Bay Area Border Relief


Former Commonweal Program Director Heather Sarantis is just returning from doing humanitarian relief work for asylum seekers near the Texas-Mexico border through Bay Area Border Relief. Heather shares her story here:

I had been accepted to do support at Annunciation House, a respite center in El Paso, and was waiting to hear the dates they needed me. But with President Trump’s changes in asylum laws (barring nearly all asylum seekers from entering the US to await their hearing) the respite center no longer needed volunteers, so my trip was cancelled. There was simply no one to serve in the US. Everyone was just sitting in Mexico waiting to get asylum appointments.

At the last minute I was invited to go with Bay Area Border Relief (BABR) (a project of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation) and University of San Francisco (USF) (School of Education as well as the School of Nursing, International and Multicultural Education and Migration Studies). Together they have done several trips to McAllen, TX where there is another well-established respite center, the Humanitarian Respite Center, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley (run by Sister Norma Seni Pimentel). Again, the change in asylum policies meant that this center that once served hundreds of people (maybe even up to a thousand) a day with food, shelter, clothing, a shower and a safe place was no longer able to provide these much needed services. They were getting about 7 people a day at the time of our trip. Continue reading

Fires and Blackouts are the New Normal. Are we ready?

From Stanley Wu, Commonweal Resilience Project Coordinator


When Pacific Gas and Energy (PGE) was determined to be responsible for the devastating Camp Fire that killed at least 86 people and resulted in tens of billions in damage, they filed for bankruptcy and changed their tactics. The public outrage over their recent CEO bonuses, lobbying, and political investments rather than fixing old and accident-prone infrastructure, was swift and accurate.

That was last year. Today as I write this in the dark at home, 185,000 people are being evacuated just north of San Francisco, and PGE has shut off electrical power to 1.3 million people. Potentially historic winds and low humidity at the end of a dry summer can develop almost any spark into a life-threatening fire that can spread faster than you can run. PGE has calculated that dealing with the public and political outrage, and plummeting stock, is cheaper than being responsible for another catastrophic fire. Continue reading

Why The New School Needs Your Help

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Dear TNS Friends:

We authentically need your help. For many years we have managed our modest TNS budget with the support of a few core funders and generous small contributions from many of you. Over the past few years, our wonderful core funders (deep gratitude to them!) have moved on to other interests, and the small contributions thus far aren’t filling the gap.

So we either need a few more core funders to show up–or we need an army of small contributors to keep TNS afloat–or some combination of the two.

We fully intend to stay afloat. But you need to know our situation. Continue reading