On Sunday, November 3, Congregation Etz Hayim’s Social Action Committee hosted a panel of representatives from local chapters of four non-profit organizations working to mitigate the practical and legal hardships that refugees, asylees and other immigrants face in our community. The representatives provided an historical perspective on U.S. immigration policy, an alert about recent executive action allowing states to ban refugees, and an explanation of the particular issues presented by unaccompanied youth and alien (“honorary”) veterans of the U.S. armed services. Importantly, they outlined the mission and activities of their individual organizations, including the many ways that volunteers can serve as force multipliers in rendering assistance to immigrants (e.g., accompanying subjects to ICE check-ins, providing information on legal rights, political advocacy, material support). After the formal remarks, there was a lively Q&A, which elicited additional substantive information from the expert presenters.
Participant organizations included:
Congregation Action Network/Faith in Action, whose member congregations in the DC/MD/VA region provide support and practical assistance to neighbors, friends, and family who fear being detained, deported or profiled. (Mary Lareau, Northern Virginia Cluster Leader, https://www.congregationactionnetwork.org/).
CASA In Action, the Mid-Atlantic region’s largest electoral organization fighting for immigrant rights. (Miguel Carpizo-Ituarte, Virginia Lead Organizer, https://www.casainaction.org/).
Just Neighbors, which provides immigration legal services to low-income immigrants and refugees in Virginia (Erin McKenney, Executive Director, https://www.justneighbors.org/).
Lutheran Social Services, which resettles displaced refugees and provides them wellness and health education and other practical services. (Dana Lea, Director of Community Outreach, https://www.lssnca.org/).
In addition to hosting the formal panel, CEH opened the event to representatives from other immigration advocacy groups to bring their organizations’ materials and speak individually with audience members after the formal portion of the program. Staff from The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and Sanctuary DMV set up information tables and fielded questions from attendees, many of whom added themselves to mailing and volunteer lists. This CEH event provided a forum for engaged and compassionate congregants of the Northern Virginia Jewish Community and other faith groups to learn about and take action on behalf of immigrants in crisis, honoring the religious and ethical dictate to “welcome the stranger.”