How to help separated families on the border

Lucas Butler, middle, and Beth Bishop, left
Lucas Butler, 15, holding sign, protests the separation of immigrant families at the U.S. border, in Austin, Texas. (Photo: Amanda Voisard/American-Statesmen)

In response to President Trump’s zero-tolerance policy for illegal immigration that is separating children from their parents, Americans are mobilizing to help, raising money for groups that provide legal support for the detainees.

A couple from California started a campaign on Facebook to raise money for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).

The couple, Dave and Charlotte Willner, started their goal at $1,500 and quickly surpassed that as their page went viral. The total as of Thursday was over $15 million.

“These children don’t know where their parents are,” they wrote on the Facebook page. “Their parents aren’t allowed to communicate with them while in custody. The government hasn’t set up a system to reunite separated parents and children if one or both are ultimately released. In many cases, parents have been deported without their children — sometimes, young children are deported without their parents.”

RAICES, based in Texas, uses the money for bail bonds, which are set at a minimum of $1,500. The organization also provides legal services for immigrants.

The Texas Civil Rights Project communications director Zenén Jaimes Pérez said their organization has received an outpouring of support.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg set up a Facebook page on behalf of TCRP that has raised over $11,000.

“We’ve seen an overwhelming amount of support, and for us it helps because we’ve been able to do so much with so little staff and resources, and this is very much a needed boost,” Pérez said.

He said they have gone to the courthouse every day to meet the families and offer their support.

“On a personal level, I think it’s one of the most emotionally draining things I’ve ever done,” Pérez said. “We’re talking to people for seven to 10 minutes, asking them for information and telling us their story. Many of them have horrific violence in their home country.”

TCRP made an appeal to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of five families. The commission, part of the Organization of American States, released a statement on Monday thatexpresses concern over migration and asylum policies and measures recently adopted in the United States.” Pérez said he expects to hear more from the commission this week.

“Every controversial immigration policy that is happening out of D.C. hits the hardest in a state like Texas,” he said. “Mostly because this is where most newcomers are arriving.”

A group called Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), raises money to provide legal representation specifically for unaccompanied children in deportation proceedings.

The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights recently announced a project to assign two attorneys to take on individual children’s cases and also advocate for the end of the zero-tolerance policy.

Several high-profile figures have made donations.

Former first lady Hillary Clinton donated through ActBlue Charities, a donor tool for progressive policies and values, which divided the donation evenly among seven different organizations, including RAICES and KIND. Clinton tweeted that it surpassed $500,000.

Model Chrissy Teigen and her husband, musician John Legend, raised more than $1 million for the American Civil Liberties Union from their fans, after she asked her Twitter followers to pitch in.

The appeal was made on June 14 — in honor of Trump’s birthday.

Here’s how you can help:


RAICE, KIND and the ACLU take donations to help provide legal support and bail bond money to immigrants. The Texas Civil Rights Project is also working to reunite families. The Florence Project specifically helps detained immigrants in Arizona. The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights provides child advocates for young immigrants.

Provide supplies to the children:

Baby2Baby and KIND set up a registry at Target that provides necessities such as diapers, formula, shampoo, clothing and other items.


TCRP is looking for volunteers who have legal assistance or paralegal experience and speak Spanish, Mam, Q’eqchi’ or K’iche’.

The Young Center looks for volunteers to be child advocates, who visit with the children and accompany them, in Chicago, Houston, San Antonio, Harlingen, Phoenix, New York and Washington D.C. They particularly would like volunteers who speak Spanish.


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