//Green Card Activism: how to get involved as an immigrant

Germany. The Philippines. Vietnam. Guyana. China. USA.

These are the countries represented in our office, this diversity is what makes us stronger, and it’s what gives us the foreground to engage in conversations that matter – we inspire each other with our unique perspectives and we challenge each other to look through different lenses.

In our COVID-19 world of virtual meetings, we’ve also opened more doors to discuss what matters to each of us. The passion for social justice that started with just a few expanded to the rest in our open online office setting.

As a team, we are comprised of six immigrants and the rest are ‘Born in the USA Americans. That being said, all six immigrants have been calling the United States their home for quite some time – this country isn’t just one of their stops along the roadway of life, this country is their home and they care about what happens here. They care about who’s in that big white house, they care about equal rights, they care about the fight for justice, and they wish to see success for this country they now call home.

With non-US citizens, permanent legal residents, and visa holders on our team, we asked ourselves: How can you help make changes when you can’t vote? How can you protest with your neighbors without risking confrontations with law enforcement that could affect your immigration status?

How can someone actively push change when restricted?

I’ve got two words for you – mutual aid.

The Climate Justice Alliance describes mutual aid as the collective actions it takes to support community well-being and reaffirm that all lives have inherent value. With the main mutual aid principle being “Solidarity Not Charity“, this leans into the sentiment that charity plays into social and systemic imbalances.

Dean Spade, who taught a course at the University of Chicago titled “Queer and Trans Mutual Aid for Survival and Mobilization,” further states that charity differentiates those who have from those who need and puts those who have in a position of power to make decisions about how to meet other’s needs. Mutual aid emphasizes working cooperatively to meet each others needs.

Charity addresses the symptoms of systemic issues, while mutual aid analyzes the causes of issues and aims to boost a community through relations and long term societal support. Mutual aid is a pure, genuine, boots-on-the-ground way to support your community – so participate in mutual aid funds! Contribute to boosting the longevity of your community.

Now that mutual aid has been broken down, I can reel it back in a bit and divulge into what exactly can be done when a compassionate activist isn’t a citizen.


If you want to spread some monetary love, do it purposefully. Make sure you know where your money is going. Look into mutual aid funds relative to the causes you’re passionate about. Below are just a few ideas of where to start:

Sign petitions!

As a non-citizen, you can sign unofficial petitions, such as those on Change.org, since they don’t have any direct connection to the government. So if these are unofficial, why sign? Signing shows solidarity, helps grow the numbers in a big picture sense, and you are able to share the signed petition to further spread the voice for change across your own social platforms. Some petition starting points below:

Protest – but do it right!

Protesting can be risky. But if you want to protest anyway, make sure you do it safely and know your rights. Real Simple and The North Star highlight peaceful protesting tips and lay out your rights – we’ve summed them up for you below:

Tips for safely protesting:
  • Know the logistics. The protest organizers often share all of the details you need including the route, timing, and speakers. The more you know, the more you can anticipate the outcome.
  • Use the buddy system. Don’t attend a protest alone, attend with a friend or two and coordinate a meeting spot in case you guys get separated.
  • Have emergency contact info handy. It’s recommended to write this info on your arm with sharpie just in case you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have your phone.
  • Be mindful that we’re still in the midst of a pandemic. Social distancing while protesting is kind of difficult, so make sure to generously, and frequently, sanitize your hands. Also, wearing a mask goes without saying, but you should pack a few extras in case the one you’re wearing gets too sweaty or damaged.
Understand your rights in case you do have a run-in with law enforcement:
  • You have the right to remain silent. If you do choose to remain silent, say so out loud. 
  • You may refuse a search. You don’t need to consent to being searched, but an officer can pat you down if they suspect you have a weapon. 
  • You have the right to speak to a lawyer. You can refuse to sign any and all paperwork until you have the chance to speak to a lawyer. 
  • Do not lie about your immigration status or provide fake documents. You can refuse to show documentation that says what country you are from.

So I think we can agree

Immigrants have limitations, but options, too. Even when feeling stuck in a room of locked doors, there’s bound to be a window or two that can be pushed open.

//A Houseparty everyone is invited to

Social distancing and quarantine are our current reality. People are working from home and meetings have been moved online. In our social life, virtual happy hours have basically replaced all other forms of social interactions and the platform options are plenty – from FaceTime and WhatsApp video calling to Zoom and Teams.

The current talk of town, however, is Houseparty. An app that has seen a surge in downloads from 130,000 a week in late February to over two million a week in late March, right after social distancing and shelter in place orders have been issued around the world.

Houseparty has been around since late 2016 and back then, Forbes has hailed it as the latest teen hangout rivaling Snapchat by offering “spontaneous togetherness.” However, the app remained mostly in the realms of Gen Z. Four years later, Houseparty is now getting attention from all sorts of demographics given the newly gained free time and also the need for an engaging way to digitally connect amidst the Covid 19 pandemic.

Be prepared for people to pop onto your screen

One of Houseparty’s features that sets it apart from other video chat apps: Games

The concept is simple: Houseparty is a video chat app for friends. But how does it differ from other video chats? The idea is that when you are “online” (= you’re actively using the app), your friends can automatically join you. Meaning, they will pop right onto your screen without you having to accept the call. You should therefore be prepared whenever you open the app, because at any time a friend could appear on your screen and your camera would automatically turn on.

Your friends will be notified that you just “entered the house” when you log in. The app allows you to turn off those notifications or alternatively, “lock your room” which then requires you to invite someone for a conversation. That would, however, neutralize Houseparty’s unique proposition of spontaneous connections. The idea is that being notified of a friend entering the house will prompt an unplanned conversation, therefore leading to increased interactions.

Up to eight people can join one party which allows you to meet friends of friends by spontaneously joining their ongoing conversations as long as they didn’t lock the room. Houseparty also offers a gaming feature that clearly sets it apart from the competition. Currently, you can choose between Pictionary, trivia quizzes, a game called ‘Chips and Guac’ that resembles a simplified version of Cards Against Humanity, and Heads Up.

An ad-free oasis or the next marketing channel?

Given its surge in users, the question right now is how much longer Houseparty will remain an oasis for private conversations between friends before it turns into another marketing channel. Co-founder and COO Sima Sistani told The Verge that the company “hopes to profit by selling products that enhance the time people spend together in the app” instead of selling ad space. They do that by offering paid-for gaming add-ons such as packs of words for the Heads Up game.

Brands are, however, trying to find ways to join the party. Just this week, Chipotle is running a promotion offering free food for people’s next Houseparty. Even though Chipotle is not using Houseparty for the promotion itself, but Instagram, the fast food chain is aiming to exploit the current popularity of Houseparty.

Marketing website ‘The Drum’ predicts that traditional ads won’t work for the app but formats need to be bespoke. Suggestions include brand-sponsored games or influencer campaigns that offer exclusive video chats with brand ambassadors.

Will it outlive the virus?

The app offers a fun way to spontaneously connect with friends and will probably initiate more face-to-face interactions, which is important and helpful in our current situation where social distancing is key. It will be interesting to see, though, if people will keep bouncing between houseparties once we are all out and about again in real life with less time and most likely with texting returning as the main form of digital communications.