For some, feeling patriotic may be difficult as of late. There's nothing better to help remedy that than attending a citizenship ceremony on the eve of our country's birth.
Today, as is tradition, 96 individuals hailing from 37 different countries became naturalized citizens at the historic home of Indiana's own president, Benjamin Harrison. Some distinguished guests included Mayor Joe Hogsett, Congresswoman Susan Brooks, and IPS Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee. Judge Sarah Evans Barker presided over the ceremony, sharing a message, loud and clear, to all of the new citizens: "you are welcome."
The ceremony was a celebration of many things; a celebration of family, a celebration of community and openness, and it was a celebration of the founding values of our country. Families cheered for their new citizen and gathered close to take pictures. Children in the crowd were given the role of dispersing flags and welcoming handshakes to each new citizen. Nobody was separated.
The ceremony took place at the home of a President, in a tent on the lawn; as Judge Barker pointed out, there were no walls.
The founding values of our country were present in this and in so much more: new citizens embracing their role in America while bringing their heritage with them, civic groups welcoming and congratulating the crowd and encouraging them to access their rights and privileges as a citizen, and voting registration available right outside the ceremony.
There are many reasons to not want to become a U.S. citizen. There are many reasons to be disappointed in our country, and to want it to be better. Seeing so many individuals make the choice to become a citizen and take on the responsibilities that citizenship entails, despite the flaws of our country and of our people, is a great reminder of the freedoms that our country provides.
It is a great way to celebrate Independence Day.
COIN has gotten many requests from attorneys and other friends who want to help families and other detained immigrants at the border.
Here are two ways you can help:
1. Immigration Justice Campaign
American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), American Immigration Council and the American Immigrant Representation Project's program. For those interested in volunteering - please go to the Immigration Justice Campaign site to find opportunities to plug in and make a difference, in-person or remotely.
2. RAICES -The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services in Texas - Has the following opportunities to learn more or volunteer:
Wednesday June 27th at 6:30PM RAICES is hosting a panel discussion and Facebook LIVE. Titled Families at Risk: Seeking Asylum in the Age of Trump, panel includes experts on the current crisis who will discuss solutions. Register here and join their Facebook page to watch live.
If you would like to be a part of The Canopy: Post-Release Support Program, please sign up here.
If you are an attorney and would like to volunteer, please sign up here.
Here, for general volunteer opportunities:
*Thank you for sharing these opportunities with others who want to help.
Please remember our COIN partners in Indianapolis serving the legal needs of immigrants and refugees: Catholic Charities, Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, Indiana Legal Services, and Exodus Refugee Immigration.
Families belong together. Let's make that message loud and clear.
There's no feeling like hearing someone applying for citizenship say they are doing it so they can vote.
On Saturday, June 2nd, COIN and our partners (Indiana Legal Services, Hope For Tomorrow, Christ Church Cathedral, Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, and Catholic Charities) hosted our second naturalization workshop of 2018. Together with over 20 volunteers we were able to help 40 legal permanent residents apply for naturalization!
A few reasons why we host naturalization workshops:
1. You read it above: voting. No matter who you vote for, the act of voting is as American as apple pie. Voting is another expression of the freedom of speech, allows us to share in our hopes and dreams for our community, and empowers us to share our voice. What a great freedom our citizenship gives us!
2. Naturalization workshops are a need in our community. The Immigrant Integration Plan from the Immigrant Welcome Center shares with us that over 60% of eligible immigrants in Indiana have not yet naturalized. There may be several reasons for a number so high, but there is no denying that low cost, accessible naturalization workshops are a need within the newcomer community.
3. When I said "low cost, accessible naturalization workshop" above, I meant it. The clinics that we have hosted have been free of charge, in a location that is accessible and central to a large number of immigrant families. The cost to apply for naturalization is $725, without added attorney fees or a fee waiver. Naturalization workshops allow families access to attorney review, giving them a sense of security and possibly saving them a large amount of money.
Not everyone will want to become a United States citizen; not everyone will be able to become one. That is fine. We hope that those who do become citizens of the United States feel safe, feel secure, and feel empowered. That is why we host naturalization workshops.
Did you know that Marion County hosts a mental health alternative court for offenders with a diagnosed mental illness? It's true!
Every third Wednesday, the Interfaith Coalition for Mental Health hosts a luncheon to discuss various mental health topics. This month's topic: Marion County's Mental Health courts. These courts exist to help those who either have low-level offenses or misdemeanors in the Psychiatric Assertive Identification and Referral Program (PAIR), or those who have felonies in the Behavioral Health Courts. According to the Marion County Sheriff's Department, around 40 percent of all inmates are identified to have some degree of mental illness; while not all of these inmates enter the mental health courts, those who do receive guidance, resources, caseworkers, and a sense of community. They are given second and third chances, they are trained in job skills and gain increased employability, and they have someone to listen to them, to help them identify triggers and congratulate them on their successes.
The mental health alternative courts not only benefits those who enter them, but also benefits the community as a whole. Making mental wellness a part of the conversation about corrections, allowing growth in those who oftentimes lack the means or structure to acknowledge mental wellness, and increasing capacity, employability, and sense of well-being in those offenders in order to decrease recidivism strengthens the entire community. During this mental health awareness month, let us remember those in prison who struggle with mental illness and let us support them in their effort for health, well being, and growth.
Thank you to the Interfaith Coalition for Mental Health for providing a platform of discussion for these topics.
If you are struggling with your mental health and need resources, please check out our Partners and Resources pages to find services.
Every Monday, COIN shares a quote to start the week off. Quotes about immigration, mental health, civil society, and even Hamilton lyrics, have been shared. Each is important and they all relate to COIN's mission, but some weeks the quote hits a little closer to home.
This week's quote, "The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks; the long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep moans round with many voices. Come, my friends, 'tis not too late to seek a newer world" comes from Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Ulysses". While this is not a usual source of material for COIN's quotes, with news of the caravan of migrants at our country's border, this quote took on a special meaning.
Several hundred migrants have traveled hundreds of miles as part of a pilgrimage to reach the Mexican-American border in order to seek asylum. Many are escaping violence and persecution in their home; the dangerous journey to America is a way for them to "seek a newer world".
How many of us would have the courage to leave our homes and families, travel across Mexico, and stand on the doorsteps of the world's most powerful country? How many of us would be brave enough to seek a newer world?
Let us continue to act for and with those who are brave enough; not just for those in the caravan, but also those who traveled alone, for the children who made that journey, and for the families, both in America and south of the border. Let us welcome them into a newer world. Let us build a newer world, together.
Click here to learn more about one woman's journey with the caravan.
Last month, COIN hosted a trauma informed care training for our partners and volunteers to learn about the science behind trauma, triggering effects and examples of trauma in immigrants and refugees. In total, we had 25 attendees that included the entire staff from the Center for Victim and Human Rights. As we seek to create a community of care within Central Indiana that is responsive to the needs of our immigrant population, it’s vital to recognize the different types of trauma people have been exposed to in their lives. Understanding the impact of trauma on immigrants is an important first step in building a supportive community. Yet, we must take another step in learning how to recognize and respond to the effects of trauma, which is why we held this training for COIN partners and volunteers.
What is trauma informed care?
Trauma informed care is a treatment framework that includes understanding, recognizing and responding the effects of trauma. Trauma informed care focuses on the physical, psychological and emotional safety of its consumers and providers. Additionally, survivors are empowered and work to rebuild a sense of control that’s often lost due to traumatic experiences.
What makes trauma informed care unique?
Consumers seeking care often encounter services that reflect the control and power experienced in past relationships that caused the initial trauma, increasing the likelihood of retraumatization. Conversely, trauma informed care policies and services use the experiences of trauma survivors to establish mutually beneficial programs that work for both the person seeking services and the provider. Providers in a trauma informed environment guide and support those seeking the services, but also engage in their own self-care practices to manage their own stresses and empathy fatigue.
Why is it important to us?
Immigrants experience trauma in many ways that stem from things like exposure to violence and separation from their home and family members, among other challenges that arise when they get here. Additionally, our country’s current political climate opens up the very real possibility of retraumatization. Trauma isn’t only limited to the individual but also has the ability to affect families and communities. Untreated trauma contributes to impairment of cognitive, social and emotional skills, posttraumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, domestic abuse and child abuse. When untreated trauma goes untreated for multiple generations, the entire community pays the price.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please refer to our Programs page to find services that may help you.
Kurt Vonnegut said it all when he said, "the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured."
Vonnegut, who battled loneliness and mental health issues throughout his life, and whose family struggled with similar problems, understood the impact that loneliness and isolation can have on a person. Loneliness does not discriminate; it has been everyone's friend at some point. It is oftentimes the constant companion for many people, including immigrants and refugees whose friends and families are far away.
Many immigrants arrive in the United States to already-established cultural communities; this often helps soften the blow of adjustment to a new home. But this is not a solution and we should not expect it to be the cure to loneliness.
It should be our goal, as people who also experience sadness and isolation and loneliness, to not only provide mental health services for immigrant and refugees to heal from their trauma and understand their grief, but to also help strengthen the communities behind them to relieve their loneliness. To connect them to mental health providers who understand the importance of cultural competency, to make mental health conversations a norm in our own society instead of stigmatizing those who struggle. To lift up all people, regardless of race or country of origin, and let them know that they are not alone.
Loneliness is not inescapable, but community is integral. Only through community, only through each other, can the terrible disease of loneliness be cured.
If you are struggling with your mental health, please refer to our Partners page to find programs that may work for you.
I owe my life in America to chain migration.
Just like countless others, my ancestors came to the United States as immigrants from Ireland in the mid- to late 19th century. They came in waves and settled in Chicago, the hub of industry and immigrants in the Midwest, so that they could build a better life for themselves, their children, their grandchildren, and, eventually, me. And as it so often happens, they came in chains of siblings across the years until their families were established in their new American community.
This is not an unusual genealogical story; ask anyone walking down the street about where their family comes from and they will probably tell you a similar tale. That is what makes America's history so rich- almost every person comes from somewhere else. The traditions and cultures and celebrations that we love were brought here by families seeking opportunities and building communities.
Today's immigrant families are no different. One person comes to America to find a job and save money. Maybe they come to flee violence and persecution in their home country. They find a job and experience American culture (for good or bad) and tell their sibling, mother, cousin to come as well. They rebuild their family and establish themselves. They contribute to society, have children, honor the traditions of their home country, and yearn for those who could not join them in their new country. If that sounds familiar, it is because it is my family's story. And maybe yours, too.
So many of us owe so much to our ancestors who traveled here in search of something better; oftentimes, that "something better" is not what they had in mind. Immigrating may mean opportunity, but it also means leaving so much behind.
Maybe 100 years from now, our descendants will be sharing their genealogical stories, thanking their ancestors and chain migration for their lives in America.
As a coalition of nonprofit providers in Indianapolis serving immigrants and refugees, “doing one thing” for migrants and refugees does not just impact them, or us, or our organization, but our entire community.
“Doing one thing” may mean hosting a Know Your Rights or Family Safety Planning night, where immigrant families can learn about their rights and how to create a safety plan in case of detention or deportation. The impact, the security, starts with the family, who is now armed with the information and tools to protect themselves in such an unfortunate situation. The impact then grows to the coworkers and employers, to the teachers and fellow students, to law enforcement, to the grocery store the family frequents, to their place of worship. “Doing one thing” creates change.
“Doing one thing” can mean placing a sign of support in your front yard, proclaiming “I’m glad you’re my neighbor,” providing a sense of welcome in a sometimes-unwelcoming world. It can mean visiting businesses created by immigrants, attending ceremonies celebrating culture, smiling and making eye contact with the immigrant woman who rides your bus and wears a hijab. It can mean starting a conversation with her. “Doing one thing” creates relationships.
“Doing one thing” can mean hosting “Walk a Mile in a Refugee’s Shoes,” a simulation of a refugee’s life in a camp, showing a willingness to learn about and support those for whom it was real. It can mean educating others through both actions and words, having empathy for all, standing in solidarity. It can mean inspiring others around the country and around the world to do the same. “Doing one thing” creates community.
“Doing one thing” does not just mean that you are doing one thing. It means that doing something kind, loving someone because they are human, showing respect because they deserve it, goes beyond you and your neighbor. It may be as simple as doing exactly one thing, but often times a simple, single action can affect an entire community.
Our home and our organization has been impacted by “doing one thing” because we are creating change, building relationships, and strengthening our community. The simple task of “doing one thing” creates a trend of commitment to kindness and solidarity in others until eventually, hopefully not far in the future, it is the norm. Migrants and refugees face many difficult challenges both in their journey to a new home and afterwards, so it often seems that the most we can do in the face of overwhelming ignorance and resistance is one thing. One day at a time.
The Coalition for Our Immigrant Neighbors brought together over 400 people at its “Walk a Mile in a Refugee’s Shoes” event on July 23rd, 2017. COIN is now pleased to share a documentary of that simulation portraying the experiences that many refugees encounter each day. Please click here to view the video.
COIN would like to thank Jesuit Refugee Service USA and the Jewish Community Center Indianapolis as well as our many sponsors for their immense contributions to the success of the event, and Road Pictures for creating a beautiful video. COIN cherishes its community partnerships and appreciates each organization and dedicated volunteer who participated in the day.
The Coalition for Our Immigrant Neighbors is a coalition of service providers working together to facilitate and coordinate community efforts to provide legal, psychological and other services for immigrants in Central Indiana.