Busing Response: Supporting Migrants in Local Communities
Over the last two years, many cities around the country have seen an increased number of migrants and asylum seekers arriving from the U.S.-Mexico border. They come from all around the world, often in search of a safe haven after fleeing extreme danger, persecution, and violence in their home countries. While some have chosen to move to cities around the country, many others have come on buses sponsored by the governors of Arizona, Florida, and Texas — often without a clear understanding of where they are going and what support and resources they can expect when they arrive.
The U.S. needs a fair, orderly asylum process at the border. Instead, successive administrations have slammed the door in the faces of asylum seekers through restrictive policies that deny people their legal right to seek asylum in the United States, creating chaos and desperation and putting lives at risk.
Like generations of immigrants before, recently arrived migrants and asylum seekers deserve dignity, respect, and compassion, regardless of their status. It is up to us, as individuals and as communities, to actively welcome these new arrivals and encourage our elected officials to do the same. We all have a role to play in welcoming newcomers, combatting anti-immigrant sentiment, and building a more just and compassionate country.
Join the Response
Over time, the volume and countries of origin of those arriving in different cities across the U.S. ebbs and flows. Some cities have set up centralized websites that outline their extensive responses to this influx of people in need of housing, food, health care, and other services. Others have struggled to set up a centralized response but have multiple mutual aid organizations working in parallel.
Below are some volunteer, advocacy, and educational resources to respond and help ensure that migrants and asylum seekers are welcomed across the country and in your own community.
- The NYC Asylum Seeker Response page outlines the city’s response and resources for newly arrived asylum seekers.
- This article in Gothamist lists several other NYC response agencies.
- CBST’s Ark Immigration Clinic trains volunteers and attorneys to assist with asylum and work permit applications, translation, accompaniment to USCIS interviews, direct support for our immigrant neighbors, and more.
- Local Jewish organizations and congregations are organizing responses, which can be read about in articles from the Jewish Week and eJewish Philanthropy.
- HIAS’ NYC resettlement partner, Commonpoint Queens, provides case management services to newly arrived migrants and has volunteer opportunities available.
- HIAS in NYC has opportunities available for individuals and groups interested in providing direct services or in-kind assistance to asylum seekers. These include donation collection and distribution, specialized training in direct service, interpretation and translation, shelter and emergency provision research, and help in developing comprehensive resource and referral guides. For more information, email NYCvolunteer@hias.org.
- The government’s Office of Migrant Services provides reception and respite services and coordinates the local response.
- Information about migrants arriving in the DC area and how to help is available on the DC Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network website.
- There are opportunities available for individuals and groups interested in providing direct services or in-kind assistance to asylum seekers in D.C. with HIAS. These include donation collection and distribution, specialized training in direct service, interpretation and translation, shelter and emergency provision research, and help in developing comprehensive resource and referral guides. For more information, email DCvolunteer@hias.org.
- LA County Office of Immigrant Affairs in conjunction with CHIRLA, Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, CLUE, and the City of LA are coordinating efforts for bus arrivals. They are in the process of streamlining volunteer vetting and response. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Welcome to IL shares information with residents of Chicago and Illinois on how to volunteer with and donate to migrants and asylum seekers arriving to the state. The site also includes an advocacy platform.
- The city of Chicago maintains its own website, The Welcoming City, here regarding its needs for volunteers and donations
- If you hear about buses arriving to your city, think about how you can contribute to welcoming new arrivals, whether through volunteering, advocacy, or financial support. Start by researching your city’s response: Is it led by local or state government agencies, social service agencies, or some combination?
- If you live near a HIAS resettlement partner, contact them to find out how they are involved in the community response and if there are opportunities for you to volunteer, gather resources, or contribute in other ways. You can find other refugee resettlement agencies in your area using this map; reach out to them to find out if they are involved in providing services to asylum seekers or if they can refer you to another organization in your local community.
- You can also connect with volunteers and advocates in your area via the Jews for Refugees Facebook group.
Our country must treat people fleeing danger with compassion, respect, and dignity. Each of us can play a role in advocating for the rights of asylum seekers and making it clear that they are welcome in our local communities.
There are many ways to support asylum seekers:
- Encourage your local elected officials to have a plan in place to welcome asylum seekers with compassion and dignity. Advocate at the state and local level for additional resources for asylum seekers and for legislation that helps to ensure their rights and protection.
- Join or develop a campaign to make it clear that you support welcoming asylum seekers to your community.
- Be a strong advocate for the rights of asylum seekers, pushing back against harmful national policies such as the asylum ban. Learn about how asylum seekers are treated at the border and advocate against the cruel and callous treatment of people seeking safety.
- Contact your Members of Congress to support legislation such as the Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act, which would make it easier for asylum seekers to secure work papers.
- Stay in touch with HIAS. The situation changes quickly, so we encourage you to be in touch with HIAS at email@example.com with questions. We particularly encourage congregations and clergy to stay in touch with us for additional ways to help. Learn more about how to join HIAS’ grassroots and advocacy efforts.
- The Always Welcome Toolkit by National Partnership for New Americans provides examples of humanitarian response models, legal services orientation, advocacy strategies, and narrative/messaging resources to support the efforts led by organizations and localities to welcome new arrivals.
- Learn more about HIAS, and how Jewish values, traditions, history, and lived experience play a role in our obligation to welcome the stranger. Visit hias.org/learn to explore our educational and action-focused resources.