Things are tense out there. ICE is holding mass deportation raids, scientists and lawyers are being detained by US customs, pets and lab animals are at risk from a newly incautious USDA, and hate crimes are now emboldened on the ground thanks to the rhetoric spewing from above. What can you do?
Two things: First install Buoy Up. This isn’t just to make us happy, either – being able to donate in the moment will help make all this bad news feel better, one click at a time, we promise (and it’s so easy).
Second: make a plan of action. If you expect the best outcome from all of this but prepare for the worst, your family will be safer in the long run.
What you can do right now to prep:
Travel (at home and abroad)
If you have the monetary means to do so, the best way to protect yourself when crossing borders is not to have your devices on you at all. This means either a. buying a second set of devices that has no data, no apps, no software other than the basics, not tied to your personal email, cloud, or social accounts, or b. carrying nothing and going completely analog (real books for passing the time FTW!).
It also helps to know your rights. Keep in mind, however, that knowing your rights can mean long detentions in a windowless room in hopes that you’ll cave and give up passwords. If you can’t go without your device(s) and you are forced to give up a password or fingerprint access to your phone, it’s best if you’ve wiped the phone before leaving your house. Even then your data may be at risk (note, this risk applies to stops by the police when traveling in the states as well).
If you are a permanent resident, green card holder, or otherwise legal immigrant start carrying proof with you at all times. It sucks that it has gone this far, but it has. Other ideas, including having a cash reserve and medication stockpiled, come from this DREAMer.
One last tip: when you enter customs let someone know, and when you exit customs, let someone know. This way, if you are too long in replying, someone (preferably a lawyer or someone who has access to a lawyer on your behalf) is aware that they should follow up.
School is key here for two reasons: in a natural disaster or man made disaster situation (thinking of any future Reichstag‘s here), having a plan to reunite with your family is essential. Additionally, with ICE raids happening at schools where parents are trying to pick up the very children ICE is about to separate them from, it’s essential your kids have a safe place to go with an alternate, predetermined guardian if you are detained; otherwise they may end up in the system after you are deported. This is a good starter plan from Tolerance.org.
Pets and livestock are under attack on a few fronts right now. The first is a loss of protection from bad corporate actors. With the current administration wanting to remove protections for animal food quality in addition to removing vital data on animal abuse, the immediate threat to your beloved pet is one of poisoned food. We’ve had several recalls in recent months of pet food, and removing the ability to recall a food for safety puts your pets at risk right now, today. Have a plan for how to make your pets food from regular items you can buy at the grocery store near you, just in case pet food becomes unstable. Also, have an evacuation plan in case you need to move quickly due to a disaster (natural or otherwise). This should not only include a pre-determined destination and real cash money, but go bags full of food and supplies for both you and your pets.
Pets, livestock, and animals at testing facilities are also at risk right now, and I don’t have good advice on hand for how to protect against this yet. However, Keith Olbermann did a great video talking about some of the issues animals are being faced with now.
Thinking about how to protect your home is complex. The biggest issue right now for immigrants (legal and otherwise) comes from outside the home. This essential guide from the ACLU is good to keep on hand (and you can get wallet cards on their website as well).
Another level of threat comes from the potential for data breaches and spying from any of your devices: IoT, computer, multi media, home automation, or mobile. The best route to protection is not to have them in the case of IoT and multi media devices, but it’s hard to say no to the fun of Alexa, a Fire stick, or a smart TV, even if they could be listening in. Another point of risk is your home automation devices (wifi lightbulbs, smart thermostats, smart electric meters).
No company has agreed to make their devices tamper-proof yet, and no standards have been put in place (we all saw what happened with the IoT last year, so it’s not from lack of awareness of the issue). What can you do? Norton has created a router called Core, designed to protect your IoT devices, that might be a great start. You should also change the log in and password for any device that allows that, and create a separate network for your devices as well – one that is password protected.
Going the extra mile to protect your data on your phone, tablet, and computer is essential. There are many guides out there currently, but this one from Pro Publica is easy to understand. Sure, some of the ideas are kind of a pain and make things take longer, but your digital safety is worth it.
Our last category is a bit of a catch-all. It covers communication itself, but also consumption of news, how we talk to friends and family, and other communication categories. First and foremost, always try to keep your communication secure, especially if you have decided to be an active resistor to the current tides of hate and repression. Here are several posts that outline protections for activists that you may find useful: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Next, consume news from reliable sources, and don’t be afraid to subscribe to good sources with your hard earned money – it’s how we keep them alive and reporting. Last, but not least, ramp up those media literacy skills. Being able to tell real from fake news and follow fake news to its source so you understand who stands to gain from its spread will be one of the things that could turn this tide back to diversity and inclusion.
We hope these tips and links were helpful. If they were, please share via your favorite platform below so we can all work together to help more people. Thanks in advance!
image courtesy Hipster Mom on Unsplash