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Children and Families at the Border: 5 Ways to Help

In the last two years, the number of children and families arriving at the border seeking asylum has increased dramatically, with more than 95,000 children and families arriving in May 2019 alone. Meanwhile, the Trump Administration has implemented policies like zero tolerance, family separation, metering and “remain-in-Mexico” that have rapidly increased the number of individuals held in detention.

Every day, horrifying new stories emerge about the humanitarian crisis at the southern border. Federal agencies are not prepared to handle the spike in arrivals, contributing to well-publicized issues with overcrowding in unsafe and unsanitary conditions for extended periods of time. Once they are released, they struggle to navigate the broken process to apply for legal asylum.

Want to help, but not sure where to get started? Here are five ways you can support directly-impacted families and organizations serving immigrant communities via the To Immigrants With Love platform:

1. Help keep families together, and keep them healthy, safe, and out of detention

WHAT YOU CAN DO: At ToImmigrantsWithLove.com you can donate to organizations providing food, shelter, health care, and other critical services to asylum-seekers recently released from detention.

WHY THIS IS NEEDED: Families seeking asylum are supposed to be released from detention within 20 days, per the Flores Agreement, after which they are provided with a notice to appear in immigration court to have their case heard.

Upon release from detention, families are often dropped off at bus stations or city centers with no support and few personal belongings, left to fend for themselves in a country that is foreign to them. This is after a journey of thousands of miles followed by weeks of waiting in lines to be admitted to the United States and experiencing traumatizing detention.

Families frequently struggle to locate health services, food, and other basic needs, and may find it difficult to connect with their family members who may already be living in the U.S.

2. Help asylum-seeking children and families access legal services

WHAT YOU CAN DO: You can also donate to organizations providing legal services to children and families who are navigating the broken 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. Demand Congress end the inhumane policies fueling the crisis at the border

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Use our call tool to contact your Member of Congress and demand they work to provide a humane, orderly process for immigrants at the border that protects their ability to lawfully seek asylum. After you’ve made your call, consider donating to a local organization advocating for immigrant families.

Ask your elected officials to end practices like metering and “remain-in-Mexico” that prevent people from applying for asylum, to end the indefinite detention of children and families, and to address the root causes of this issue by investing in efforts with proven records of success, like alternatives to detention, economic investment in regions like the Northern Triangle, and the Central American Minors (CAM) refugee program.

WHY THIS IS NEEDED: Congress is responsible for responding to the influx of children and families at the border, and to amend the damage done by the President’s disastrous policies which have fueled the crisis.

At the same time, President Trump is asking Congress to allocate taxpayer dollars to expand the mass incarceration of families. Congress holds the “power of the purse” to determine how much money will be appropriated to federal agencies and how the funds can be used.

4. Show your support for immigrant families, and encourage your friends and family to join you

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Maximize your impact by inviting family members, friends, colleagues, neighbors, members of your faith organization, and others in your network to join you.

Share these resources with your social network using the hashtag #ToImmigrantsWithLove. You can also share your own immigrant heritage story and why this issue matters personally to you.

WHY THIS IS NEEDED: The mass incarceration of families is a national issue that strikes at the core of what it means to be an American. We have seen how the challenges in the asylum system are being used to justify harmful immigration policies within the country, including mass “raids” on immigrant families. It’s crucial, now more than ever, that we have these conversations with our family, friends and neighbors, and invite them to join us in standing with immigrants.

5. Demand Presidential candidates commit to humane treatment of immigrants

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Contact the candidates you support/are interested in and make clear that you want them to commit to ending mass incarceration of families seeking asylum, and instead advance a humane and orderly process for those seeking asylum at the border that ensures due process. Commit your vote to the candidate who will address commonsense immigration reform as a Day One priority.

WHY THIS IS NEEDED: Immigration policy will unquestionably be a major issue leading up to the presidential election. While only Congress can provide long-term solutions, the policies advanced by the Trump Administration have directly fueled the crisis and inhumane conditions at the border, and must be addressed by the next president.

What if I want to donate supplies or volunteer my time?

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Donating directly to local shelters and service organizations is the most effective way of helping families and children get the supplies they need, in part because federal agencies have claimed they are legally prohibited from accepting donations, except in very specific circumstances. And those able to provide pro bono legal services are encouraged to visit Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) or American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) for information on opportunities.

WHY THIS IS NEEDED: Because members of the public are typically not admitted into detention centers, volunteer opportunities do not exist in the detention centers themselves. However, once released, the families, children, and individuals who have been detained have very specific needs, and these nonprofits and direct service organizations need help from you to meet those needs.

The groups serving them exercise a great deal of caution when providing services. Oftentimes, their needs are specific, and responding requires training and experience. For these reasons, many nonprofits are not currently accepting volunteers.

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