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Pivoting with Our Partners: UUSC Centers Partnerships in the Midst of Pandemic

The COVID-19 crisis highlights the need for steady and evolving relationships to face human rights challenges.

By Mike Givens on May 5, 2020

The world has changed dramatically in the last two months, however, UUSC’s commitment to its partners is as steady and vibrant as ever.

UUSC is providing its partners with flexible core funding, which allows them to continue operating during these times and pivot their work as needed. We’re allowing space and time for our partners to pause and re-assess their work. We’re reaching out and keeping lines of communication open, ensuring that they know that we are here to support them, but also acknowledging their need to focus on their families and their community, and that their ability to communicate with us might be limited.

We are listening to the needs of our partners, not just the financial needs that they have, but also what kind of advocacy and other forms of support are needed at this time, and responding with advocacy campaigns, e-actions, and petitions, and a dogged commitment to keeping our eye on the social, economic, and human toll of this pandemic while advancing a justice agenda.

For our partners whom we work with closely to provide immersion learning, youth seminars or volunteer opportunities, we’re supporting them in several ways: by considering the programs postponed rather than canceled, so that payments already made to our partners need not be refunded; exploring new collaborations with existing partners as we explore creative experiments in on-line learning; and, in a few cases, providing emergency grants.

Our partners on the US-Mexico border, Al Otro Lado (AOL), recently received an emergency grant from UUSC to support the organization’s COVID-19 Humanitarian Migrant Fund, which continues the nonprofit’s work around the dangerous Remain in Mexico policy. This program implements metering, or only allowing a certain number of migrants to apply for asylum at a designated port of entry into the United States. The federal government has been strict with the number of migrants it allows to apply for asylum along the southwest border and with concerns around the pandemic, those restrictions have become tighter. The funding provided by UUSC helps AOL keep up its vital work of providing translation and legal services for migrants coming into the country and also helps the organization respond to harsh immigration policies handed down by the federal government as a result of the pandemic. The funds will also be used to provide basic necessities for migrants living in shelters and camps near the border who face harsh conditions and an increased risk of contracting coronavirus.

In Georgia, UUSC provided a grant to the New Sanctuary Movement (NSM) to purchase much-needed provisions for undocumented families lacking adequate resources to withstand the COVID-19 pandemic. In partnership with Freedom University—a program working with undocumented students to procure funding for college and learn organizing skills—NSM provided supplies including disinfectant spray and wipes, face masks, toilet paper, paper towels, medicines, and food. The funding UUSC provided went directly to 25 undocumented families.

We’re leaning into the ways we can rise to this moment of collective action and mutual aid to come together for emerging activism opportunities connected to our long-term priorities. These include:

  • Advocating for release from detention all people held on immigration charges or status, on public health grounds and no further detentions of migrants or asylum seekers; and
  • Advocating for people over profits; against congressional bail outs for extractive industries, and disrupting disaster capitalism.

Through our research and policy work, we’re helping document partners’ needs and assist with fact-checking information related to the pandemic, particularly looking at the protection of rights under state exceptions. This includes monitoring policy developments at the local, national and international levels. Additionally, we are pausing some work with partners who are pivoting to respond to the pandemic, and using virtual platforms that enable us to continue participatory practices.

Through our strategic communications work, we’re doing outreach to the media about the impacts on human rights of the crisis on affected communities and supporting awareness raising and activism.

UUSC relies on the steady support of our members, especially during these days of uncertainty, so that we can continue to our vital human rights work without interruption. Your generosity, now more than ever, bolsters our grassroots partners whose work does so much to close the gap of inequity, provide access to relief services, and end human rights abuses. Thank you!

Photo Credit: Poster by Monica Curca of Activate Labs for UUSC

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