Mississippi nonprofits launch campaigns helping immigrants

Updated: Mar. 30, 2021 at 7:14 AM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Two Mississippi organizations want to do their part in helping the state’s 70,860 immigrants with two unique programs.

Both the Mississippi Center for Justice and the ACLU of Mississippi have the same idea with their recent projects.

“What we want to do is do what’s best for Mississippi,” ACLU immigrants rights advocate Delana Tavakol said.

Earlier this month, Tavakol launched Unalienable, a campaign designed to inform the public about the realities immigrant communities face with local and federal law enforcement agents.

“(We wanted) to really personify and make known the experiences,” she said.

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Through social media posts, videos and website entries, the non-profit hopes to shed light on the fears both documented and undocumented Mississippians face with police encounters, data sharing and more.

“I hope that this campaign will raise that through the story telling and voices of immigrants,” Tavakol said. “I hope that will encourage people to overlook the anti-immigrant sentiment that we’ve seen in our state.”

In a similar way, the Mississippi Center for Justice also wants to inform people but mainly the state’s nearly 3,000 DACA-eligible residents.

Immigration attorney Max Meyers says only about 1,300 of those residents have applied for the program, so he helped launched free virtual clinics to help those who haven’t submitted paperwork.

“Through this clinic, we have our eyes set on a pretty big goal,” he said. “But we would like to reach the remaining 1,500 or 2,000 Mississippians who are eligible to apply.”

The goal is to educate people on DACA while also registering and renewing applications.

Those that apply for the clinic are vetted to see if they meet the age, educational and other requirements for DACA. If they do, their case is sent to pro bono attorneys at Akin Gump.

“About a third of the individuals who responded to our clinic are actually eligible,” Meyers said.

DACA is crucial for non-natives to access typical American citizen benefits, such as the ability to get a driver’s license or apply to community colleges and universities. Access to those benefits is what drives the clinic forward.

“It’s a way for people to recognize opportunities that exist for them,” Meyers said.

While both the Unalienable campaign and the DACA clinics are designed to support and advocate for immigrants, organizers also hope they inspire others to be more accepting of people different than them.

“All immigrants, all individuals, all Mississippi residents are necessary for our community,” Tavakol said.

The non-profits want to make differences in neighborhoods, city halls and the state capitol.

“It’s really to facilitate this cultural change that we’d like to see in Mississippi,” Tavakol said. “We can achieve real policy change and cultural change.”

Until that happens, they urge tolerance and understanding toward the state’s immigrants.

“These are folks that are coming not in search of wealth and prosperity but really in search of some of the more fundamental needs that a human has,” Meyers said.

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