening,” which seeks to “monitor what ICE is doing and gather evidence to support long-term policy changes that further limit collaboration between local law enforcement and ICE.”
Lastly, Colorado residents may offer sanctuary to immigrants and refugees, though Temu recommends taking a Know Your Rights training first.
“There is always a risk [of getting in trouble with the law] when you are doing [offering sanctuary],” she said, adding that the better route is to get involved with the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition. The coalition of churches offers sanctuary to undocumented immigrants under threat of deportation.
Hans Meyer, an attorney in immigration law, said that providing immigrants sanctuary in own home may violate the Harboring Statute, a federal law that makes it a crime to “bring in, harbor, transport, or encourage the entry of a ‘noncitizen.’”
Meyer said that this statute focuses on the “hidden activity” of giving someone sanctuary. So the consequences may be different for an individual rather than for faith communities, which have open policies about their commitment to provide refuge to an immigrant.
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