Before the Bar | Week 5
This week, meet Karen, who will be discussing the details and aftermath of the Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policy that was enacted earlier this year.
The full blog post can be found below!
Zero Tolerance Immigration Policy Aftermath
Earlier this year, a “zero tolerance” immigration policy went into effect in the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against all referrals for illegally crossing the border. Under this policy, families were separated while parents were being prosecuted after crossing the border illegally, a misdemeanor. Although the policy has been downgraded, according to the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, as of June 20, there were 2,053 separated minors in government custody and another 522 children who had not yet been sent by the Border Patrol to a shelter or a foster family were returned to their parents at the border after the policy was revoked.
The government memorandum detailing the process for reuniting families states that Health and Human Services must obtain the “citizenship, immigration status, criminal history and immigration history” of the potential sponsor. In addition, the department must collect the names, dates of birth, addresses, fingerprints and identification documents of the potential sponsor and “all adult members in the potential sponsor’s household,” and provide that information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency that oversees deportation. Previously, Health and Human Services was not required to share such information with ICE; other members of the household were not typically screened as part of the process; and parents did not have to be fingerprinted to get their children back. These new demands have a chilling effect as relatives who want to bring these children home are now subject to greater scrutiny.
Senator Schumer recently noted at a news conference: “You don’t need to be a foreign relations expert to know that the situation created by zero tolerance has left many people with zero confidence that the administration will be able to quickly reunite the kids.” Jesse Bless, a senior counsel at Jeff Goldman Immigration, based in Boston, who has taken a case pro bono, has expressed outrage at the unacceptable delays these new demands are already causing. According to Bless, he was informed that the child would not be reunited with his mother until August.
Elissa Steglich, a clinical professor in the University of Texas School of Law’s Immigration Clinic, said: “We really do owe it morally and legally to the parent to reunify them with their children immediately.
How can you help?
Currently, there are various way that the public can assist those working on the ground to help these families including donating, volunteering and calling your senators and representatives.
- Verify charities before giving
Make sure and verify that a charity is real and determine how your donations will be used. Some sites to help verify charities are Charity Navigator, GuideStar. Another way to verify a charity is the database provided by the Better Business Bureau, Give.org.
- RAICES: Family Reunification and Bond Fund
Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES, provides “immigration-related legal services, advocacy and opportunities for educational and social support,” according to the organization’s website. RAICES is currently raising funds via their “Family Reunification and Bond Fund.” According to the agency’s website, the fund is to “directly support legal services for detained separated parents and the direct funding for bonds to get parents released.”
- Catholic Charities USA
One of the organization’s ministry is Immigration & Refugee Services, that provides “a wide range of social and legal services that help them get established in the community,” though there is not currently an active campaign for funds to assist parents and children being separated at the border.
- American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) Foundation
Although there is not a current active campaign to raise funds specifically for children and parents separated at the border, among the tenants of the ACLU is “safeguarding the rights of refugees and immigrants.” The agency is a four-star charity according to Charity Navigator. If you wish to donate to the ACLU, you can do so here: https://www.aclu.org/donate-aclu
- Texas Civil Rights Project
According to their website, the Texas Civil Rights Project is made up of Texas lawyers “serving the movement for equality and justice in and out of the courts.” The organization submitted an Emergency Request for Precautionary Measures with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the behalf of five families. If you would like to donate, you can do so online here: https://texascivilrightsproject.org/families-belong-together-donate.Volunteers who speak Spanish, Mam, Q’eqchi’ or K’iche’ and have paralegal or legal assistant experience can help take declarations from families affected by separation. If you can assist, you can register to volunteer at: https://texascivilrightsproject.org/keepfamiliestogether-volunteer/.
- Call your elected officials
You can also call your U.S. Senator or Representative and let your voice be heard regarding upcoming legislation regarding family separation at the border. To find out your senator, you can visit: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm. To find out your representative, you can visit: https://www.house.gov/representatives.
– Karen Chicas