Reframing the Immigration Debate: How the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition Retooled its Communications Strategy

Sep 10, 2007
This case study chronicles the story of MIRA, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, and their energetic communications operation. With more than 100 organizational members, MIRA is a dynamic, multi-ethnic, multi-racial coalition that actively involves grassroots immigrant organizations, human services agencies, legal service providers, religious groups and human rights groups in cooperative efforts to improve the lives of immigrants and refugees.
  • In hindsight we should have considered nationalizing the response to a local event right from the start, using existing networks. In the heat of the response, we did not think of making New Bedford a national cause until nearly three weeks after the raid.
  • In hindsight we should have engaged bona fide crisis response organizations such as the American Red Cross - Within hours MIRA and partner organizations were transformed into humanitarian aid organizations working on a 24/7 social, political and media cycle.
  • In hindsight we should have connected the political with the legal. As the response moved into weeks three and four, the humanitarian aid side of the story subsided, and a legal team led by Greater Boston Legal Services crafted an innovative strategy that disputed ICE's authority to transport detainees out of state.
  • In hindsight we should have engaged African-American and other religious leadership at a national level. Today's immigration raids are reminiscent of historical conflicts between the police and marchers of the civil rights movement.
  • Philanthropy can improve grantees' communications skills by asking prospective grantees what communications plans they have in place for the project you are being asked to support. If there are no such plans, consider it a "red flag.”
  • Philanthropy can improve grantees' communications skills by inquiring about their ongoing institutional support for communications. Do they have a communications office? Or do they contract with communications professionals?
  • Philanthropy can improve grantees' communications skills by providing communications training for the executive director and members of senior staff. Philanthropy can improve grantees' communications skills by bringing cohorts of grantees together to discuss their communications plans and strategies around particular issue campaigns.
  • Philanthropy can improve grantees' communications skills by supporting communications activities as an essential core to any proposal budget.
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