The Trump administration proposes sweeping changes that endanger the lives of immigrant families, including families with children born in the United States. The proposed “public charge” rule changes would strongly prejudice immigration pathways toward higher-income people, while raising new high barriers for prospective immigrants if they have lower incomes, or have used government benefits.
Detention of Asylum Seeking Families is an Abuse of Justice
Houston legal services providers and allies condemn the crisis manufactured by Trump administration’s “Zero Tolerance” policy; Call on local, state and federal officials to block the indefinite detention of asylum seekers through family detention.
June 22, 2018– Tuesday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner publicly opposed a new Houston immigrant children’s facility. The Mayor joins calls by Houston immigrants, legal advocates and service providers to local officials, state representatives, and members of Congress to take explicit action to block considerations for any new immigrant child facilities that are a result of the family separation policy. The proposed facility is the result of the federal practice of tearing apart and imprisoning asylum-seeking families, a practice condemned by the immigrant community, advocates, and people of conscience.
On Wednesday, President Trump signed an executive order that purports to solve the self-made family separation crisis by detaining families together, a tactic that causes irreparable harm to traumatized children and their parents, who are seeking asylum in the U.S. It is not only immoral, but unlawful and would be in violation of the Flores Settlement of 1997 by allowing the indefinite detention of asylum seeking children.
Kate Vickery, Executive Director, HILSC, said:
“We are in the midst of a manufactured crisis that is creating a false need for new Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelter in Houston. While the service providers stand ready to help families impacted by family separation and we welcome these families in Houston, we reject the notion that we should enable the build-out of the detention system.
This week, the Mayor seemed to suggest he would be okay with parents and children being detained together, but we strongly believe that asylum seekers should never be imprisoned while seeking refuge in the United States. The detention of families is in the same toolkit as separating families: both are cruel tactics designed to deter immigrants from exercising their rights under national and international law to seek asylum.”
Detention is the biggest hindrance to the exercise of due process rights by immigrants pursuing legal status in the United States. In Houston, only 13% of detained immigrants have legal representation compared to 69% of non-detained immigrants. Detention facilities are far away from Houston (Conroe, Livingston), attorneys wait for hours to see their clients, and have to speak to their clients through thick plexiglass, which makes basic communication, interpretation, and document signing difficult. When an asylum seeker has legal representation, they are 14 times more likely to win their case.
We stand opposed to the detention of asylum seekers and call on Congress, the State of Texas, and the City of Houston to not only oppose family separation and family detention, but the detention of asylum seekers in general.
To learn more about HILSC and its program to provide representation to detained families, visit www.houstonimmigration.org/deportation-defense-houston/
Organizations and individuals aligned with this statement include:
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
YMCA Greater Houston
The Simmons Foundation
Texas Organizing Project
PAIR – Partnership for the Advancement & Immersion of Refugees
Hindus of Greater Houston
Sikhs of Houston
The Jung Center Houston
The Anti-Defamation League, Southwest Region
United We Dream
Kids in Need of Defense
Fe y Justicia Worker Center
Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights
Center for Advancing Innovative Policy
Tahirih Justice Center
Refugee Services of Texas
TMO, The Metropolitan Organization
Migrant Rights Collective
Justice for Our Neighbors – Houston
The Montrose Center
La Unidad 11
Epiphany Community Health Outreach Services (ECHOS)
Mi Familia Vota
Bonding Against Adversity
Galveston’s Adverse Childhood and Community Experiences Collaborative
Human Rights First
Chinese Community Center
Access Justice Houston
OCA Greater Houston
Casa Juan Diego: The Houston Catholic Worker
Black Lives Matter Houston
Montgomery County Women’s Center
The Modi Law Firm
Pamela Fulbright-Scheyer, Attorney at Law
Teresa Messer, Law Office of Teresa Messer
Justine K. Fanarof, JD, MPH
Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services
Geoffrey Hoffman, Attorney at Law
Virginia C. Angel, JD, MA, LPC
Ruby L. Powers, Powers Law Group, P.C.
Brenda Kirk , Bibles Badges and Business for Immigration Reform
Rosemary Vega, Attorney at Law
Condemn the crisis manufactured by Trump administration “Zero Tolerance” policy; Call on local, state and federal officials to block abusive conditions and family separation
Houston, TX – Today, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner publicly opposed a new Houston immigrant children’s facility. The mayor joins calls by Houston immigrants, legal advocates and service providers to local officials, state representatives, and members of Congress to take explicit action to block considerations for any new immigrant child facilities. The proposed facility is the result of the new federal practice of tearing apart and imprisoning asylum-seeking families, a practice condemned by the immigrant community, advocates and people of conscience.
Kate Vickery, Executive Director, HILSC, said:
“We are in the midst of a manufactured crisis that is creating a false need for a new Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelter in Houston. While the service providers stand ready to help families impacted by family separation and we welcome these families in Houston, we reject the notion that we should enable the build-out of the detention system. The Mayor seemed to suggest he would be okay with parents and children being detained together, but we strongly believe that asylum seekers should never be imprisoned while seeking refuge in the United States, and separating children from their parents is a cruel tactic to deter immigrants from exercising their rights to seek asylum.”
Damaris Gonzalez, Lead organizer, United We Dream Houston, said:
“There are children in detention facilities left to fend for themselves, trembling and traumatized, because of an administration that has chosen to pull them from the arms of their parents to make a political statement. Children will not be used as pawns, and Houston will not allow kidnappers to set up in our city and continue destroying families. We call on Harris County and Texas leadership to take any and all action against facilities like this that exist solely because the Trump administration has made the callous and unthinkable decision to separate and imprison families seeking refuge from terror. Families deserve to be reunited immediately and granted the asylum they seek. Family destruction is what happens when ICE and CBP continue to go unchecked and they must be abolished now.”
Claudia Aguirre, President and CEO, BakerRipley (formerly Neighborhood Centers, Inc.), said:
“BakerRipley does not support families being torn apart who are fleeing to our southern border for safety. Our organization is committed to providing direct legal representation to separated families housed in Houston area detention centers. And we are working with state-wide and national coalitions to educate the community about the impacts of this policy. BakerRipley will continue to advocate for the families who come to this region – taking action to keep welcome alive. As a nation, we desperately need sensible and comprehensive immigration reform. We need pragmatic solutions to address this issue- end the immediate cruelty to children and deal fairly and justly with people seeking asylum.”
Astrid Dominguez, Director, ACLU Border Rights Center, said:
“We stand firm with Mayor Turner in his opposition to President Trump’s monstrous and morally irredeemable family separation policy, and we will continue to work until that policy is consigned to the scrap heap of history where it belongs.”
Mary Moreno, communications director of the Texas Organizing Project, said:
“On a day when we’re celebrating the delayed ending of slavery in Texas, Juneteenth, it’s heartbreaking that we’re still fighting for liberation, and even sadder that it’s the liberation of children. This is America’s eternal struggle, living up to its values. Although we have never achieved that aspiration of equality and fairness for all, we’ve never stopped fighting, hoping. Today, we stand with Mayor Turner in rejecting Trump’s manufactured crisis, and stand with the immigrants who are running from danger and despair.”
Daniel J. Cohen, President, Indivisible Houston, said:
“Accepting the overflow from Trump’s concentration camps and housing them on Emancipation Avenue, down the street from Minute Maid Park, home of the world champion Houston Astros, is the most unwelcoming, anti-family statement Houston could possibly make. The People are rightfully enraged by the murder, mass trials, and terrorizing of communities and anti-Constitutional commoditization of children for political gain. We are organized to fight the deportation machine.”
Mario Salinas, Civic Engagement Coordinator, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, said:
“This is a manufactured crisis resulting from the administration’s “Zero Tolerance” policy, which has seen a record number of children stripped from their loved ones and put into rushed facilities, that may not be equipped to deal with their needs. The trauma these children are experiencing could be lessened by the administration today. Yet they choose to play political games with young people who are seeking refuge in a nation that was once known for compassionate values. We, as the most diverse city in the nation, must fight back.”
Natalia Cornelio, Criminal Justice Reform Director with the Texas Civil Rights Project, said:
“Every day, since May 2018, the federal government has been arresting migrating families and taking children away from their parents along the U.S.-Mexico border. Thousands of children have been taken from their parents under this policy. This is unprecedented, unnecessary, and cruel. We oppose this unconscionable policy, and we must oppose the building of additional facilities that enable it to continue. Thank you, Mayor Turner, for taking a step in the right direction on this national, humanitarian crisis. We hope that our other local, state, and national leaders join you, that this policy stops immediately, and that the separated families be reunited at once.”
The Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative (HILSC) is a consortium of immigration legal services providers and immigrant rights advocates and stakeholders. More information is available at www.houstonimmigration.org.
Additional information about United We Dream is available at unitedwedream.org
Texas Organizing Project organizes Black and Latino communities in Dallas, Harris and Bexar counties with the goal of transforming Texas into a state where working people of color have the power and representation they deserve. For more information, visit organizetexas.org.
FAMILY SEPARATION RESOURCES
In May, the Trump Administration announced a new “zero tolerance” policy, which has resulted in the criminal prosecution of thousands of individuals seeking asylum. While the adults are jailed and prosecuted, their children are ripped away and put into Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters, which are now overrun with very young children who have become “unaccompanied,” despite the fact that they came seeking asylum with a parent. More than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents, including infants. This is cruel, inhumane, and exceptionally harmful for already traumatized families. As a result of this policy, new shelters for children have opened near El Paso and one is proposed for downtown Houston* for “tender age” children under 12. On June 20th, Mayor Sylvester Turner came out strongly opposed to the family separation policy and indicated that the city would do everything it could to stop any new shelters for separated children in Houston.
On June 20, President Trump signed an executive order that orders the detention of families who enter the United States seeking asylum to be detained in family detention centers while they fight their asylum cases. HILSC and partners decry the use of family detention, which further traumatizes children and asylum seekers. While the active policy of separating families has stopped, there is no plan or system to reunite the thousands already separated. Most recently, a federal judge in California ordered the government to reunite parents with their children aged under five within 14 days, all others within 30 days, and prohibits parents from being deported without their children. Here are a few ways you can work to fight these policies and their impact locally.
Read our statement condemning family separation and family detention, signed by many members of our community and its allies here.
*We will keep this page updated with information as it becomes available.
Support the organizations that provide direct legal services to unaccompanied and separated children and their parents, helping them reunite. In Houston those organizations are:
Around the state, these organizations are providing direct services to separated children:
- Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) (statewide)
- Human Rights Initiative of North Texas (Dallas)
- ABA’s ProBar (Rio Grande Valley)
- Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services (DRMS) (El Paso)
Support leaders of local advocacy through litigation
- Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP)
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas
- United We Dream
- Texas Organizing Project
- Lawyers can take a pro bono asylum case with:
- Anyone can:
- Become a “child advocate” to work one-on-one with unaccompanied children and advocate for their best interests. Get trained with the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. Contact Rachel Wootten at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for the next training in Houston.
- Help take declarations from separated families with the Texas Civil Rights Project. They are looking for Spanish-speaking (and Mam, Q’eqchi’ or K’iche’ speaking) volunteers to travel to McAllen, Texas to help interview families. TCRP cannot cover costs related to travel or lodging for volunteers. Sign up here.
- Let Me In video – a great tool for people trying to get “into the shoes” of an asylum seeker
- Hidden Children video (ADL) – adults who were separated from families during the Holocaust reflect on current events
- Call your members of congress!
- Kids In Need of Defense
- Families Belong Together Campaign
- Background on Family Separation at the Border (KIND/CILA)
- The remarkable history of the family separation policy (CNN)
- Background on the Flores Settlement (Human Rights First)
- How Trump Came to Enforce a Policy of Separating Migrant Families (New York Times)
- Judge Says Yes To Lawsuit Challenging Trump Administration Family Separation Policy (NPR)
- Citing basic compassion, federal judge mulling over order preventing family separations in certain cases (The Monitor)
- Trump Plans Executive Order to Allow Detaining Families Together Indefinitely (New York Times)
- Separating Kids From Parents Can Cause Psychological Harm. But Experts Say Detaining Them Together Isn’t Much Better (TIME)
- How Trump’s family separation policy became what it is today (PBS)
The Collaborative plays a critical convening, coordinating, and communication role in the legal services community. Through our work, more immigrants are receiving low-cost, high-quality legal services for immigration issues in Houston. Our work has become even more urgent in 2019, as the policy environment in which we work becomes increasingly hostile to immigrants. We have seen a dramatic increase in the demand for immigration legal services and education & outreach efforts in Houston’s diverse immigrant communities.