Migrant Advocacy Groups Are Stepping Up Grassroots Efforts to Counteract Anti-immigrant Discrimination


Multiple migrant groups around the country are increasing their advocacy efforts as anti-immigrant sentiment rises during a volatile election year.

Grassroots days of action in support of migrants are planned across the country, including California, Tennessee, and Massachusetts, with the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s (AILA) National Day of Action scheduled for Thursday. AILA has about 16,000 members in approximately 39 chapters around the United States. This year’s theme is “Fueling Prosperity for a Stronger America.”

Sofia Rosales-Zeledon, AILA’s grassroots advocacy associate, directs the National Day of Action. She stated that 300 members will lobby for immigrants’ and refugees’ rights in Washington, D.C.

“Immigration is at the forefront of all conversations right now, and we have solutions to propose,” she went on to say. “It’s just a matter of having them listen to our experts’ recommendations and solutions.”

Global migration has reached record levels, with migrant contacts at the United States’ southern border hitting historic highs late last year. According to AILA, current rules and procedures create a barrier to asylum that violates long-established US and international refugee principles.

Congress has been considering a bipartisan package that would tweak credible fear standards and possibly limit asylum in exchange for aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.

A person seeking asylum or who expresses concerns about persecution in their home country because of their race, religion, or ideologies is subject to an interview screening to determine eligibility; however, proposed legislation could raise those standards by taking into account the person’s criminal history, how long they have safely lived in their homelands, and whether they can relocate.

AILA’s suggestions include legislation to promote efficient and compassionate border processing by improving immigration agency resources to enable timely case management and expanding job and citizenship opportunities.

AILA also supports proposals to reduce immigrant visa backlogs by removing country caps and exempting spouses and minor children from primary applicants’ quotas.

It also calls for additional financing for FEMA’s Shelter and Services Program, which provides resources to localities accepting new arrivals, as well as extra funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement monitoring agencies and alternatives to imprisonment for immigrants awaiting court hearings.

Other immigrant rights organizations around the country will have their days of action. More than 150 immigrant and refugee community members from across Tennessee will gather at the state legislature on Tuesday for Day on the Hill to protest a “hateful slate of anti-immigrant bills,” including legislation requiring state police to report undocumented migrants to federal authorities and the state senate’s refusal to pass a law allowing immigrants to drive legally.

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition is hosting the event.

“It’s encouraging to see,” Rosales-Zeledon commented. “Advocates across the board are just a little bit more engaged, passionate, and ready to just put in the work.”

During Immigrants’ Day on March 28, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) will advocate at the statehouse for language access and globally educated physician licensure. “Despite legal barriers and an increase in hate towards immigrants and refugees, we continue to move forward together, fostering the courage it takes to fuel change,” the group said in a statement.

The California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC) will hold its annual Immigrant Day of Action on April 16, bringing hundreds of people from across the state to the state capitol to advocate for migrant rights. The theme is “Our Diversity is Our Power,” which organizers say is an especially important message to spread this year.

“As our diverse immigrant communities face attacks this election year, we must seize every opportunity to organize, advocate, and recognize the history, creativity, and contributions that immigrants make,” CIPC Executive Director Masih Fouladi said in a statement. ”

Direct engagement with our elected state representatives during Immigrant Day of Action on issues such as health access, food assistance, and immigrant legal services is one step in ensuring that our community is heard.”

These initiatives come ahead of major celebrations such as the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on September 29 and the United Nations major Migrant Day on December 18.

AILA also supports legislation to create an independent immigration court to provide “fair, unbiased, and timely adjudications of immigration cases free of political influence.” It also advocates for money to help noncitizens who cannot afford legal counsel, which boosts their chances of obtaining asylum.

To get active with AILA, go to their action center or discover a local group.

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