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How to Help Immigrant Families Facing Separation at The Border

Most advocacy groups are still looking for reliable translators and legal professionals.

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As recent reports have made extremely clear, the conditions for migrant men, women, and children held at our southern border are atrocious. Our government is separating families and detaining them in facilities that, per the reports, are overcrowded, filthy, and extremely dangerous. Last week Trump Administration officials argued with judges in court about whether they were required by law to provide detainees with toothbrushes and soap, the New York Times reported. It’s easy to feel angry about the severity of this situation, harder to figure out just what to do about out. But there’s plenty to be done. From calling your representatives to volunteering your time, here are some things you can do right now.  

Contact Your Elected Official

Calling your officials is anecdotally known to be more effective than writing, emailing or posting about an issue. While your call will almost certainly be taken by a staffer, they often document your position and pass the message along to your representative. Staffers and representatives alike say that it’s often a flood of calls that pushes them to take action, The New Yorker reported

Head  to USA.gov to figure out how to contact the offices of legislators all across the country. There’s even a number for the White House switchboard. Another great resource is a website called 5calls.org, which allows users to search for their representatives by zip code and find which officials are most influential on a given topic. The site also has phone scripts tailored to different issues, which nervous callers can read aloud to representatives. This one urges lawmakers to demand an inquiry into the health and safety of detention centers. 

Donate to These Organizations 

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  • Besides filing and winning the case which made family separations illegal, The American Civil Liberties Union has ongoing lawsuits for reunification of families and an end to the return to Mexico policy. While donations to the ACLU won’t go directly to children in detention centers, they’ll help fund the court battles that are challenging the most harmful policies.
  • The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Service (RAICES), is a Texas based nonprofit which provides legal services to immigrants and refugees. At one detention center in Texas, they help women and children prepare for the “credible fear” interviews which determine whether or not they will be allowed to continue pursuing asylum. Donations can help pay bonds which release parents from jail to their children. Many parents have been held on $5-10,000 bonds, which present near impossible barriers to reunification. Many have taken to Twitter to urge people to donate to RAICES and offering to match their donations.
  • South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (PROBAR)  provides free legal counsel, education and representation for the more than 1,000 immigrant children in detention centers across Texas. They educate unaccompanied detained children on their rights, and refer them to social services once they’re released. Donations help fund the legal services that can help migrant children get out of detention centers and move on with their lives. 

Know What Skills You Can Have That Can Help

Many of the organizations seeking out donations are also on the hunt for translators, lawyers, law students, and legal aids as they sift through the thousands of cases. 

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Probar is looking for spanish speaking lawyers and translators near Harlingen and the Rio Grande Valley (for more information, email volunteer@abaprobar.org). Smaller groups working close to the ground like the Texas Civil Rights Project are in need of translators who speak Spanish, Q’eqchi, and Mam. RAICES needs volunteer lawyers in the San Antonio area. American Gateways needs volunteer lawyers to represent immigrants and refugees throughout Texas.

Those located outside of Texas and without legal skills can still help. The Young Center For Immigrant Children’s Rights trains child advocates to visit with children, attend their court dates, make recommendations on their behalf and help the child think through legal decisions. The Immigration Justice Campaign is looking for volunteers with different skill levels all across the US, including remote volunteer positions. Freedom For Immigrants is also looking for volunteers across the US (some remote) to help with fundraising, supporting the hotline, visiting immigrants in detention, hosting asylum seekers, providing transportation and more. Kids In Need Of Defense is currently looking for a spanish translator in the Atlanta and Baltimore offices. And the ACLU accepts volunteers and has chapters nationwide. 

Know the Law

Our immigration system is broken, and for every person who understands that what’s happening at the border is an atrocity, there are several more who don’t recognize that people seeking asylum are not breaking the law. Under international human rights law, a person seeking asylum should be allowed to enter and stay in a country while their status is pending. Current U.S. policy allows asylum seekers to be sent back to Mexico, which legal advocates say limits migrants’ access to legal services and forces them to face overcrowded shelters and possible violence. They’re also required to keep detainees in “safe and sanitary” facilities, a standard which many, many centers are failing to meet. Spread the word that what’s going on at our borders is not normal and certainly not okay.

You can also help inform individuals of their rights when interacting with ICE, which Trump has promised will be conducting raids nationally in the coming weeks. If ICE agents come to a  home or place of work or stop someone during travel, they have the right to remain silent. They do not have to answer questions or consent to a search of their person or belongings. They have the right to make a call and speak with their attorney. Though ICE is not required to provide a lawyer, those apprehended may ask for a list of low-cost ones. 

The American Civil Liberties Union website offers situation specific rights and recommendations. There are also these guides from the National Immigration Project, available in English and Spanish. You can share these on social media and display them in public places. This guide from Informed Immigrant contains detailed information and resources on everything from locating family members who’ve been detained to finding mental health resources. 

Report ICE Raids

Anyone  can report an ICE raid to United We Dream by calling 1-844-363-1423 or sending a text message to 877877. Reporting the raid helps immigration advocacy organizations learn more about when and why ICE raids occur, and can help them reach those in need of services. 

Let Immigration Inform Your Vote

Don’t let the issue of immigration pass with the news cycle. Read up on where elected officials and presidential candidates stand on immigration, and let their voting history inform yours.