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How to Be An Active Ally for Refugees and Immigrants

by Grace Bonney

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from working here at Design*Sponge for the past 12 years, it’s that every person’s story deserves to be heard, understood and respected. When our community embraces a richly diverse group of people from all backgrounds, religions, ages, races, abilities, identities and points of view, we all benefit. Lately there’s been a lot of talk about immigration, refugees and what it means to feel safe at home. I know some will feel those discussions don’t belong here, but all I can see are the millions of ways in which those conversations intersect what we do here every day when we discuss homes, businesses and how families live and love. Our creative community is made up of thousands upon thousands of people who came here from other countries, and our goal at D*S will always be to welcome them into our homes, online and off. Because my personal life is devoted to social and activist causes (if you don’t follow us on Instagram, that is where most of those posts live), I’ve been hearing from people who would like advice or guidance on how to be an active ally to those directly affected by changing immigration and refugee policies.

So today I teamed up with Libby VanderPloeg (who has been an incredible example of someone using their art to inspire activism and discussion) to create a practical guide for being an active ally to immigrants and refugees in your community. The key word here is active, because so many people are seeking concrete ways to help, so we spoke with experts at several organizations to create a list of 8 actions you can take, no matter where you live, to help out. The most important thing is to listen first, so be sure to check out the end of our video above for ways to plug into your local immigrant and refugee community to hear what they need help with most right now. Thank you to Joshua Gershman at the International Rescue Committee for his guidance and feedback on this video. xo, grace




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  • What about being an ally to those currently living in these same countries where the US has been actively contributing to refugee crises through endless war, drone strikes, regime change, etc.?

    • Kathleen

      You should absolutely support those communities. But it’s not a logical argument to make that you can’t do one and the other at the same time. I find this is a common response to calls to action- people asking why you’re not acting on behalf of a different group. You can most certainly do both and the groups I call attention to in this video (especially the IRC) and in my frequent social media posts work with international refugees here in the US and abroad. If you’d prefer to support international groups first (I think any help is better than no help), I would highly suggest the IRC: https://www.rescue.org/

      With love,


      • I am not talking about a different group. I am talking about the same people of Yemen, Libya, etc. who have driven out of their countries because of US aggression. Where were the calls to action over the past 8 years?

  • Really Grace? There have been plenty of people who have spoken out. It just wasn’t at the forefront. You are just picking a fight. Grow up! Anything that gets people involved and helping is a good thing.

    • Kristin

      I’m sorry, I’m confused- who am I picking a fight with here? Who did I say wasn’t speaking out about something? I’m honestly really confused.


  • Seek information from independent news sources as these topics tend to be underreported/misreported in the corporate media. Put pressure on your politicians and don’t assume that if someone has the letter “D” after their name that they have a peaceful agenda. These problems didn’t start with the orange man. Question everyone and everything. Get involved in the antiwar movement in your community. I’m in Philly and the Brandywine Peace Community organizes protests at a local military base where drone strikes are launched. The Green Party has a platform of non-violence and social justice and host events and opportunities to organize.

  • Your post is well-appreciated, speaking for myself, and I hope many others who read your blog. We are a free country that has opened it’s arms throughout our history. Now, fear has swept this nation to a frenzy. Rare is the citizen who ancestors landed here on the Mayflower. The original citizens (our native Americans)have suffered from the same fear and inciteful rhetoric as we hear now.
    Your voice along with all of us who feel we must speak out and reach out adds to the strength needed to surmount this shameful action to all immigrants. Thank you.

  • While I do have sympathy for those who are trying to leave there country and coming from a father who immigrated into the US I can truly understand. That being said my father became a citizen, served this country, became a master electrician. If these immigrates are going to come to this country they need to become legal citizens and pledge there allegiance to this country. I see more of flag burning and honoring there flag and not US flag.

    • Sylvia

      Can you explain to me why you think refugees aren’t interested in becoming citizens? And why do you correlate refugees and immigrants with flag burning? I’d love to see any facts from legitimate news sources that back up those particular claims.

      I understand why anyone who went through the citizenship process would want others to do the same, but I don’t think it’s accurate to say that immigrants and refugees aren’t hoping to get a chance at that process.

      According to the US government, most refugees are given the option to apply (which still may take years to finalize) for citizenship within 5 years of making it to the US. I think too often the path to citizenship is made to seem like a simple “apply and you’re in” process, but as I’m sure you father knows, it’s not that easy.


  • Grace, as always you have a brilliant idea. In my opinion our country is in the midst of ignoring the core issue, focusing instead on us against them. It seems to me that simple actions can bring us out of this conundrum and propel us into the space of doing something positive. thank you for the site information on IRC. i found it very helpful and will be looking into how i can get involved, in addition to your other suggestions. Thank you for your patience and gentleness in dealing w/some people who seem to be filled w/ a great deal of angst and anger. by the way 100,000 people w/lawful visas were turned away from the US by Trump.

  • Thank you Grace, for always using your platforms to fight for what’s right. Your Instagram feed in particular has been a great resource and destination for solidarity + strength lately.

  • Beautiful message and a lovely video. The root of all of this is kindness, and we need to practice it more.