How To Be An Ally To Immigrants & Refugees

Stephanie Keith/Getty Images News/Getty Images

You don't have to be an immigrant or a refugee to be horrified by Donald Trump's recent actions to bar both from entering the U.S. But if you and your parents were born and raised in the States, it's likely hard for you to understand the experiences your immigrant and refugee friends are having right now. Speaking out and demonstrating are very real ways to show up for the people Trump is trying to exclude from the U.S. But there are other good ways to be an ally to your immigrant and refugee friends.

If you aren't an immigrant or refugee, being an ally starts with examining the privileges that status grants you. For example, while thousands of Americans have participated in events such as the Women's March and the refugee ban protests in recent weeks, there are so many others who either can't or are participating at greater risk because of their more vulnerable statuses in this country. In other cases, Trump's rise to power is triggering many people living with mental illness.

The struggle is two-fold for those who are worried about themselves or their family being able to stay in the country. These are just some of so many ways privilege manifests. No one's struggles or fears about Trump's presidency should be minimized or diminished. But in light of his administration's executive orders, consider taking these other steps to support your immigrant and refugee loved ones.

Reach Out To Offer Support, Not Complain

Mark Runnacles/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Trump's presidency is terrifying to so many people for so many reasons, all of which we need to continue to talk about. But it's also important to be mindful of whom each of us looks to for emotional labor. It's a particularly scary time for your immigrant and refugee friends, especially those who are Muslim.

Reach out to them to offer your support and a listening ear. And if citizenship is something you've never had to think about, resist the temptation to take up the space you've just offered. Make sure the support is about your friend and not about you.

Educate Yourself On What It Takes To Come To The U.S.

So many anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric swirling around Trump's ban on refugees and immigrants, as well as the Mexico Border Wall, is rooted in a misunderstanding of what it actually takes to legally live and obtain citizenship in America.

Despite widespread fears to the contrary, refugees are exhaustively vetted before they can enter the U.S. And when it comes to immigration, the length and expense of the process makes it unattainable to some of the people who want and need it most. Learn about what it takes to come to the U.S., and while you're at it, take some time to learn about all the other times the U.S. banned immigrants, too.

Learn About & Support Resources In Your Community

Constantly being open to and actively pursuing learning more is the key to being a good ally, but so is understanding that it's not your immigrant and refugee friends' jobs to educate you. You can educate yourself on the issues immigrants and refugees face in the U.S. while also doing some good.

Research organizations in your area that advocate for refugees and immigrants, documented and undocumented. And many can offer resources on issues specific to people in your community. And if you have the ability to do so, consider volunteering to reciprocate the support, opening yourself up to learn even more.

Speak Up

Stephanie Keith/Getty Images News/Getty Images

This point is pretty self-explanatory, but important. Speak out against xenophobia in any way that you can, even if it means having an awkward interaction with a racist relative. If someone makes a "joke" at the expense of foreigners, tell them it's not funny. If you are in a group and someone says something xenophobic, don't wait for the friend it may have hurt most to speak up. You say something first.

When it comes down to it, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee words and actions are harmful to everyone, not just immigrants and refugees. Taking the above actions are ways to start showing up as an ally to your immigrant and refugee loved ones and using whatever privileges you have for good. But again, it's just a start.