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.
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.