Voices in Action in America (VIAA) is a grassroots refugee resettlement program that aims to provide assistance and welcome to women who have been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the United States. Through services, leadership training, and community support VIAA seeks to guide these women through some of the toughest moments in their lives, and empower them to speak out and influence the national debate on immigration by making sure their voices are heard.
Amid a global migration crisis, US anti-immigrant sentiment is high and our policies are dramatically distant from the welcoming spirit on which the US was built. Immigration arrests are at their highest levels ever, with immigrants finding themselves imprisoned at higher rates than ever before in our history. Many of the women who are detained have face horrific violence if they return to their home countries. Yet without legal help most are unable to apply for protection in the United States. They struggle to find housing and healthcare, and cope alone with the trauma they have endured in detention and often times in their home countries as well. Thus marginalized, they are unable to influence public conversation or the policy makers who continue to undo the values that have long shaped the US.
VIAA seeks to change this dynamic in New York by offering welcome, support and a community for women who have been detained by ICE through legal help, job training opportunities, and advocacy and leadership development. We help stabilize their lives and insert their voices into the public discourse on immigration. Upon joining the program, each participant is paired with an attorney to handle her immigration case and a trained community-member volunteer to help her and her children adapt to life in New York and connect to available resources. In the future, VIAA also aims to host monthly potluck dinners and cultural outings for participants to foster community and teach them about their place in the United States’ immigrant history. Finally, program participants will undergo training to engage them in VIAA’s governance and advocacy efforts on behalf of their community.