Recently Giacomo Sanfilippo reached out to us at the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) with an offer of help. He expressed to RAICES that a central focus of Orthodoxy in Dialogue has been to advocate and care for the hungry, the homeless, the stranger, and the foreigner.
This is where our missions align.
RAICES began in 1986 as a small immigration legal services provider in South Texas, but has grown to include not only legal services but social and community services, as well as advocacy programs to meet the needs of immigrant populations. RAICES means Roots in Spanish, and our story is rooted in the fight for immigrant justice. We believe that through legal services, social programs, and advocacy we can all not only find common ground but create thriving and diverse communities where everyone can prosper.
Our efforts to fight for humane treatment and a dignified immigration process thrust us into a central role in the roiling immigration debate. Last summer the Trump administration’s Zero Tolerance policy showed that our immigration system is not broken. On the contrary, it is a well-oiled machine that feeds and grows on the fear of immigrant communities. This summer we’ve seen:
- Continued family separations
- The imposition of the dangerous and deadly Remain in Mexico policy that forces mothers and children to languish in unsafe and unsanitary conditions in some of Mexico’s most dangerous cities
- Needless suffering and death inside of detention centers in the United States
- The continuation of a false narrative that casts immigrants in the role of the villain
Far from being unintended consequences, these examples of violence and depravation are, in fact, a purposeful part of the immigration machine that exists today. As a result, the immigrant communities we work with are ravaged by fear, and our clients and their families rely on us for more and more services. These policies are designed to drive us apart, but they have also solidified the hearts and minds of advocates of social justice.
We have been truly moved by the wave of support we have seen this summer and we are doing everything we can to help our vulnerable immigrant friends and neighbors. In particular response to this summer’s wave of immigration headlines, we are doing the following:
- Getting Children OUT of Detention Centers
We are at our core a legal-aid organization that focuses on immigrant and refugee populations. Our Children’s Program is RAICES’ largest program and it provides free legal information, referrals, and direct representation for unaccompanied children in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Given our proximity to the US-Mexico border, our Children’s Program provides services to thousands of children each year. Without our help, many children in detention are forced to represent themselves in immigration court. A child with legal representation is 5 times more likely to be successful in his or her case than children who go to court alone.
- Working to Release Adult Families and Caregivers from Detention through Bonds and Legal Representation
RAICES has the largest Bond Fund in the nation used to release individuals from detention.
- Helping Children and Families Upon Release
Through programs like our Bus Station Program, RAICES works with recently released families to help them get medical help, access to food and supplies (including grooming and other supplies); assist with travel, housing, and shelter information; and provide resources to coordinate travel plans or communicate with existing family or sponsors in the United States.
- Advocating for an End to Unjust Immigration Laws
Our advocacy department is working to re-envision how we think about immigrants and refugees in this country, to end unjust immigration practices and policies, and to ensure a humane and fair migration experience for all.
These are just a few examples of the ways your support helps recently arrived children and families that have been detained and/or recently released. We look forward to a future where a compassionate society allows all people the right to migrate and human rights are guaranteed.
We invite the readers of Orthodoxy in Dialogue to join us in welcoming immigrants, building bridges into immigrant communities, and fighting for shared humanity.
Mariel E. Moore is the digital marketing strategist at RAICES.