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Children, Families, Individuals at the Border: 4 Ways to Help

Updated June 30, 2021

As a result of everything from famine, natural disaster, to violence and persecution, the number of children and families seeking asylum has increased as these families have no other legal avenues to try to come to the United States. An already insufficient asylum system was decimated by the Trump administration and created the current conditions at the border that the Biden Administration has made steps to restore and rebuild.

Understanding the Situation at the Border

How Did We Get Here? In 2018, the courts halted the Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance policy that separated thousands of families and sparked nationwide outcry of this practice. Unfortunately, not only did this continue in some cases, but the administration then began moving ahead on a series of new and awful efforts designed to eliminate the entire asylum system—but this time, keeping it further away from the eyes of the public. In 2019, it then turned to making it virtually impossible for any person or family to seek asylum at our borders, implementing the Migrant Protection Protocols, otherwise known as the “Remain in Mexico” program. This program left more than 70,000 people in Mexico to wait for drawn out court proceedings with exceedingly scarce access to legal assistance and exposed already vulnerable people to dangerous conditions and at risk to be targeted by violence, extortion, and other organized crime. 

And in 2020, the Trump Administration used COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to effectively shut off complete access to enter the US along the southern border by issuing a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) order, using an old statute called Title 42, not seen used in the US’s modern history. This order enabled the expulsion of anyone attempting to cross the border to their countries of origin or to Mexico, including families and unaccompanied children at the height of the pandemic, in which many were secretly housed in hotels and denied their legal rights to consult an attorney. These expulsions are expedited deportations that violate people’s due process rights. 

With recent attempts to paint the new Biden Administration’s policies as the main driving force to encourage migration, it is important to understand the gravity of what this administration is doing to unravel this trifecta of policies that have eroded the asylum system to its current state, and where it must continue to its commitment to undo harmful policies, and rebuild the immigration system.

What Has the Biden Administration Done? President Biden kept his promise of ending the “Remain in Mexico” program, including signing an executive order on day one of his Presidency to end any new enrollments to the program, and officially ending it on June 1, 2021 after review by the administration. The formal wind down of the program was announced in February 2021, opening up key Ports of Entry along the border to finally welcome in roughly 25,000 eligible asylum seekers, and an additional 34,000 from the recently announced expansion.  The Biden Administration, however, must immediately end the use of Title 42 to stay true to its commitment to build a humane and orderly asylum system.

Now that “Remain in Mexico” has been rescinded by the Biden Administration and the wind down expansion recently announced in June 2021, organizations in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and the Welcome With Dignity campaign are working in collaboration with the U.S. Government and UNHCR to welcome the families and children that spent months and years in horrible conditions. This is welcome news; however, much more needs to be done to provide urgent relief to people impacted by MPP, including the tens of thousands whose cases were unjustly terminated. Additionally, the roll back of MPP has not addressed the needs of many other vulnerable people, especially for Haitians and other Black and African people seeking asylum who were excluded from enrollment into MPP and were stranded in Mexico for years, some predating the Trump Administration. And as long at the current administration keeps Title 42 in effect, it will continue to turn away some of the most vulnerable people with no other avenues to seek asylum back to danger in Mexico or in their home countries. 

Family Separation Today & The Effects of Title 42 

The Biden Administration’s continued use of Title 42 and its exception for unaccompanied children, has forced some migrant parents to make the heart-wrenching decision to separate from their children and send them into the United States alone because if they were to seek asylum together as a family, they would all be expelled under Title 42 without a chance to seek asylum. These Title 42 family separations mean children arrive in the United States confused, in distress, and without their parents, causing the recent rise of unaccompanied children at the southern border. Additionally, the continued enforcement of this cruel policy has even resulted in the expulsion of many mothers of U.S. citizen newborns, who immediately after giving birth to their children, have been expelled without documentation for their babies. 

Finally, Title 42 disproportionately affects asylum seekers from predominantly Black countries who were more likely to be excluded from MPP, such as Haiti and Cameroon, as well as Indigenous communities, as they have no avenues to apply for asylum, and they face harsher conditions and racism once expelled to border towns. As of April 2021, the Biden Administration has expelled (expedited deportations without due process) 360,848 newborns, children, adults, and families to either their country of origin or back to dangerous conditions at the southern border. 

What Can I Do?

Want to help, but not sure where to get started? Here are five ways you can support directly-impacted families and organizations welcoming asylum seekers:

1. Help Keep Families Together Through Donations To Frontline Humanitarian Organizations

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Donate to organizations welcoming asylum seekers and providing food, shelter, health care, and other critical services.

WHY THIS IS NEEDED: Now that President Biden ended Remain in Mexico, organizations on the ground are welcoming migrant families enrolled in the program as part of Phase 1 and 2 of the wind-down. Due to Title 42 still being in place, many migrants, even those not from Mexico, are expelled to the Mexico and U.S. border to dangerous conditions and with no resources. Organizations on the ground as part of regional task forces provide critical assistance to feed, clothe, shelter, and transport families to reunite with their loved ones across the country and provide resources to the ones expelled to the southern border.

2. Help Asylum-Seeking Children And Families Access Legal Services

WHAT YOU CAN DO: You can also donate to partner organizations providing legal services to children and families who are navigating the insufficient asylum system in the United States.

WHY THIS IS NEEDED: These organizations work tirelessly to ensure families and children have legal representation to make their case for asylum properly. After someone seeking asylum demonstrates to a federal officer that they have a “credible fear” of persecution in their home country, they are scheduled for a court hearing to make their case for asylum. 

Winning an asylum case is extraordinarily difficult, with a high bar for evidence and a great deal of legal technicalities. Unfortunately, the United States does not provide access to court-appointed counsel to immigrants facing deportation who are unable to afford a lawyer. 

But when families and children seeking asylum have legal representation, their chance of success at making their case increases significantly. Access to counsel also ensures they keep their court dates and follow through on the process. In fact, research shows that 99% of asylum-seekers with legal representation report to their court hearings.

3. Show Your Support For Immigrant Families, And Encourage Your Friends And Family To Join You

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Take the #ForOurFamilies pledge to and commit to fighting for a more prosperous country for all of us.

WHY THIS IS NEEDED: In order to fully help people at the border, we must go beyond just reversing the damage done over the last four years, including the immediate end of the use of Title 42. We must transform our entire immigration system #ForOurFamilies. This pathway forward and the pathway to rebuilding a more prosperous country for everyone must start by welcoming asylum seekers with dignity and creating new legal avenues for people to safely come to the US. Watch this video to learn more.

4. What If I Want To Donate Supplies Or Volunteer My Time?

WHAT YOU CAN DO & WHY THIS IS NEEDED: It takes an entire community to fully welcome asylum seekers arriving in the United States. To volunteer or donate, see the opportunities below.

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES WITH BORDER ORGANIZATIONS:

Arizona

California

New Mexico

Texas

DONATE SUPPLIES TO THE BORDER:

Arizona

New Mexico

California 

  • San Diego Rapid Response Network and Jewish Family Services
  • Enclave Caracol 
  • Espacio Migrante: Espacio Migrante is accepting donations of the following items: school supplies, backpacks, notebooks, pens, pencils, colored pencils, crayons, art materials, electronic devices (tablet or laptops, new or used in good conditions). Monetary donations can be made to their paypal, specifying that the donation is for Educación en Movimiento. Or they can be mailed to 924, 12th St. Imperial Beach, CA 91932 or delivered in Tijuana to their Community Center: Av. Miguel Negrete 8350, Zona Urbana Rio Tijuana, 22010 Tijuana, B.C., Mexico. 
    • Monetary donations to support Haitian students who are attending college in Tijuana are also accepted. Monetary donations can be made to their paypal, specifying that the donation is for the students tuition.
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