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The Two Most Important and Lasting Ways You Can Help Refugees and Immigrants (Hint: They aren’t what you think!)

  December 15, 2023

By Alexandra Weber, Senior Vice President and Chief Advancement Officer at the International Institute of New England

At IINE, we are so fortunate to be surrounded by a community of passionate supporters who want to make a difference in the lives of refugees and immigrants. Our volunteers, in particular, play a critical role in ensuring our clients receive the help they need, from assisting ESOL students to mentoring refugee youth, driving clients to medical appointments and job interviews, delivering groceries, setting up apartments, and so much more. We couldn’t serve thousands of refugees and immigrants every year without their support.  

Many people are often surprised to hear, therefore, that volunteering isn’t the only way to have a real and tangible impact on refugee and immigrant families. In fact, educating yourself and supporting IINE through donations go just as far—if not further—in helping the newcomer populations we serve. If you are interested in getting involved, but don’t know where to start or how to have the most impact, this post is for you!  

Your Voice Matters  

When you educate yourself and your community, you help change harmful narratives around immigration and immigrants 

Public conversations around immigration are often heated, politicized, and dangerously, filled with inaccuracies. Educating yourself on the immigration process, the level of support refugees and immigrants receive, and how they pay that support back in dividends—and then sharing this information with others—can help create a shift in public opinion. Start with correcting these common misunderstandings: 

Myth: The process to legally enter the U.S. and to stay is easy. 
Reality: This is far from the case. For refugees, the process to come to the U.S. is offered to very few, entails multiple steps, and often takes years (see our blog post, “Explainer: The U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program” to learn more). For many other immigrants eligible for U.S. entry, the complexity and cost of the application process for authorization is intense. Once here, many refugees and immigrants experience an uphill battle to adjust temporary status to a more permanent status that will allow them to stay in the country, and once applications are filed, they can take years to process. Around ten years ago, in 2012, the average processing time from application to approval of citizenship was 4.6 months. Today, the wait has tripled in length to 15.5 months.  

Recent Certified Nursing Assistant graduates
Graduates from IINE’s Certified Nursing Assistant program, who will go on to play a key role in our economy alongside many other immigrant workers

Myth: Many immigrants are criminals.
Reality: There is no evidence to support the argument that there are higher levels of criminality among immigrant populations. In fact, studies have shown the opposite. A largescale study from 2018 found that as immigration grew in major U.S. cities from 1970 to 2010, the crime rate decreased.  

Myth: Immigrants receive an unfair level of support from the government and are a drain on the U.S. economy. 
Reality: Many refugees and immigrants have endured unimaginable hardships and long, dangerous journeys to come to the U.S. When they first arrive, many receive basic support to stabilize through eligibility for programs such as food stamps. The majority of immigrant families that receive support contribute to our economies across a lifetime in return. According to a recent report from the American Immigration Council, in 2021, immigrants in the U.S. had a collective spending power of $1.4 trillion and paid $525 billion in taxes. Newcomers strengthen our workforce, filling roles in healthcare, STEM, construction, environmental services, and more, and 22% of entrepreneurs nationwide were born outside of the U.S. In many New England states, immigrants are the key and often only strategy to combat a shrinking workforce. Our local and national economies depend on immigrants.     


Every Dollar Counts – More Than You Know 

When you donate, you ensure refugee and clients receive professional, trauma-informed services 

Your donation ensures refugees and immigrants receive professional and trauma-informed support services – even when public funding falters

Why do we use professional services to help people? The process to apply for federal and state benefits, including cash assistance, food, and healthcare, is complex and hard to navigate – especially for non-native English speakers. IINE’s refugee and immigrant clients would not be able to access critical basic benefits without the support of our trained, professional, multi-lingual and multi-cultural staff. Our professional care specialists are also equipped to navigate highly sensitive topics, provide trauma-informed care, and ensure confidentiality in working with our clients. While many of our supporters are eager to provide direct service to our clients, it requires significant training, expertise, and sensitivity to do so. When you choose to donate money, you ensure refugees and immigrants are receiving the expert help they desperately need to build a better life in our communities.  

Crises are certain to come, but public funding is not – you can bridge the gap  

One thing that we know with certainty is that human displacement worldwide is growing. As conflicts and climate change continue to force people away from their homelands, families and individuals will continue to risk their lives in pursuit of safety— and IINE will be here for them. However, there is no similar enduring commitment of federal and state funding. In recent years especially, as U.S. immigration policies have shifted profoundly and unpredictably, the amount of funding we receive has, too. To withstand fluctuations in funding so we can respond to all in need, IINE relies on ongoing support from our communities and donors – from people like you. When you give, you help ensure that we will be able to welcome, embrace, and provide the highest standard of service to those in need now and to those yet to come. 

Thank you for your interest in supporting refugees and immigrants in our community. Learn more about these issues by subscribing to our newsletter and following us on social media, and make a life-changing impact when you donate today 


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