How (and why) to help immigrants in Austin

Immigrants to the United States face hurdles and injustices that few other population groups face. But many local organizations are working to defend the basic human rights of immigrants, and you can help.

“Immigrants play a vital role in our city,’ says Christina Tzintzun, head of local nonprofit Worker’s Defense Project. “We all benefit from their hard work and contributions, but when their rights are undermined, it undermines the rights of all of us.”

Undocumented immigrants face special challenges. They’re here to work or escape to a better life, but they tend to accept jobs that are so low-skilled, dangerous and/or low paying that no one else wants them. And they live in constant fear that someone will force them to leave the country and leave their children behind.

According to a recent update to a demographic profile created by the Immigrant Services Network of Austin:
“In 2008, 182,743 foreign-born individuals lived in Travis County and made up 18% of the population (compared to only 8% in 1990 and 15% in 2000). Of the foreign-born presently living in Travis County, a little over one-quarter (27%) have citizenship status. That means about there are about 133,000 non-citizen immigrants in Travis County.”
Because it’s the capital of Texas, Austin is home to many immigrant justice and support nonprofit organizations, and most of them rely on your donations, volunteering and advocacy for their work. Learn more about the issues they tackle and how you can get involved.


Worker’s Defense Project, a nonprofit that defends the rights of construction workers. According to WDP, 50% of the Texas construction workforce is undocumented, and an additional 20% of workers are documented immigrants in the U.S. with visas. Immigration reform is a natural concern for WDP because the construction industry has seen many cases of injustices committed against workers, especially those whom unscrupulous construction businesses feel they can take advantage of because of their immigration status. WDP helps workers recover unpaid wages, advocates for safer work environments and educates workers about their rights. Since 2002, WDP has recovered about $1 million for over 1,000 low-wage workers.

Casa Marianella is an emergency homeless shelter that has served recently-arrived men and women immigrants, asylum seekers, and asylees for over 26 years in East Austin. In addition to shelter, Casa offers access to legal and medial resources, food, clothing, English classes, computer access, and job support for Latina women through its full-service transitional housing program for immigrant mothers and children escaping domestic or cultural violence. Casa seeks volunteers to help provide services to clients including everything from leading classes on cooking, life skills and more, and also preparing meals and other assistance around the house.

Bernardo Kohler Center, an Austin nonprofit that serves immigrants throughout South Texas. It focuses on providing legal services to abused, neglected or abandoned juveniles, to victims of human trafficking, and to victims of violent crime. It also attains asylum for people with a well founded fear of persecution in their home country. In 2011 the Bernardo Kohler Center served more than 100 clients. It specifically seeks pro bono attorneys to take on these clients, host families for juveniles, interpreter and translators and financial support.

For a list of more organizations that serve immigrant issues see the Immigrant Services Network of Austin.



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1 Comment on How (and why) to help immigrants in Austin

  1. Hi , I’m half Ecuadorian raised in South America fluent In Spanish and English . I also have a degree in Spanish lit from UT . I work for emancipet here in Austin. And I would like to volunteer to be a translator or however I could be of help for the crisis that is hitting our communities . I’ve googled but I keep getting pro government pages . If anyone could use my services I would like to help !

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