If you’re horrified by news of families being separated at the borders, here’s a bit of news you can use.
First, the policy: It helps to be incredibly clear on what the law is, and what has and has not changed. When Donald Trump and Sarah Huckabee Sanders say that the policy of separating children from their parents upon entry is a law passed by Democrats that Democrats will not fix, they are lying.
There are two different policies in play, and both are new.
First is the new policy that any migrant family entering the U.S. without a border inspection will be prosecuted for this minor misdemeanor. The parents get incarcerated and that leaves children to be warehoused. The parents then typically plead guilty to the misdemeanor and are given a sentence of the few days they served waiting for trial. But then when the parents try to reunite with their children, they are given the runaround—and possibly even deported, alone. The children are left in HHS custody, often without family.
Second is a new and apparently unwritten policy that even when the family presents themselves at a border-entry location, seeking asylum—that is, even when the family is complying in all respects with immigration law—the government is snatching the children away from their parents. Here, the government’s excuse seems to be that they want to keep the parents in jail-like immigration detention for a long time, while their asylum cases are adjudicated. The long-standing civil rights case known as Flores dictates that they aren’t allowed to keep kids in that kind of detention, so the Trump administration says they have to break up the families. They do not have to break up families—it is the government’s new choice to jail people with credible asylum claims who haven’t violated any laws that is leading to the heartbreaking separations you’ve been reading about.
So that is what is happening. Whether or not that is what the Bible demands is the subject of a different column. Good explainers on what is and is not legal detention of immigrants and asylum-seekers can also be found here and here and here.
Next: Which groups to support.
• The ACLU is litigating this policy in California.
• If you’re an immigration lawyer, the American Immigration Lawyers Association will be sending around a volunteer list for you to help represent the women and men with their asylum screening, bond hearings, ongoing asylum representation, etc. Please sign up.
• Al Otro Lado is a binational organization that works to offer legal services to deportees and migrants in Tijuana, Mexico, including deportee parents whose children remain in the U.S.
• 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—provides legal services at family detention centers.
• The Florence Project is an Arizona project offering free legal services to men, women, and unaccompanied children in immigration custody.
• Human Rights First is a national organization with roots in Houston that needs help from lawyers too.
• Kids in Need of Defense works to ensure that kids do not appear in immigration court without representation, and to lobby for policies that advocate for children’s legal interests. Donate here.
• The Legal Aid Justice Center is a Virginia-based center providing unaccompanied minors legal services and representation.
• Pueblo Sin Fronteras is an organization that provides humanitarian aid and shelter to migrants on their way to the U.S.
• RAICES is the largest immigration nonprofit in Texas offering free and low-cost legal services to immigrant children and families. Donate here and sign up as a volunteer here.
• The Texas Civil Rights Project is seeking “volunteers who speak Spanish, Mam, Q’eqchi’ or K’iche’ and have paralegal or legal assistant experience.”
• Together Rising is another Virginia-based organization that’s helping provide legal assistance for 60 migrant children who were separated from their parents and are currently detained in Arizona.
• The Urban Justice Center’s Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project is working to keep families together.
• Women’s Refugee Commission advocates for the rights and protection of women, children, and youth fleeing violence and persecution.
• Finally, ActBlue has aggregated many of these groups under a single button.
This list isn’t comprehensive, so let us know what else is happening. And please call your elected officials, stay tuned for demonstrations, hug your children, and be grateful if you are not currently dependent on the basic humanity of U.S. policy.
Update, June 17, 2018: Thanks to readers who updated us with more organizations fighting this policy. Other good work is being done by the following:
• CLINIC’s Defending Vulnerable Populations project offers case assistance to hundreds of smaller organizations all over the country that do direct services for migrant families and children.
• American Immigrant Representation Project (AIRP), which works to secure legal representation for immigrants.
• CASA in Maryland, D.C., Virginia, and Pennsylvania. They litigate, advocate, and help with representation of minors needing legal services.
• Freedom for Immigrants (Formerly CIVIC), which has been a leading voice opposing immigrant detention.
• The Michigan Immigrant Rights Center represents all of the immigrant kids placed by the government in foster care in Michigan (one of the biggest foster care placement states). About two-thirds are their current clients are separation cases, and they work to find parents and figure out next steps.
• The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project is doing work defending and advancing the rights of immigrants through direct legal services, systemic advocacy, and community education.
• Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights works for the rights of children in immigration proceedings.
• The Women’s Refugee Commission has aggregated five actions everyone can take that go beyond donating funds.
• And finally, the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)—which organizes law students and lawyers to develop and enforce a set of legal and human rights for refugees and displaced persons—just filed suit challenging the cancellation of the Central American Minors program.
Update, June 18, 2018, 8:19 p.m.: Listed below are more organizations that are helping separated families at the border. Thanks again to readers who sent in information:
• Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative has a guide to organizations throughout Texas that provide direct legal services to separated children. Also listed within the guide are resources for local advocates, lawyers, and volunteers.
• 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 direct representation in immigration court to parents and children resettled in New York City and surrounding counties.
• The Kino Border Initiative provides humanitarian aid to refugees and migrants on both sides of the border. They have a wish-list of supplies they can use to help migrants and families staying in the communities they serve.
• The Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network supports undocumented immigrants detained in Aurora, Colorado.
Several companies also match donations—if your company does this, you need to provide the tax ID of the charity you have given to, which is usually listed on these organizations’ websites.
Update, June 19, 2018, 12:58 p.m.: The National Immigrant Justice Center represents and advocates for detained adults and children facing removal, supports efforts at the border, and represents parents in the interior who have been separated from their families as a result of aggressive enforcement.
Update, June 20, 2018, 8:55 p.m.: Here are more organizations sent in by readers. Thanks again to everyone who has contributed.
• Aldea represents families detained by ICE at the Berks detention facility, one of three family-detention centers nationwide.
• Casa Cornelia Law Center provides free legal services to detained and nondetained unaccompanied children in San Diego County.
• The Children’s Immigration Law Academy, based in Houston, trains and provides technical support for lawyers who represent children in immigration cases.
• Grassroots Leadership’s Community Deportation Defense & Bond Fund helps immigrant detainees free themselves from detention.
• Immigrant Defenders Law Center represents detained children facing deportation in California.
• Immigrant Justice Corps is the nation’s only fellowship program dedicated to expanding access to immigration representation; it has been working with detained and nondetained parents and children from Central America since 2015.
• The Immigration Justice Project of San Diego offers free legal representation for detained and nondetained immigrants in deportation proceedings in San Diego and recruits and trains other pro bono lawyers. (It is a joint project of the American Bar Association, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, local law firms, the U.S. Executive Office for Immigration Review, and federal courts).
• Jewish Family Service of San Diego offers legal services and support for refugees and asylum-seekers in San Diego.
• ProBAR (The South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project), based in Harlingen, Texas, provides free legal services to detained asylum-seekers. It recruits, trains, and coordinates the activities of volunteer lawyers, law students, and legal assistants. (It is a joint project of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and is supported by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation.)
• UnLocal is a New York City–based immigration legal-services provider that focuses that represents asylum-seeking families, unaccompanied minors, LGBTQ+ immigrant youth, and other individuals in immigration proceedings. Funds will enable UnLocal attorneys and volunteers to provide on-the-ground assistance to asylum-seekers coming from Central America, including pro bono representation in removal-defense cases, helping parents locate and reconnect with their children, and providing urgent remote attorney and advocate assistance.