But what can I possibly do?

“What can I possibly do?”


Migrants from Central America wait inside of an enclosure, where they are being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), after crossing the border between Mexico and the United States illegally and turning themselves in to request asylum, in El Paso, Texas, U.S., March 29, 2019. Lucas Jackson/REUTERS

That’s what I’ve been asking myself all month, ever since reading that the Trump administration was pulling funding for English classes, soccer, and legal aid for unaccompanied child migrants in U.S. shelters. I’ve been following the reports describing horrible conditions at the camps and though some started to name the brutal truth--these are concentration camps--conservative media kept insisted conditions were humane. Then Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called them what they are and the conversation exploded. (Frustratingly, the right wing remains pretty committed to arguing about the language describing the camps and not about their actual conditions.)


All the while, I’ve sat on the sideline feeling pretty powerless. Sure, #NeverAgain was trending on Twitter, but I wanted to do something. So I started searching for articles or websites that described ways to help, places to donate time or money, things to do. Have you been asking yourself the same question? “What can I possibly do?” This list is my answer to that question.


Check out the organizations below, do some research, and let me know what you decide. Because, while no one can do everything, everyone can do something.


A NOTE ABOUT THESE LINKS: Where possible, I included a Charity Navigator rating, which looks at the financial health, accountability, and transparency of nonprofits. From Charity Navigator’s page on their methodology, their ratings show “how efficiently a charity will use their support, how well it has sustained its programs and services over time, and their level of commitment to accountability and transparency.” A good Charity Navigator rating is just one piece of information, not a guarantee that a nonprofit is doing a good job.

Beyond that, I’ve done as much vetting as I can, but can’t personally speak to the work these organizations are doing. I encourage you to do your own research before donating your time or money to any of these organizations.


All the organizations listed here could use your donations

“I just want to donate money as quickly and simply as possible.”

Refugee Council USA is a coalition of nonprofits who work with refugees, including the nine nonprofits that work with the US government to house and support refugees. A donation to Refugee Council USA will spread money among their coalition members. RCUSA is fiscally sponsored by Church World Services, a nonprofit that has received three out of four stars on Charity Navigator.


“I am most concerned about the conditions of those currently being detained.”

Detention Watch Network is a good place to start. Based in DC, their goal is to “abolish immigration detention in the United States.” They provide opportunities to visit detention centers, participate in public protests, and engage with elected officials. They are not a non-profit organization, but seem to be working with Tides, a non-profit with four out of four stars on Charity Navigator.


“I want to help immigrants post their bail.”

California-based Freedom for Immigrants has a program where you can donate to pay for immigrant detainee’s bonds. Freedom for Immigrants is a non-profit, so donations are tax deductible, but there isn’t enough info yet for a Charity Navigator rating. For other organizations doing this work at the state and national level, scroll to the end of this article for a list of organizations funding bail (either in general or specifically for immigrants) across the United States.

Let's tip the scales away from bigotry and towards justice

“I want to help provide immigrants get legal representation.”

You may have heard about Texas-based RAICES, a nonprofit that “promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees.” You can make a general donation to RAICES, or donate to their programs on keeping families together or providing legal representation to unaccompanied children. RAICES received three out of four stars from Charity Navigator.


“I want to help refugee children receive an education.”

There is DonorsChoose page with opportunities to provide school supplies for refugee students. Many of these projects look legitimate, but be sure to take a closer look before sending them your money.


“I want to get trained to volunteer with refugees.”

USA Hello aims to be “a one-stop, comprehensive website that houses the resources and information newcomers need to build successful lives for themselves and their families here in the USA.” They provide a free online course to help you “become more culturally competent when you are working, interacting, or volunteering with refugees and immigrants.”


“I have a spare bedroom and want to host refugees.”

You should check out Rooms for Refugees. They allow people to “offer a spare room or property to help a destitute refugee or asylum seeker family, individual or child resolve their crisis.” The organization started in the UK, and some places on their website incorrectly say they’re still limited to the UK and Scotland, but the actual volunteer form notes they are placing refugees in the US, too. Want more info? Read their extensive FAQ.


“I want to connect with refugee families in my city.”

Hello Neighbor “works to improve the lives of recently resettled refugee families by matching them with dedicated neighbors to guide and support them in their new lives.” redThey’re a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit, but have not yet received a rating from Charity Navigator.

Your time and energy can make a huge difference

“I want to work with an organization near me.”

Hello Neighbor (mentioned above) also has a national database of hundreds of agencies that work with and for refugees. Check it out, and find one near you!


“I’d like to see a bunch of different volunteer opportunities.”

The International Rescue Committee has a mission to “help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future.” They have a great list of almost two hundred volunteer opportunities across the United States. IRC is a nonprofit with a four out of four rating on Charity Navigator.


“I’m most concerned about what’s happening along the Texas-Mexico border.”

The Texas Tribune put together this list of organizations that primarily or partially work with immigrants and refugees along the Texas-Mexico border.


“I want to visit a detention center and see things for myself.”

A number of different organizations are working on site visits. Freedom for Immigrants has this map of US detention centers and runs a visitation network in many parts of the country. The previously-mentioned Detention Watch Network has a two page overview on visiting detention centers, as well as this incredibly detailed PDF guide on visiting detention centers. The Women’s Refugee Commission, meanwhile, has this (shorter) PDF how-to on visiting detention centers.

We must stand together against injustice

“I want to stand with others in a vigil to end concentration camps.”

Lights for Liberty is coordinating a nationwide vigil on Friday, July 12, with events across the country. You can also organize your own event and add it to their list.


“I want to understand the bigger picture.”

I’ve been relying on podcasts like On The Media and Reveal to shine light on not only what is happening, but why. I also highly recommend ProPublica's series on Trump's zero tolerance border policies, this piece from PBS on how shifting definitions of whiteness have influenced US immigration policy, and an article from The Atlantic looking at the language of white supremacy.

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© 2020 REBECCA KLING

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