A few months ago during a video interview I was asked what I’d say to struggling migrants. There are people who care and pay attention to what happens to them, I said, people who consider them heroes for having the courage to leave their homes and make a life in a new and sometimes hostile nation. It felt important to say this because migration can be a horribly isolating experience even under the best circumstances. Under our current migration systems, we’re dealing with nothing close to ideal circumstances.
This notion that immigrants are not alone drives Breakthrough’s new campaign and Tumblr “I’m Here.” Breakthrough is an organization devoted to building a “human rights culture,” works to change debates and actions to support fundamental social change, with a focus on women’s human rights in India and the United States. Founder Mallika Dutt and her team saw the need to generate empathy and action among “bystanders” — all the people who are not themselves direct victims of a social problem or oppressive system. The group has made enormous interventions on sexual and domestic violence in India, first with a music video that won numerous prizes across Asia, and then with the Bell Bajao campaign. Bell Bajao means ring the bell, and this campaign encourages men to take note and do something when they can see and hear violence taking place. Breakthrough has supported the adaptation of the Bell Bajao campaign and video to Vietnam, China, Malaysia and Pakistan and developed long-term partnerships to bring country-specific campaigns to audiences in Bangladesh and Nepal. They’ve engaged hundreds of thousands of people through the video and related activities, and won more than 30 global awards for their effective use of media to make social change.
In the U.S., Breakthrough has largely worked on immigration issues, providing games, curricula and music that help people educate themselves and each other. While they, like many people, celebrated recent administrative changes benefitting young undocumented immigrants who would be eligible for the DREAM Act if it ever were to pass, they found it critical to support the parents of these young people too. “So now it’s time to ask: what about their mothers?” writes Dutt in a recent OpEd. “Now that police officers can inquire about immigration status based solely on how a person looks, thousands of women–many the primary breadwinners for their families–have stopped leaving their homes entirely. They’ve stopped going to work. They’ve stopped going to the doctor….They’ve stopped living their lives.”
The “I’m here” campaign, then, is recruiting people who pledge to stand with immigrant women, who are vulnerable to enormous abuse by employers, romantic partners, and immigration authorities. Last week, for example, I was shocked to see the ruling in the egregious case of Encarnacion Romero, a Guatemalan woman whose baby was with a Missouri couple when ICE detained Encarnacion following a raid at her workplace. The couple adopted Encarnacion’s baby illegally, but the latest judge has ruled that she abandoned the baby and the adoption will stand. If you stand with women like Encarnacion, you need to send in your picture to the “I’m Here” photo wall.
Take a photo of yourself holding a sign that says “I’m here.”
Go to the Tumblr and click “submit.”
Upload your picture.
Write a caption and confirm. You’re done!
Hard core policy organizers tend to dismiss actions that don’t have a clear “demand” but I think it’s critical to change the way people think as well as the rules of our society. In immigration, we need immigrants themselves to feel part of a large community, to be able to ask for help, to understand that someone is watching. We also need non-immigrants to see that lots of people, not just undocumented immigrants, support immigrant rights. So take that picture and send it in now. As an immigrant woman, I thank you.