Holly Richardson: How you can help reunite families

Randi Weingarten tries to deliver a teddy bear and other items for children to federal agents at the port-of-entry, Tuesday, June 26, 2018, in Fabens, Texas, along the international border where immigrant children are being held. The group tried to deliver items to the children housed in tents at the facility but were turned away. (AP Photo/Matt York)

There is plenty of outrage still remaining about how immigrants and asylum-seekers are being treated at our southern border. There is also some hope.

The backlash against baby jails has been swift and vocal. Some on the right have called it “fake news” and “hysteria,” but to me, it shows that compassion and humanity are not dead in this country.

A federal judge in California has stepped up and ordered that all separated children be reunited with their parents in no more than 30 days — within 14 days for children under the age of 5 — and that no more deportations of parents without their children occur unless the parent is found to be unfit, present a danger or voluntarily agrees to deportation without their child.

On Tuesday, Alex Azar II, the secretary of health and human services told senators that his department is holding 2,047 separated children — only six fewer than last week. He also admitted that his department is having trouble figuring out how to care for the children and how to reunite them, as some of the parents have been returned to Central America without their children.

However, as the judge acknowledged in his findings and as evidenced by Azar’s testimony, there is no current plan for reunification and no one in the government seems to be able to figure out how to go about matching kids with parents, now that the children are in “the system” as unaccompanied minors.

Instead of waiting around for inept and impersonal bureaucracies to figure it out, there are many people wanting to help, and many organizations already on the ground that are looking for help.

The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES, is the largest immigration nonprofit in Texas. They provide legal services to immigrant children, families and refugees in Texas and help post bond for detained parents.

Charlotte and Dave Willner started a Facebook fundraising project for RAICES, hoping to raise a modest $1,500. Instead, they now have the largest single fundraising campaign Facebook has ever seen, with over $20 million raised, by more than 530,000 individual donors.

RAICES is looking for pro-bono legal help, interns, graphic designers and volunteers who speak Spanish, French (for refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Central American native languages including Mayan.

Asylum Seekers Advocacy Project is working to prevent deportation of families who are fleeing violence and seeking asylum, no matter where they are located in the United States. They need an increase in funds, in volunteer attorneys, law students and interns. Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley shelters immigrants who have recently been released from Border Patrol custody. Comfort Cases is raising money to provide backpacks with blankets, pajamas, toiletries, a stuffed animal, books, art supplies and more to all 2,000-plus separated immigrant children. Local philanthropist Sarah Parson is providing stuffed dolls and bears through her organization, Dolls of Hope. (I’ve sewn, stuffed and distributed some of those bears. They are easy and comforting to their little recipients.)

The CARA Project provides legal services at family detention centers. They are looking for attorneys, law students, interpreters, social workers, researchers and “extraordinary people of goodwill” on-the-ground in Dilley, Texas, to defend the children and their mothers everyday.

KIND (Kids In Need of Defense) protects unaccompanied children who enter the U.S. immigration system alone to ensure that no child appears in court without an attorney. It sounds self-evident but it’s not. Many children have no legal representation as they try to navigate the U.S. legal system.

There are many other good organizations nationwide working to solve this crisis.

Another quick and easy step to take is signing and circulating a petition.

The ACLU, MomsRising, MoveOn, and CREDO have petitions to Sec. Nielsen.

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and Change.org also have a petition to the Department of Homeland Security.

The Women’s March has a petition to Ivanka Trump.

Define American has a petition to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance has a petition to President Trump.

The Women’s Refugee Commission has a petition and Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley has started a petition on his website.

I was unable to find a “right-leaning” organization circulating a petition, although this issue should not be partisan.

Finally, please do be in touch with your political representatives. Call, use social media, send email, then call again. This is one humanitarian crisis that “we the people” must not sit back and wait for the government to solve. It will take all of us staying involved until the last child is reunited with her parents.

(Photo Courtesy Holly Richardson)

Holly Richardson believes #FamiliesBelongTogether.