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The COVID-19 pandemic, in combination with the Trump administration’s anti-immigration policies, has led to policy shifts and temporary bans that essentially ended asylum and refugee resettlement in the United States for the period from 2019 to 2021. Regional organizations, however, have continued to sponsor refugees and provide community-based educational, employment, and material support work. In the Tri-State area of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, local pockets of resistance initiated grass-roots programs such as COVID-19 Relief Funds, the Mask Making Initiative, the Lighthouse, and the Fun Club. The text investigates these programs and the four humanitarian NGOs in which they are housed, through the lens of ‘constructive resistance’, especially the works of Mona Lilja, Majken Jul Sørensen, and Minoo Koefoed. Situated between the politics of governance (Maiguashca 2003) and individual and grass-roots forms of resistance, this paper looks at local reactions that led to projects aiming at actively remaking community. The four projects exemplify the communities’ efforts to create humanitarian and localized structures of compassion, by developing programs that assist and help those individuals who were exposed to the most aggressively exclusivist policies of the Trump administration.
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