The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
Serving Where Need Is Great
August 28, 2015
Volunteers support asylum seekers at the U.S. border
This article was originally published in the Summer/Fall 2015 issue of Rights Now.
When UUSC asked Jonathan Ryan, executive director of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Legal Services and Education (RAICES), a UUSC partner, what the center needed to support women and children in immigration detention, he replied immediately: “Volunteers. The need is so high, we can never have enough.” The UU College of Social Justice (UUCSJ) responded to that call with the enthusiastic participation of 20 volunteers with legal and Spanishspeaking skills.
During June and July, these volunteers traveled to San Antonio, Texas, to help ensure that families receive legal advice and representation, which can help prevent deportation back into danger. Volunteers with legal skills supported families through the asylum process and prepared them for bond hearings. Spanish-speaking volunteers provided interpretation for lawyers, conducted intake interviews, and communicated with family members.
Brenda Alvarez, a 22-year-old volunteer from Chicago, Ill., explains her motivation: “Being in a family filled with Guatemalan migrants, I have always known that the U.S. immigration system was made impossible to navigate. I decided I would do whatever it takes to become an immigrant rights attorney. Volunteering with RAICES is an opportunity to start doing work in the field that I am passionately pursuing.”
Jill Verbeck connects volunteering with her UU principles: “Living in Tucson for many years, I was very active in the struggle to protect and advance the rights of our immigrant and migrant brothers and sisters. Now living in Portland, [Ore.,] my partner and I have recently found community in the Unitarian [Universalist] church, where we recognize the humanity in others by service.”
During their stints, which lasted one to eight weeks, UUCSJ volunteers worked a total of nearly 1,800 hours — the equivalent of a full-time staff person for 10 months!
Learn more about UUCSJ opportunities at uucsj.org.