S is for sponsor
Many were motivated to help asylum seekers after seeing news of family separation at the border
On a rainy Tuesday evening in the middle of January, 25 activists at the Organize Sacramento space on Broadway passed around a sign-in sheet and added the letter “S” by their names. The “S” stood for sponsor, and it was one of several ways those gathered were thinking about helping Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States.
The NorCal Resist meeting focused on organizing a trip to the border. It led a 15-person five-day trip in December, and plans to send another 15 people February 15-23. Volunteers contribute a range of services as needed when they get to the border—babysitting migrant children while parents attend legal clinics, serving food, transporting supplies, sorting donations.
But the meeting covered other topics as well. Abuelas Responden, or Grannies Resist, a group of volunteers who help asylum seekers at bus stations, could use more volunteers, one attendee said. Organizations are also looking for sponsors who commit to helping released asylum seekers with financial support, housing and transportation to court hearings.
“This felt like something I could do if I couldn’t go down to the border,” said Miriam Joffe-Block, who is sponsoring a still-detained Guatemalan man in his 20s.
Activists have a couple things in common. Many were motivated to get involved when they saw news reports about families being separated at the border. While President Donald Trump signed an executive order in June halting the family separations policy he instituted, the border situation remains in flux as the administration pushes for greater restrictions on which asylum claims qualify for consideration.
Activists are also protective of asylum seekers. Myla Dosch, who is sponsoring a pair of sisters from Honduras in their early 20s, said sponsors must be careful about sharing any information about an asylum seeker’s case. Even a seemingly innocuous statement can cause problems down the line if it conflicts with details stated in court.
Before agreeing to an interview, Joffe-Block requested approval from Freedom for Immigrants, the organization that connected her with the man she is sponsoring. Asylum seekers “are in such a vulnerable position,” she told SN&R.
“It’s just become so much harder for people to win asylum,” she said.