What Will You Celebrate This 4th?

A Letter from Executive Director, Bill Holston:

2020 is HRI’s 20th year of operation.

IT’S STRANGE TO BE CELEBRATING a milestone when our nation and each one of us grapples with a profound health, economic, and moral crisis.

COVID-19 has changed so much, but the immigration system grinds on. As an essential business, we continue to come into the office as necessary so that our clients’ cases can move forward. Some of our clients are frontline health workers, providing the care so many need. Others have been hit hard by the health and economic impacts of the public health disaster. Thanks to your generosity, our staff are busy distributing emergency aid like grocery cards, toiletries, and rent and utility assistance.

WHENEVER POSSIBLE, WE ARE WORKING REMOTELY to protect everyone’s health and safety. We’re grateful to have that privilege—one that so many, including the people warehoused in immigration detention centers and criminal custody, do not. In this moment, we’ve been honored to join our voice with our siblings calling for their release. Detention and incarceration should not be a death sentence.

OF COURSE, THE PANDEMIC HAS HIGHLIGHTED ANOTHER INTERCONNECTED MORAL CRISIS: the murder of black people by police officers across the country and the persistent oppression of white supremacy. We’re inspired by the young black leaders pushing for change in our communities, and we’re honored to add our voices to the thunderous reverberation that Black Lives Matter. We continue to evaluate the ways in which we invest our resources and build our programming to create anti-racist spaces and platforms for our black clients. That work is inexorably tied to the battle against the white nationalism that threatens our clients’ rights through the immigration process, as evidenced recently by announced policy changes that threaten the entire asylum law system.

IN THE MIDST OF THIS CHALLENGING MOMENT, we were visited by a personal tragedy: the loss of our co-founder Serena Connelly to cancer. Serena was beloved by our entire staff and Board (and many of you, who honored her with your gifts to us). I have never known a better person than Serena and it is a profound loss to HRI, to our community, and to me personally.

However, even in this context, we have much to celebrate. Your generosity has enabled us to provide the highest quality legal and social services to our clients, who are some of the most vulnerable people in this country, for the last 20 years. We continue to win cases with our great pro bono lawyers. And even during an economic turndown and a pandemic, we have had an outpouring of support from volunteers: translators, doctors, and bi-lingual volunteers making calls to our clients. We are profoundly grateful.

THE TRADITION OF SENDING OUT A JULY 4TH FUNDRAISING LETTER arose from the belief of our founders that HRI’s mission is profoundly patriotic. We celebrate the rule of law, and how our laws benefit people who know firsthand what our freedoms as Americans mean. These include people tortured because of their pro-democracy activity, LGBTQI individuals facing a lifetime of abuse simply for living authentic lives, children escaping gang violence, and women escaping domestic violence. And so we think that the Fourth of July is an excellent time to celebrate our work and to celebrate our clients, who are among the most resourceful and resilient people we know. I’ve been doing this work for over 25 years. It’s always been difficult, but never more than in the last year. Just this week I hung a new piece of art in my office: a print from my friend Bruce Webb. It says, “Unity is Opportunity for All.” We believe that is true. As I write this, the current issue of the Economist, commenting on the protests on our streets, says that America is a country and an idea. We believe that idea is best expressed by making good on the promises of freedom, opportunity, and welcome. We are thankful that you believe that as well, evidenced by your support of our work. Help us to continue to fight for that. LIVES ARE AT STAKE.

A word from Development Director, Jenny Weil:

This is a difficult time for so many of us—individuals and nonprofits alike. Still, so many of you have reached out to share what you can with your neighbors. This is the kind of community that fuels and sustains HRI.

HERE’S WHAT WE WANT YOU TO KNOW: HRI is not reducing services. We’re redoubling our commitment to immigrant rights and dignity. We’re giving more direct aid than ever and finding creative ways to maintain the excellence in representation and advocacy our clients deserve.
If you can, please consider making a monthly commitment to support HRI through what promises to be a challenging year. Every little bit helps, and we recognize every gift as a vote of solidarity.


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