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RAICES Collects Millions To Help Keep Families Together. Here’s Where The Money Is Going

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There are several organizations that are fighting against the Trump administration’s immigration policies and travel bans. Even though President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to keep families together, the families, however, will remain detained, and still need legal representation, housing opportunities, meals, and much more. The 2,300 children already separated from their parents will remain separated and need legal representation to be reunited.

Some of those nonprofits that are helping people as they make their way to the border and being held in immigration detention include the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), Momastery, Annunciation House, Al Ortro Lado, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Texas Civil Rights Project. But there’s one organization that has surpassed donations of all of these, and exceeded their own goals much of everyone’s surprise.

In less than two weeks, a viral fundraiser on Facebook has raised more than $20 million for RAICES.

RAICES, which means “roots” in Spanish and stands for Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services,is the largest immigration legal service group in Texas. The fundraiser is the largest fundraiser in Facebook’s history.

“We’ve had moments of ecstasy and there have been a lot of tears in response to this outpouring of support,” Jonathan Ryan, executive director of RAICES, told The New York Times. “But those moments of joy are curtailed by a realization of great responsibility.”

The organization has been around for the past 30 years. Here’s some of the legal services they provide:

  • Asylum
  • Relative Petitions
  • Adjustment of Status
  • Employment Authorization
  • Cancellation of Removal
  • Naturalization
  • Citizenship
  • U Visas (for victims of crimes [and their immediate family members] who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity).
  • T Visas (for certain victims of human trafficking and immediate family members to remain and work temporarily in the United States, typically if they agree to assist law enforcement in testifying against the perpetrators).
  • Temporary Protected Status
  • The Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act
  • Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
  • The Violence Against Women Act

In a Facebook Live event, staff from RAICES said that the organization has closed thousands of immigration cases in their 30 years of service.

The fundraiser began on June 16 when Charlotte and Dave Willner of San Francisco saw the picture of the crying toddler surrounded by Border Patrol agents.

So they started a Facebook fundraiser for RAICES and had an original goal of $1,500.

“When we look at the faces of these children, we can’t help but see our own children’s faces,” Charlotte told The Mercury News.

The fundraiser went viral and began to have matching donations. There’s so many donations happening at one time that their website has reached capacity. Dave Willner  said on Facebook that donations are coming in at about $4,000 every minute.

In a statement to CNN, RAICES said: “We do not have the words to thank Charlotte and Dave Willner. We’ve been occasionally crying around the office all day when we check the fundraising totals. There are terrible things happening in the world. And there are many people who are deciding not to look away but to do something.”

RAICES held a Facebook Live event in order to discuss what they’re planning on doing with the millions they have collected.

RAICES Fundraising Update!

RAICES Fundraising Updates with Director of Family Detention Manoj Govindaiah, Director of the Children’s Program Mayra Jimenez, and Asst. Director of Outreach Barbara Peña.

Posted by RAICES on Wednesday, June 20, 2018

For starters, their main objective is to make sure all of the children being detained separately from their parents have competent legal representation in court. The organization is made up of several volunteer attorneys that are working to ensure these kids are represented and reunited with their families.

They said a lot of kids they’re helping are located in Dallas and San Antonio area, and have also hired new staff to help manage the cases.

RAICES has two major initiatives at the moment. One is called the Leaf Project and the other is the Families Together Project.

“As hundreds of children are being ripped away from their parents at the Texas-Mexico border, RAICES received word this week that funding to represent unaccompanied children is ending,” RAICES states on their website. “Children with representation are not lost. More than 90 percent of children with representation continue on with their court case. Children with representation are five times more likely to be successful in their case than children who go to court alone. Representation is often the last line of safety for children very vulnerable to exploitation by both a system and a country hostile to their presence.”

Through the Families Together Project, RAICES can reunite families by paying their bond. “The Parents separated from their children at the border (and other immigrants placed in detention) can’t get released from ICE custody to reunite with their families until they pay the full amount of their immigration bond,” RAICES states on their website. “Bonds are set at a MINIMUM of $1500, and are usually in the range of $5-10K, even for asylum seekers without any criminal history.”

RAICES said via Facebook Live that the money raised is going directly to them and they’re working on using it both short term and long term.

They said Facebook has helped facilitate those funds in order for them to use it as efficiently as possible to make sure no child should ever go without a lawyer in court.

For people wanting to help but cannot donate to their fundraiser, RAICES recommends going to immigration court and observing what it’s like for people to go to court without representation. They also suggest people educate themselves on this issue, calling your local senator, go to a protest, attending a vigil because every action matters.


READ: Trump Administration Claims Babies Separated From Families Are Being Held In ‘Tender Age’ Shelters

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President Trump's Executive Order To End Family Separations Could Mean Indefinite Detention For Migrant Children

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President Trump’s Executive Order To End Family Separations Could Mean Indefinite Detention For Migrant Children

Joe Raedle / Getty

President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday to end family separations at the border — an immigration policy that was enacted by the Trump administration earlier this year. More than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents since the policy went into effect in April.

“We’re going to have strong — very strong — borders, but we are going to keep the families together,” Trump told the press while signing the executive order, according to The New York Times. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”

However, critics were quick to remind everyone that he is responsible for separating families.

“It is outrageous that the president is pushing the criminal detention of innocent children as a solution to his own evil act,” Kevin Appleby, a senior director at the Center for Migration Studies, told The New York Times. “The best solution would be releasing families to sponsors or placing them in community-based alternatives to detention programs, which are less expensive and much more humane.”

Families who cross the border illegally will not be separated. Children will now be detained indefinitely in detention facilities — described by many as prisons — with their parents while their cases go to court. This is causing its own legal challenge because of a court decision in Flores v. Reno Settlement Agreement, or the Flores Settlement, in 1997.

The Flores Settlement states that children cannot be detained for more than 20 days. They are also to be held in the least restrictive detention possible. According to Vox, the Trump administration is aware of the court decision and have been working to overturn it so children can be held indefinitely.

President Trump has tried distancing himself from his immigration policy by blaming Democrats and previous presidents for the separation. However, the key difference is that the Trump administration turned crossing the border illegally from a civil matter to a criminal matter. This difference is what forced immigration officers to separate all families crossing the border during the last six weeks.

The executive order does not address reuniting children who were previously separated from their parents. Immigration officials have admitted that there is no process in place to reunite the families that have been separated.

“I think the intention was to change things (but) I think there is a lot of confusion. Frankly, I think the way the order is drafted is not executable,” John Sandweg, a former director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told CNN. “I was really shocked to see they are not going to unite the kids. I thought the whole point of this was to reunite the kids.”


READ: The Trump Administration Announced A New Policy To Separate Children From Parents Who Cross The US-Mexico Border

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