In the spring, the Trump Administration — via the Department for Homeland Security — enacted a “zero-tolerance” policy for any immigrants who enter the United States without proper documentation. For the past few weeks, media and news coverage focused on the events occurring at the United States and Mexico border and unearthed photographs of inhumane conditions at detention centers.
Children were being separated from their parents. The developing story focused mainly on the violations of human rights occurring at the southern border and the separation of approximately 2,700 families. This lack of reunited families urged organizations and individuals to fight to change the system; since progress has been made in reuniting immigrant families.
Stories of Progress
- Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services provides legal assistance to detained immigrants and minors and is based in El Paso, Texas. The organization uses a database to see if children have been, or currently are, in El Paso to start the process of reconnecting children with their families.
- Charlotte and Dave Willner started a fundraiser on Facebook after they saw the picture of a toddler crying as her mother was detained at the border. The couple’s goal was to raise $1,500 for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). The couple far exceeded their goal and raised $20 million from over 525,000 people. These funds will help provide legal representation for immigrant children and parents in Texas. RAICES also intends to hire more lawyers to assist with family reunification.
- RAICES is based in San Antonio, Texas. This organization works to provide affordable legal services to immigrant families. It is the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas. In 2017, RAICES staff closed 51,000 cases at no cost to the client, and for the current work to end family separation, they have developed a toolkit to organize events in advocates’ communities.
- The American Civil Liberties Union has diligently worked on reuniting children with their parents through the United States justice system. The group worked to create a hard deadline on a formerly uncertain process for when children might see their parents again. Now, children under five must see their parents within 14 days of their detention, and parents and children must be in contact via phone within 10 days.
- The Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC) cooperates with Catholic and community legal immigration programs to provide services. They started a project called Defending Vulnerable Populations, whose goal is to increase the number of fully accredited, qualified representatives and attorneys to represent immigrants.
Putting An End to Human Rights Violations
In addition to organizational work, the greater community has also come together to stop these human rights violations. Many groups at large focused on immigrant or legal rights have unified to provide free and low-cost services to immigrants detained at the border.
Fundraisers work to provide aid and services to immigrant communities crossing the border. As the powerful court case deemed the number of days when families must be reunited, the process and the good news of reuniting immigrant families at the southern border should significantly progress.
– Jenna Walmer