How You Can Help Separated Families on World Refugee Day

On World Refugee Day, many Americans have started feeling helpless about the immigrant crisis happening on our own shores. With scores of misinformation floating around — much of it perpetrated and spread by the president himself — it helps to know exactly what’s going on. Before we can jump into action, we have to parse out the facts, separate from the propaganda.

The real story behind zero tolerance

Protestors Across US Rally Against Separation Of Immigrant Children From Fa

Immigrant rights advocates participate in a rally. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Since the beginning of May, President Donald Trump has ordered a zero tolerance on illegal border crossings. The Justice Department explains that it will prosecute any migrant family entering the U.S. without a border inspection. That means the parents go to incarceration to await trial, and the children go to separate warehouses.

Through that system, it often becomes incredibly difficult for their parents to locate them even after their trials, assuming the adults don’t get deported alone. That can result in long-term separation, panicked kids and parents, and those “lost children” you’ve heard about.

In asylum cases, people seek to enter the U.S. to escape prosecution. While traditionally the government has taken a less strict stance on adjudicating those right away, Trump has changed that. Now, the government has decided to keep the adults in immigration detention to await hearings. However, a civil rights case called Flores dictates that they can’t detain minors for that long. Trump’s administration has used that loophole to break up families.

How you can help

If all of this makes your heart ache, you have good company. Many human rights groups and organizations both here and abroad have banded together to help out. If you have legal or translation training, you have an especially helpful position. But if you just want to put your money where your mouth is, you can do that, too. Slate has compiled an excellent list of where to go, but let’s break it down into digestible categories.

Use these one-stop shops to start

If you have legal training

  • The American Immigration Lawyers Association plans to create a list of volunteer immigration lawyers to help out. They will send people to help represent women and men with asylum screenings, bond hearings, representation, and more. If this sounds like you, sign up at the link.
  • CARA—a consortium of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, the American Immigration Council, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association — also provides legal services. Contact them to see what you can do.
  • The Florence Project, an Arizona organization, offers free legal services to people in immigration custody. Depending on your licensure, you may also have the ability to volunteer here.
  •  Human Rights First, a national organization with roots in Houston, also needs help from lawyers.
  • Kids in Need of Defense has an especially strong need right now. That organization works to make sure kids don’t have to appear in immigration court without representation. It also lobbies for policies that advocate in support of children’s legal interests. Donate here.
  •  The Legal Aid Justice Center, a Virginia-based organization, also provides unaccompanied minors legal services and representation.
  • RAICES, the largest immigration nonprofit in Texas, offers free and low-cost legal services to immigrant children and families. Donate here and sign up as a volunteer here.
  • Together Rising, another Virginia-based organization, currently helps provide legal assistance for 60 migrant children detained in Arizona. They might need lawyers, too.
  • American Immigrant Representation Project (AIRP), works to secure legal representation for immigrants. Check in with them, to see if they need volunteers, too.

If you can’t make it to the border yourself

  • The Kino Border Initiative provides humanitarian aid to refugees and migrants on both sides of the border. If you have deep pockets, they have a wish-list of supplies they need to help migrants and families.
  • CLINIC’s Defending Vulnerable Populations project offers case assistance to hundreds of smaller organizations all over the country. If you have legal experience, check with them to see if they provide direct services for migrant families and children near you.
  • Immigrant Justice Corps is the nation’s only fellowship program dedicated to expanding access to immigration representation. Some IJC fellows work at the border, and others work in New York, providing representation in immigration court. If you have roots in NYC, this might also make a good place to start.
  • Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative offers a guide to organizations throughout Texas that provide direct legal services to children. That guide also provides resources for local advocates, lawyers, and volunteers.
  • CASA in Maryland, D.C., Virginia, and Pennsylvania litigates, advocates, and helps with representation for minors needing legal services. If you live in those areas, you can help.

If you can translate

  • The Texas Civil Rights Project seeks volunteers who speak Spanish, Mam, Q’eqchi’, or K’iche’ and have paralegal or legal assistant experience. Even if you just have those language skills, contact them to see if you can help, too.
  • Pueblo Sin Fronteras provides humanitarian aid and shelter to migrants on their way to the U.S. They can also use people with non-English language skills.

Everyone should do this

No matter where you live, or what your financial situation looks like, you can call your elected officials.
Several companies also match donations. Check to see if yours does. If so, you have to provide the tax ID of the charity you have given to. That number will usually appear on the organizations’ websites. Recognize World Refugee Day by helping those in need on our own shores. Help starts at home.

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