Solidarity with the Central American Exodus

Support Refugees Along the U.S./ Mexico Border

Al Otro Lado – Various Locations

Al Otro Lado is a bi-national legal services organization serving migrants and deportees at the US-México border, undocumented immigrants living in Los Angeles, and detained immigrants in Southern California. We have offices in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Tijuana, Mexico.

The Border Rights Projec​t is one of our pillar projects that has been focused on addressing the manufactured humanitarian crisis at the border. The project has been conducting legal observation at the ports of entry, know your rights presentations, and legal screenings in Tijuana for several years. For many years we have documented human rights violations committed against asylum seekers at the port-of-entry and inside immigration detention centers in southern California.

Al Otro Lado: Current Volunteer Needs

Current VOLUNTEER NEEDS include:

  • Fluent Spanish-speakers willing to take on a variety of roles: teachers, social workers, religious leaders, hospitality, child care…
  • Experienced immigration attorneys (do not need to speak Spanish) who can review legal documentation
  • Proficient Spanish-speakers willing to take on a variety of roles
  • General volunteers who may or may not speak Spanish willing to support wherever needed, including administrative tasks

Fluent Spanish-speakers, law students, DOJ accredited representatives, paralegals, legal workers, mental health professionals and others with deep experience in trauma-informed care, and immigration attorneys with substantial experience are encouraged to apply. Al Otro Lado also needs volunteers who are proficient in Arabic, French, Haitian Creole, and Tigrinya.

All volunteers must be 18 years of age or older to serve with Al Otro Lado’s Border Rights Project. Exceptions can be made for older teenagers (16 and 17 years) volunteering with a parent or legal guardian. Permission must be granted before submitting a volunteer application.

Volunteers do not need to be UU or affiliated with a UU Congregation to participate in this volunteer opportunity. 

Al Otro Lado: Volunteer Logistics

Click here to read the full Al Otro Lado Border Rights Project Applicant Guide

Safety and Security: We do all that we can to ensure that our volunteers are safe during their time here with us. We do our absolute best to make sure we know exactly who is in the building at all times and that no one enters without being registered. As for time spent outside of our building, it is not recommended to walk around alone after dark. The main tourist strip, Calle Revolucion, is generally fairly safe. There is a heavy police presence in many areas of Tijuana; this makes some people feel safer and others feel less secure, depending on how you feel about the police. We cannot guarantee your safety while you are here, but as long as you take reasonable precautions that you would in any big city or place unknown to you, you should be alright. The safety concerns that our clients face, generally do not affect our short-term volunteers. Lastly, while Al Otro Lado’s co-directors are under heightened scrutiny by both Mexico and the US, this is because they are continually suing the government, and is not a concern for short term volunteers.

Passport and Visa Requirements: Volunteers must present a valid US passport book upon entering Mexico on-foot. Visitors will be asked the length of their stay in Tijuana, and will be provided a permit for the length of their stay. When applying for the permit, indicate the length of time that you intend to be in México, and that you are here to volunteer. Read more in the Applicant Guide.

Technology: Before traveling volunteers should contact their cell phone carriers to determine what data plan they should purchase in advance of their trip to allow them to avoid international roaming charges, while at the same time allowing volunteers to use data on their phones for other necessary activities, such as ordering transportation or making a phone call. You will have Wifi available but not at all times and not in all spaces. Read more in the Applicant Guide.

Lodging/ Accommodations: Al Otro Lado does not offer nor arrange volunteer lodging. Securing accommodations for your time in Tijuana will be your responsibility. If you are staying in Tijuana for a longer period of time, you can book an Airbnb for the first few days and then figure out the rest of your stay once you are in town. Searching for an apartment often requires in-person visits, and many apartments advertised online on Craigslist are overpriced and targeted for a wealthy expat or tourist audience. Learn more in the Applicant Guide, including tips on where to stay.

What to Pack: Al Otro Lado staff dress casually, but please also be aware that volunteer are providing legal services to individuals from many different cultures and backgrounds. Dress with this fact in mind. Typical volunteer attire ranges from slacks and blouses to jeans and tidy t-shirts. Wear shoes that you can do a lot of walking and standing in. Most drugstore products that you will need, such as hygiene items, will be available here if needed. Learn more in the Applicant Guide

Al Otro Lado: Other Ways to Volunteer

Email lily@alotrolado.org if you are interested in learning more about internships and fellowships or would like to stay for an extended period of time.

Pro Se Asylum Clinics happen on the third weekend of each month providing asylum seekers who have been sent back to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) an opportunity to receive legal orientation and work with volunteers to fill out their asylum application. 

There are other volunteer opportunities for remote work for those who may not be able to volunteer in Tijuana for five days or longer. If you would like to learn more about these additional volunteer opportunities, make sure you have first completed the Volunteer Profile Application at www.alotrolado.org/volunteer.

If you are interested in providing pro bono legal representation to asylum seekers who have been returned to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols/Remain in Mexico policy, please contact erin@alotrolado.org.

Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas

Annunciation House is a volunteer, non-profit organization providing accompaniment and basic emergency services to asylum seekers at the border. 

Annunciation House is currently not accepting out of town volunteers. Visit their website for more information.

Casa Alitas in Tucson, Arizona

Casa Alitas, also known as the Alitas Program of Catholic Community Services (CCS), is a humanitarian aid project committed to providing assistance to asylum-seekers released from ICE and Border Patrol detention into our community. Volunteers offer support by providing hospitality, including housing, food, clothing, toiletries, advocacy, and travel assistance. Their goal is to provide a welcoming, comfortable, safe and healthy location for the guests to await their journeys, and to prepare them to reunite with family across the country.

Casa Alitas is run by only a few staff and over 1,500 volunteers. Their volunteers come from all over and from all different backgrounds. Some speak Spanish but many do not. Volunteers assist in all areas of service to their families. 

If you’re interested in volunteering at the Casa Alitas Welcome Center they’re always looking for helping hands and there are many types of volunteer opportunities to suit every volunteer. 

Please email casaalitasprogram@gmail.com for more information on upcoming volunteer trainings.

To register for a volunteer training, visit: Casa Alitas Welcome Center Volunteer Orientation RSVP form

Casa Alitas: Volunteer Logistics

Volunteers are responsible for all costs and arranging of lodging, transportation, and meals not offered at Casa Alitas.

To be eligible for volunteering, all prospective volunteers will be screened through the Sexual Offenders National Registry. Registered sex offenders will NOT be allowed to serve at Casa Alitas in any capacity. All prospective volunteers must also present a copy of government issued photo ID.

Due to the volatile nature of the U.S. immigration system we ask for volunteers to remain flexible as plans can change very quickly, even while in Tucson.

Start dates are determined by Casa Alitas after prospective volunteers pass the initial volunteer training run by Casa Alitas.

RAICES in San Antonio, TX

RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) provides free and low-cost education and legal services to underserved immigrant families, children, and refugees in Central and South Texas. Many of these families are fleeing violence from their home countries in Central America and are seeking asylum in the U.S. Volunteers will specifically work within the Karnes Pro-Bono Project at the Karnes County Residential Center.

The RAICES Karnes Pro-Bono Project assigns volunteers directly inside Karnes County Residential Center. Volunteer work includes, but is not limited to conducting intake with clients to assess legal needs, asylum interview prep, and providing “know your rights” information.

Skills needed: All volunteers must be fluent in Spanish (no exceptions). Having a legal background is not necessary for this volunteer work as training will be provided to all volunteers ahead of service. 

Volunteers do not need to be UU or affiliated with a UU Congregation to participate in this volunteer opportunity. 

RAICES: Volunteer Dates

Volunteers must commit to work from Monday to Thursday from 9AM to 8PM for a minimum of one week. 

Due to the volatile nature of the U.S. immigration system we ask for volunteers to remain flexible as plans can change very quickly, even while in San Antonio. 

Start Dates: Mondays beginning in December 2019

RAICES: Cost and Logistics

Volunteers are responsible for their own travel, housing, and meal costs during their volunteer service. Volunteers can choose to stay in San Antonio or Karnes City, closer to the detention facility. Car-pooling with RAICES staff from San Antonio, Texas to Karnes County Residential Center is available at no cost.

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