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.
As COIN begins hosting a round of Family Safety Planning clinics, you may be wondering just what is a "family safety plan" and why is COIN hosting these events? These are good questions, and during times of uncertainty is it important to gain as much information as possible to help yourself and your neighbors.
Family safety plans primarily help families with parents at risk of deportation or detention; at the events, guests meet with attorneys to create temporary guardianship and power of attorney forms. These forms are notarized and guests leave with a prepared plan and protection for their family, all at no cost.
These plans are important for those at risk of deportation or detention to have in order to protect families; while we hope that the family safety plans created at our events are never used, COIN wishes to help provide extra security and peace of mind for immigrant parents in the Indianapolis area.
For Family Safety Planning Clinic dates and times, please click here.
COIN and its partners at Catholic Charities hosted a very successful DACA renewal clinic on September 20th; 18 applications were completed, and many Dreamers brought their families for a total of 67 people in attendance. COIN is inspired by the Dreamers and their resilience in face of challenge and struggle. We stand with you!
Our wonderful partners and volunteers included the Immigrant Welcome Center, Indiana Legal Services, the ACLU, Indianapolis Mexican Consulate, La Plaza, and several fantastic volunteer attorneys. Because of them, Indianapolis has continued to grow into a more welcoming and connected community with ever-expanding resources for our immigrant and refugee neighbors.
COIN is proud to have been a part of the DACA renewal clinic as we strive to facilitate and coordinate community efforts to provide legal, psychological and other services for immigrants in Central Indiana. Events and links to our partners can be found on our website and Facebook.