How Each Of Us Can Help Immigrant Families Suffering At The Border
I’ve lost much sleep in these last days scared and worried for these children and their parents, wanting to help immigrant families, and staying desperately attached to my facebook feed and all the news sites to see if there is any way that a “regular” person can help.
Expressing outrage isn’t enough. I want to take action. Now. Here. Today.
Every moment these children are away from their parents creates life-long trauma.
And then I saw it. A friend of mine posted in a moms group “Serious question: can the children held in detention centers be fostered? Is that a thing? I’m ready to drive to Texas.”
Why hadn’t I thought of that?! I have more than enough room in my home. I’ll take as many as they will let me take. We are blessed to have the means to do everything it takes to reunite these children with their families. And I would make that my mission. Forever.
Since I was an attorney, I have resources; I know people I can ask for help. I immediately left a voicemail and sent an email to a family attorney that I know. I sent several other messages to other friends – attorneys who practice in large firms with resources. All asking for resources that could help me get started in the right direction.
The Nitty Gritty on Current Immigrant Families
Once Federal laws are passed, the agency(ies) in charge of enforcing that law have the responsibility to develop policies and procedures on how to do so.
It has long been a misdemeanor federal offense to be caught illegally entering the US, punishable by up to six months in prison, but the administration has not always referred everyone caught for prosecution. Those apprehended were swiftly put into immigration proceedings and, unless they met the threshold to pursue a valid asylum claim, can be quickly deported from the country.
The current DHS plan makes no special arrangements for those who claim asylum when apprehended. While they will be allowed to pursue their claims and could eventually be found to have a legitimate right to live in the US, they could still already have a conviction for illegal entry. (cite)
So What’s The Matter Here?
In April, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered prosecutors along the border to “adopt immediately a zero-tolerance policy” for illegal border crossings. That included prosecuting parents traveling with their children as well as people who subsequently attempted to request asylum.
“If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple. … If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.” (Attorney General Jeff Sessions)
Under pressure, POTUS signed an executive order stating that families will no longer be separated at the border; but what will become of those children already taken from their parents? This still leaves open the very real possibility of families being detained indefinitely together.
And it makes no mention of the families already separated. These mothers are being denied their basic human right to do the very most important thing a mother can ever do.
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So nobody can know the ultimate outcome and damage that will be caused to these families and these children.
And Here’s What The Attorneys Told Me…
Truth be told – fostering these children might not be the best course of action for either the children nor the families right now. I was told that it might reduce the possibility of family reunification the further they are taken away from where they were first separated. Further distance, more bureaucracy, paperwork, etc.
One non-profit was mentioned by each of the attorneys that I asked – Kids In Need of Defense (KIND). Several of the attorneys I spoke with said that they all ready handle pro bono (unpaid) cases for KIND. All had great faith in the mission of KIND and suggested following some of the suggestions outlined by KIND as they continue to represent children through this process.
So What Can I Do?
- Write a letter to one of the children letting them know that they are not alone and that someone in this country, who they do not know, supports them and their journey. Please provide these with translations to Spanish or other languages. The majority of clients speak, read, and write in Spanish as their first language. Maybe you can even throw a letter writing party! Check out this TED Talk about writing love letters to strangers for inspiration and send your letter to your closest KIND office;
- Write an Opinion Editorial piece for your local paper or a Letter to the Editor. This can even be a neighborhood paper or website;
- Contact your members of Congress – (Find your Representative here and your Senators here);
- Rally your friends, family and community in a Personal Care Item Drive where you collect personal care products like, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorants, soap, small bottles of shampoo and conditioner, feminine hygiene products, lip balm, etc. and drop this off or mail to your nearest KIND office. Please note that items are best with no added perfumes since our children may have allergies;
- Fundraise by holding a bake sale, garage sale, or other event of your preference, and use this event as an opportunity to tell more people about KIND.
- Connect us with shops, who may be interested in donating a portion of their proceeds to our organization.
- Donate UBER and/or LYFT e-gift cards or local transit cards to your local KIND office;
- You can also mail physical gift cards to your closest KING office. We ask for this donation because many of the children we serve are unable to pay for transportation to and from appointments, which means that we try our best to provide them with this service (ideally in $20 amounts or more);
- Pre-Paid phone cards for calling to family internationally;
- Gift cards (examples:Walmart, Publix, Target, Walgreens, CVS, etc.) $10, $20 (cards for Pharmacies can also be used to pay for passport pictures for immigration application);
- Books (Bilingual in Spanish and English to encourage English learning preferred or in Spanish); Workbooks for Learning English;
School supplies (backpacks, paper, pens, pencils, etc.);
- Study aids for basic and advanced school subjects, ideally in Spanish or other language;
- Donation of tickets to events such as soccer, baseball, basketball, theater, etc. This can be donated directly to our clients and/or used as auction items at our future fundraising events;
- Vouchers or materials related to GED such as, enrollment fees, books, practice test vouchers or fees for testing (www.GED.com);
- Books can be ordered from Steck-Vaughn Company as they are helpful books to prepare for the GED test. There is a workbook and a study book for each subject (language arts, Math, Science, Social Studies) books could be purchased separately and each books cost between $20 and $55 dollars depending on where its purchased;
- Toy Donations (not as urgent and best when holidays are near. Preferably, educational and small toys that can be easily stored in our limited office space – please note that we do not have a storage facility);
- Wellness and Self-Care Items– headphones, coloring pencils, crayons, coloring books, journals, etc.;
- Contributions to a KIND Office Client Emergency Fund. The Atlanta office (as well as others I presume) use the fund for the following needs:
- Fees for medical screenings for kids, often required for their immigration application (usually around $300);
- Assistance with unexpected costs associated with the case, like paperwork required in the home country;
- Assistance with paying rent or household bills if the sponsor cannot meet these or the child should become homeless.
How Can I Get My Kids Involved to Help Immigrant Families?
I also saw this as a terrific opportunity to get my children involved in acts of kindness that help develop their character. I love these suggestions that work really well for the younger set!
- Kid-to-Kid Letters – Our clients would love to hear from you. Write letters that we can give to KIND clients. Please provide these with translations to Spanish or other languages. The majority of clients speak, read, and write in Spanish as their first language;
- Letters to Congressional Representatives;
- Write an article for your school paper;
- Present to your class about KIND’s work;
- Draw a welcome sign for a KIND client;
- Draw a picture or other art -piece for a client;
- Bake Sale;
- Lemonade Stand.
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Where Do I Send Letters or Donations To Help Immigrant Families?