Pencils in the Margins | Activism Through Art

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“It Is 2019. The United States Of America Are Operating Concentration Camps.”

Our news feeds are flooded with images and articles reporting the horrific conditions in U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainment centers. Stories of families being ripped apart, people being forced to drink from toilets and children dying in cages because our government has decided to treat them like animals rather than human beings have become all too commonplace for anyone’s liking. You may think that this is a government issue that the only way to fix it is to wait for elections, but in truth, there’s so much more you can do right now that can make a world of difference in these people’s lives. 

Unfortunately, due to intentionally harmful policies currently in place, donating physical items like diapers, food or even soap is a no go, as these detention centers cannot or will not accept physical donations. Not only are they not accepting them, but physical donations are sometimes less effective and more harmful than they seem. You can ship out a box of goods that you hope will reach a child or two, but that box must not only be transported but also distributed effectively so that the right items are going to the right people. No sense in sending formula to a facility full of teenagers, etc., and all this logistics can add up to one big hassle and waste for many charity organizations. Donating physical goods may sound helpful but can be a burden on the very people you’re trying to help. You can also offer to sponsor a detained child, essentially fostering them while they are being processed, but even that can be a lot to ask. Instead, unfortunately, cash is king.

Before you go throwing your credit card info at the first charity you see, however, be sure to do your research. As stated above, ICE Detention Centers are not accepting physical donations, and you probably don’t want to donate money to them directly anyway because the government has already expensed $4.6 billion to border aid. Any charity looking to purchase physical goods is out of luck, but there are other ways you can help. Consider, instead, donating to charities that are funding legal aid for detained immigrants, such as the American Civil Liberties Union or RAICES Texas. Or, if you’re looking for something a bit more tangible, consider checking out Pencils in the Margin.

Pencils in the Margin is a charity organization made up of artists, from all walks of life and art mediums. Their goal is to help fund legal aid and humanitarian shelters to help get these people out of detainment centers and reunite them with their families, and they’re doing through artist commissions. That’s right, you can commission an artist for work based on the amount of money you donate to one of their affiliated charities. Here’s how it works: You choose a charity, donate and keep the digital (or physical) receipt. Then, you choose an artist from their list of donor artists, send them your receipt (minus any personal info) and your request for their work, and they send you whatever they create as a reward for donating. It’s a simple but effective way to convince people to not only support the arts and artists but for the arts community to give back and make a difference. They’ve teamed up with 29 charity organizations along the border, and they have hundreds of artists providing everything from fanfiction to watercolors to animation. What you get is based on how much you donate, but every little bit helps, and every piece is worth it if it means helping to end American concentration camps.

“All of this can be overwhelming, but anybody with a modicum of human empathy knows that this can’t be tolerated.”

Sarah Nowack is a senior professional writing major who is minoring in graphic design. Her days are spent haunting the local library, consuming copious amounts of coffee, playing unpopular video games, and making terrible puns. She can be found at @battlerouge on Twitter and @shiverbound on Instagram.

Tags: ACLU, charity, donation, ICE, immigrants, Pencils in the Margins, Texas