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10 powerful ways we can help immigrant children separated from their parents

[Update: If you're reading this in June 2019, there is a current article here.]

Their parents couldn't hear their cries, but now, America has. On Monday Propublica released heart-wrenching audio reportedly recorded inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility, which captured the cries of young children separated from their parents after coming to the United States from Central America. The children are believed to be between 4 and 10 years old, and their desperate sobs are harrowing.

The haunting audio documents a practice a majority of Americans are against. A recent poll by CBS News found 67% of Americans say it's unacceptable to separate children from their parents after they cross the border.

Across the country mothers and fathers hear the voices of their own children in those of the immigrant children on the recording, and so many are asking each other 'what can we do?'

It may seem like an overwhelming situation, but there are powerful actions any parent can take to create change for the children who are crying for their parents in a scary new place. We can't hug them and hold them close, or reunite them with their moms and dads right now, but we can do the following:

1. Donate to The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES)

A non-profit that aims to reunite families and help kids feel safe, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) needs funds to fulfil its mission. The Texas-based nonprofit aims to "directly fund the bond necessary to get parents out of detention and reunited with their children while awaiting court proceedings" and "ensure legal representation for EVERY child in Texas' immigration courts."

2. Call your representatives

As much as many parents wish we could tear down those chain link walls and put babies back with their mothers, we, as individuals, don't have the power to do that or to stop it from happening in the future. The U.S. government does have that power though, and the American people have the power to elect them. You can call your senator and let them know that you will not stand for this.

If you don't know what number to call, you can punch your zip code into the ACLU's website and it will route your call to the appropriate representative. If you don't know what to say, the ACLU has prepared a script. Just say hello to the congressional staffer who picks up the phone and tell then you want to see

3. Encourage others to call their representatives

Tell your friends that you've made that call and ask them to call, too. A lot of people have never called a politician's office before, so let those in your circle know about how the ACLU will route their call and pass on the short script for those who get flustered on the phone.

4. Find a local protest

When we stand together our voices are amplified. If you're looking to join in a protest of immigrant family separation policies, check out Families Belong Together. The organization has created a growing list of rallies and vigils in support of the families.

5. Organize your own protest

If there is no protest or rally organized in your area, you may want to organize your own. Father-of-two Ron Piovesan organized a protest in the Bay Area. "There's a lot of people who are very angry with what's going on; they're feeling helpless," he told NBC of his Father's Day protest.

According to NBC, "Piovesan passed out slips of paper encouraging people to take action, to call their representatives and donate to legal aid groups trying to help immigrant detainees."

The Community Toolbox at the University of Kansas offers an in-depth guide to planning a public demonstration. The guide's authors note the most important part of organizing a planned rally, vigil, march or sit-in is planning. Call your City Hall to find out if you need permits for the space you plan to use and let the local police know where and for how long you will be protesting.

Communicating with your fellow protesters is also important. Start by inviting anyone you think may share your passion for reuniting children with their parents and stopping future separations. Then figure out an effective communication system, like a group text or Facebook group, to keep participants in the loop and allow you to delegate responsibilities and coordinate times.

If you're trying to reach legislators, consider protesting outside the State House, but a protest in your own neighbourhood can also be of service by educating the public. Be prepared to give people practical information, like the ACLU phone script, and the number for your local representative. Picket signs let people know that this isn't just a gathering, it's a protest, so bust out the Sharpies and cardboard and get creative.

6. Donate to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

You may have seen mom-of-two Chrissy Teigen tweeting about this recently. She and husband John Legend called for concerned fellow parents to donate to the organization which is raising money to defend asylum-seeking immigrant parents who've been separated from their children.

7. Volunteer

If you've got experience in immigration law of translation, organizations like the Texas Civil Rights Project can put you to work in the fight to reunite parents and children. They are reportedly in need of translators who speak "Spanish, Mam, Q'eqchi' or K'iche'" and people with have paralegal or legal assistant experience in McAllen, TX.

8. Donate to Together Rising

Motherly previously reported on the efforts of "Love Warrior" author Glennon Doyle and her charity, Together Rising, in raising funds to help these children get the legal support they need. The organization has already "funded the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project for an angel team of four lawyers and 3 legal assistants to represent children detained in Arizona detention centers and their families; and the Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights in order to cover the costs of a lawyer and social worker who will be operating around the country and on the border to provide advocacy and healing to unaccompanied, detained children."

Now, Together Rising is helping other organizations dedicated to helping these kids, including Kids In Need of Defence and RAICES.

9. Keep talking about it

According to CBS News, 90% of Democrats polled find the practice of separating kids and families to be unacceptable. Republicans are "more divided" with 39% saying it's unacceptable and 1 in 5 saying they have not heard enough about it to say either way. If someone in your circle hasn't heard about this, tell them, and tell them that you're not standing for it.

10. Teach your children empathy

With this story pouring out of every smartphone, television and radio in our country, our children may be worried about the idea that kids are being taken from their parents. Parents may need to reassure their kids that they are safe, but there are other topics of conversation that can help our kids keep future children safe. By talking about empathy and kindness with our kids we can raise kind, empathic people who won't let this happen to the next generation's children.


[Update: June 20, 2018, adding additional links to charitable organizations]

Additional organizations currently accepting donations:

American Immigration Council: Tells Motherly it has "staff on the ground at the Dilley, Texas family detention center helping families, and we are documenting the terrible conditions of detention and bringing lawsuits to challenge them." Provides pro-bono lawyers to people in detention through the Immigration Justice Campaign.

Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project: Provides "emergency legal aid to refugee families".

Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services: Provides "free and low cost immigration services".

Justice for Our Neighbors: Provides low income families with "affordable, high quality immigration legal services".

Kids In Need of Defense: According to its website, KIND "partners with major law firms, corporations, law schools, and bar associations to create a nationwide pro bono network to represent unaccompanied children through their immigration proceedings."

Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center: States it is "dedicated to serving the legal needs of low income immigrants, including refugees, victims of crime, and families seeking reunification."

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service: The faith-based organization "works with refugees, children, and migrants to ensure they are protected and welcomed into local communities throughout the United States."

South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR): A joint project of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, ProBAR "is a national effort to provide pro bono legal services to asylum seekers detained in South Texas by the United States government. "

The Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights: Provides independent Child Advocates to stand up for unaccompanied immigrant children and "champion the child's best interests".

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