Concerned by the family separation policy enacted on the U.S. border, here’s what you can do to help children and families in need
Kate, what is going on? What can we do to help these children and families?
These are the questions my non-American co-workers have been asking me over the last month or so as the world has watched in horror as children have been separated from their parents as part of a new “zero tolerance policy” against illegal entry into the United States.
This is not a political post. We write this as parents who can’t fathom the terror of having our children taken from us, out of concern for the psychological trauma suffered by these children, and to answer the many mamas who’ve asked and wondered what steps they can take in the face of such a dire and seemingly helpless situation.
Over 2,300 children have been separated from their parents at the U.S. border since the new policy was implemented in May (and since the same administration that implemented it then stopped it). Even though families are no longer being actively separated, and even though a federal judge ordered that all children be reunited with their parents within 30 days, the government does not seem to have a plan in place to actually make that happen.
Here are the steps you can take to support children and families from afar:
If you’re a U.S. citizen…
Call all of your elected officials from the state where you are registered to vote: call your governor, congressional representative, and senators and ask their offices to pressure the Department of Health and Human Services to formulate a plan to ensure the swift reunification of children with their parents. If your particular representatives have already been active in this campaign, thank them for all their hard work. Otherwise, keep calling to maintain pressure.
I really like the website 5calls, which provides a handy script if you’re like me and hate talking to people on the phone.
On a national basis you can also use social media channels to reach out to government officials (such as Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen or Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar), and whether on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, make sure to use the hashtags #keepfamiliestogether and/or #endfamilyseparation when posting.
If you’re not a U.S. citizen (or even if you are)…
There are many worthy organizations you can donate to to help this cause. Here are five in particular (and here’s a fairly exhaustive list with links to many, many others):
At the top of the list is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is challenging the policy in the courts, and partnering with a variety of organizations to support separated families. Click here for their recommended list of beneficiaries.
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) strives to ensure that no child appears in immigration court without high quality legal representation (because yeah, certain government officials have argued that 3-year-olds are capable of representing themselves).
Pueblo Sin Fronteras provides aid and shelter to migrants on their way to the United States, as well as legal advice to refugees who are navigating the system once they’ve reached the country.
RAICES (The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) is the largest immigration non-profit in Texas (where many of the border separations are happening and some of the largest children’s detention centers are located). RAICES provides immigration-related legal services, advocacy and opportunities for educational and social support, and directly funds bond to help parents reclaim their detained children. RAICES also strives to ensure legal representation for every separated family and unaccompanied child in Texas’s immigration courts (last year, a staggering 76% of children did not have representation).
The Women’s Refugee Commission works to improve the lives and protect the rights of women, children and youth displaced by conflict and crisis. They have put together a list of actions that anyone can take, and donations help support their advocacy efforts, including monitoring conditions in detention centers and speaking directly with detained parents and children.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that these families and children are not the only refugees in crisis right now. Consider donating to organizations like Unicef and Save the Children if you’d also like to help children in Syria, Rohingya children, and others.
Every time you hug your children, mama, please take a moment to think about these children in need and what you can do to help them.