The Beginning of BASIC

Above: Breaking The ICE, Berkshires/BASIC event

There was a certain despair and concern among immigrants, and it was not unfounded, given the anti-immigrant rhetoric that former President Trump used throughout his campaign.

After Republican candidate Donald Trump won the 2016 election, members of the Berkshire County immigrant community and agencies that worked with them worried about what was to come during his term. There was great concern because of the anti-immigrant rhetoric that Donald Trump used throughout his campaign. Many wondered which of his more radical promises, like deporting three million “criminal aliens” and building a “beautiful wall” on the border, paid for by Mexico, might come true.


Given these concerns, Ilana Steinhauer, executive director of Volunteers in Medicine (VIM), and Neil Hirsch, rabbi of the Hevreh synagogue, came up with the idea of creating an organization to support immigrants. This is how members of our community and representatives of local organizations and agencies that serve immigrants, such as BIC, LitNet, BCAC, 18 Degrees, and BCC created BASIC (Berkshire Advocacy and Support for the Immigrant Community) with the intention of uniting efforts to fight against any anti-immigrant measures, and if possible stop any mass deportation attempts. Fortunately, the massive deportations that were so feared never came; however, the group managed to grow, consolidate, and define its focus, to serve immigrants better and more efficiently across the county. 


To accomplish this goal, the group began planning Breaking the Ice, an event that took place in February 2020 and brought together more than 200 immigrants from the Berkshires area. The goal of this event was to hear directly from immigrants about their lives; what had worked for them, and what could be improved. The information obtained from this event was analyzed and used for future grant opportunities and to inform the work of BASIC. This event was intended to provide a safe space amid turbulent and confusing times. Participants told BASIC that the event was a warm and friendly reminder to them that they were not alone in their experiences and that there were other people and agencies out there looking out for their welfare and rights.

Since its inception, the main principal that fuels BASIC is the pursuit of the integral well-being of all immigrants.



With the onset of the Pandemic in March of 2020, BASIC’s work became even more necessary, as the pandemic brought to light  the large number of inequities to which the immigrant population  is vulnerable. During the first year of the Pandemic, as unemployment and the exclusion of the government stimulus  package for many in the immigrant community (especially the  undocumented) many immigrants lost all opportunities to  generate income that would help them stay afloat during this time. With that urgent concern in mind, the group began to educate the immigrant community in their native languages about Covid 19, get information about pandemic resources out to the immigrant community, and distribute financial help.

The lack of good information and support provided in schools to immigrant students and their families was another of the major problems that became evident during the pandemic. For this  reason, BASIC began to advocate for better information and support for remote learning for English learners and their families

Later, with the arrival of the vaccine against COVID, the members of BASIC organized vaccination campaigns specifically for immigrants, making the vaccine and information about COVID easily accessible to the immigrant community. In the first campaign, more than 400 immigrants were vaccinated and in the subsequent campaign more than 200.


With each one of these efforts the motor that has moved BASIC since its inception is the pursuit of the integral well-being of all immigrants and the accessibility to the existing resources in Berkshire County. It is the reason why the group remains active. This website is a natural continuation of BASIC’s mission to bring justice, equity, and accessibility to the immigrant community in Berkshire County.