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, TXToday, 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 support services

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. 

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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:

Support leaders of local advocacy through litigation

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In Houston and around the country, immigrant women seeking refuge from domestic violence are more likely to face deportation under new Department of Justice decision.

On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a legal decision that erodes protections for domestic violence survivors and all refugee women. Through a seldom-used legal procedure, Sessions reversed the Board of Immigration Appeals’ grant of asylum to a Salvadoran domestic violence survivor in a case known as Matter of A-B.

As noted by the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS), a member of Ms. A-B’s legal team, “Ms. A.B. fled to the United States after suffering 15 years of brutal violence at the hands of her ex-husband. He beat and kicked her, including while she was pregnant; bashed her head against a wall; threatened her with death while holding a knife to her throat and while brandishing a gun; and threatened to hang her. Ms. A.B. attempted to secure state protection, to no avail.”

The facts of Ms. A-B’s case are tragic, but not at all uncommon among refugee women who come to Houston in search of a safer life for themselves and their children.

“The issues underlying this decision point to a larger problem which enables violence against women to go under-reported and under-prosecuted both in the U.S. and abroad. Imagine suffering abuse from your intimate partner and availing yourself of every possible avenue for relief in your home country, but your country and its criminal justice system fails you. Where would you ago?” asks Rachna Khare, executive director of Daya Inc, a non-profit that provides holistic services for domestic violence survivors, specializing in South Asian clients. Moreover, “categorizing domestic violence as ‘private violence’ minimizes the role governments and patriarchal societal norms play in keeping women and girls oppressed and unsafe in their homes. As a public health crisis affecting 1 in 3 women worldwide, domestic violence is the opposite of a private matter.”

Hana is one such survivor, whose life was saved because of American asylum laws with assistance from Daya. Years of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse by her partner in Libya created a life where she felt she “couldn’t breathe” and “couldn’t see.” Throughout her marriage, Hana was forced to have sex with her abuser, often after episodes of physical violence that left her bruised on the ground. She described countless nights of being thrown, punched, and kicked. He would pull her hair and rape her, even during difficult moments of her pregnancies. As part of a traditional mixed family structure, her in-laws witnessed and partook in this abuse as well. There was nowhere she could safely report the behavior, and furthermore, spousal rape is not recognized in Libya as a crime.

Hana became cautiously hopeful when her husband secured an international scholarship for her at the University of Houston, allowing her and her children to come to the United States legally. Over time, Hana was empowered by the U.S. criminal justice system to call the police,  receive protection from her abuser, and eventually apply for asylum with the help of a pro bono attorney and Daya. After more than four years, an immigration judge in Houston granted her asylum claim, which was based on her past persecution as a victim of domestic violence.

Almost eight years later, Hana now helps others as an instructor at a local community college; she owns a house and her children are thriving.

“I still believe that coming to America was the right decision for my family, but with every turn comes more difficulties from the government,” Hana said of Jeff Session’s decision in the Matter of A-B. “The frequent deprivation of humanitarian needs caused by the unjust asylum law of America has left sorrow and pain in my heart.”

AG Session’s decision means that Hana may not have been able to secure her safety via the asylum process. Under his decision, the United States is more likely to deny asylum to women seeking protection from domestic violence and places doubt on the ability of women to receive protection from any form of persecution inflicted by individuals not acting on behalf of the government.

In the 1940s, when the asylum definition was written, gender wasn’t a specific protected class – yet in recent years courts had been moving towards an understanding that the treatment of women in society merits special consideration. This decision is an attack on women’s rights and the progress we have made in ensuring that violence against women, including rape, is treated as seriously as any other crime,” said Andrea Guttin, legal director of the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative.

Winning an asylum claim is already extraordinarily difficult anywhere, but particularly in Houston, which has one of the lowest asylum grant rates in the country,­. From 2012 through 2017 in the Houston immigration courts, judges have denied 86% of asylum claims because of the complex burden of proof and lack of legal representation for asylum seekers.

“I am outraged by the decision. By overturning previous legal precedent and changing long-settled U.S. policy, Jeff Sessions is creating conditions for women and girls who cannot get justice in their own countries, who have fled for their lives, and who are relying on the U.S.’s adherence to international legal standards, to be sent back to face abuse and death,” said Anne Chandler, executive director of the Tahirih Justice Center’s Houston office, which provides free legal representation to asylum seekers.

Tahirih recently encountered a woman, Sara* from Central America who came to Houston fleeing severe domestic abuse from her partner, who is the father of her young children. The first time Sara’s partner abused her, he beat her so badly she was hospitalized, and upon returning home, he promptly beat her again and she was returned to the hospital.  Though she filed a police report, nothing came of it and she became increasingly afraid of him and the abuse continued. He would constantly threaten her, saying if he ever saw her with another man he would kill her. On multiple occasions, he threatened to take their children away. When he was not home, Sara’s partner began to keep her and their children locked in the home, at times denying them food.  After a particularly violent beating, Sara gathered the courage to come to the United States with her children in the hopes of finding safety through the asylum process.

While Sara is now safe from immediate harm, Jeff Sessions’ decision puts Sara’s chances at winning her claim in serious jeopardy, which could mean deportation back into abuse and a legal system that will continue to fail her. If Houston is to truly be a welcoming city for all immigrants and refugees, we must recognize the local implications of decisions like this one. The deliberate erosion of the legal asylum system is one that should concern all Houstonians.

*not her real name

WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, Human Rights First, and Covington & Burling LLP filed a federal lawsuit today challenging the Trump administration’s arbitrary detention of asylum seekers fleeing persecution, torture, or death in their countries of origin.

All the plaintiffs have passed credible fear screenings — meaning a U.S. asylum officer has determined their fear of persecution is credible, and that they have a significant possibility of receiving full asylum. Government policy stipulates that asylum seekers be granted humanitarian parole as they await their immigration proceedings, provided they meet a series of stringent requirements. Instead, the Trump administration is categorically jailing them indefinitely, in violation of the Constitution, U.S. immigration laws, and the Department of Homeland Security’s own written policy.

“The Trump administration wants to make life so miserable for asylum seekers that they give up and return to their home countries, even at the risk of torture or death,” said Michael Tan, an attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The administration is wielding indefinite detention as a weapon to deter future asylum seekers, which is both cruel and unconstitutional.”

The class-action lawsuit targets five U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement field offices that have almost entirely stopped granting parole since early 2017. Those offices are Detroit (which covers Michigan and Ohio), El Paso (which covers New Mexico and West Texas), Los Angeles, Newark (which covers New Jersey), and Philadelphia (which covers Pennsylvania).

“This case is about respecting human life and human rights, and about ensuring our nation remains a beacon of justice, democracy, and freedom,” said Edgar Saldivar, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “Indefinitely detaining those who seek asylum on our shores goes against the Constitution and our values as a nation. It is our duty to welcome the stranger, not add to her suffering by locking her up.”

In 2013, nine out of 10 asylum seekers in the five field offices were found to meet the government’s criteria and were promptly released from immigration custody. In 2017, under the Trump administration, parole grants by the ICE offices named in this lawsuit dropped to nearly zero. More than 1,000 asylum seekers are estimated to have been denied parole in those five ICE districts alone.

“For many asylum seekers, prolonged detention unjustly denies freedom to those who fled to us for justice. The Trump administration’s attack on parole is part of its ongoing assault to undermine the asylum system, a cornerstone of our nation’s identity since its founding. Exacerbating the suffering of individuals to deter future asylum seekers is simply un-American,” said Human Rights First’s legal director, Hardy Vieux.

Lead plaintiff Ansly Damus — an ethics teacher from Haiti — has been locked up in Ohio for one year, four months, and counting. Damus committed no crime. Rather, he had spoken out against a government official and was then forced to flee violent, political persecution. When he arrived in the U.S., he presented himself to immigration authorities and requested asylum. He passed his credible fear interview and was granted asylum by a judge — not once, but twice. Despite that, he has remained behind bars while the government appealed his grants of asylum. The Trump administration has put Damus behind bars indefinitely alongside thousands of other asylum seekers like him. ICE has not allowed him outside even once in over a year.

“I have not breathed fresh air or felt the sun on my face, and I never know if it is cold or hot outside, if the sun is out, and if the seasons are changing,” Damus said.

Other plaintiffs include:

  • Alexi Ismael Montes Castro, 18, detained at York County Prison in Pennsylvania. He fled Honduras after being beaten and held at gunpoint for being openly gay.
  • A husband and wife detained separately at the El Paso Processing Center in Texas and the Otero County Processing Center in New Mexico. The couple fled Mexico after being targeted and threatened with death by a criminal cartel.
  • A 22-year-old detained at El Paso Processing Center in Texas, who fled El Salvador after being threatened with death for refusing to join a gang. He has been locked up for more than 21 months and has been denied parole despite posing no flight risk or danger to the public.

“Individuals fleeing persecution have a right under U.S. and international law to seek asylum from our government,” said Eunice Lee, co-legal director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies. “They should not be locked away and punished simply for doing so.”

The case, Damus v. Nielsen, was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. It names the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice as defendants.

The complaint is at: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/damus-v-nielsen-final-complaint

This statement is at: https://www.aclu.org/news/groups-challenge-trump-administrations-arbitrary-detention-asylum-seekers

More information is at: https://www.aclu.org/cases/damus-v-nielsen

In response to ongoing “requests for interviews” to refugees and asylees from the FBI and/or DHS, the Collaborative has compiled an FAQ and set of resources for service providers and families.  The below Refugees and FBI Interviews FAQ is available in PDF format in the following languages:

English: Refugees and FBI interviews FAQ
Arabic
Bengali
Dari
Indonesian
Pashto
Somali
Tigrinya
Urdu
Punjabi

 

What do I do if the FBI or DHS request interview with me?

  • Contact a Lawyer before you speak with DHS or the FBI!
  • You have the right to a lawyer before you meet with anyone from DHS or the FBI.
  • You can decline the interview, but this may be viewed as suspicious in some cases.

Note: If you receive any document from the FBI/DHS, we recommend you contact an attorney.

Free legal assistance available at:

Tahirih Justice Center[email protected]

Human Rights First: [email protected] / (713) 955-1360

YMCA International Services: Free walk-in legal clinic every Wednesday, 9am – 3pm at 6300 Westpark Dr., Suite 600

Catholic Charities: Call 713-874-6570 for the dates of free informational sessions (charlas) at 2900 Louisiana St.

Who are the FBI/DHS and why do they want to interview me?

  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a government agency that is responsible for enforcing U.S. immigration laws and keeping the borders secure. DHS tries to keep communities safe by identifying people who are doing things that the U.S. government does not support, such as supporting organizations or people by sending money to groups overseas that the U.S. government does not support.
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is a government agency that monitors internal U.S. security and fights domestic and international terrorism.
  • The FBI or DHS may interview asylum seekers or refugees with regard to general community engagement or something potentially concerning in your history before you came to the U.S. or since you came to U.S., and they need additional information.
  • The FBI or DHS may ask you for one or multiple interviews; neither of these is necessarily a bad indication.

If I agree to the interview, what are my rights?

  • You have the right to have an attorney present. There are legal organizations in Houston that may be able to provide you a free attorney.
  • You have the right to set the time and place for the interview.
  • You have the right to find out the questions they will ask beforehand.
  • You have the right to have an interpreter present. There are legal organizations in Houston that may be able to provide you a free interpreter.
Remember: There is NO automatic deportation – you have many due process and procedural rights, such as the right to attorney (not at government expense), the right to hearing, and more.

What should I do during the interview?

  • Ask to see a badge or business card at the beginning of the interview.
  • Ask the person for their name, title, agency, phone number, and email address. Write it down, and keep a record.
  • Write down what was asked or discussed during the interview. You may also record the interview on your phone instead of keeping written notes.
  • You have a right to refuse to hand over documents
  • If you do not understand the question, seek clarification before answering.
  • You have the right to answer only the questions you feel comfortable answering. No matter what, assume that everything you say is on the record.
  • You can end the interview at any point if it becomes combative, you feel uncomfortable, or you want to speak to an attorney. 

Remember: It is a criminal offense to knowingly lie to an officer.

Can I give to a charity organization without becoming a terror suspect?

  • It depends. You may continue to give money to the causes you believe in, but you should be careful in choosing which charities to support. You should not support charities that are on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.[1] Providing financial or other support to groups that the U.S. views as suspect may impact your immigration status and may cause other legal problems for you and your family members.

Is it safe for me to practice my religion in religious institutions or public places?

  • You have a constitutional right to practice your religion. You have the right to go to a place of worship, attend and hear sermons and religious lectures, participate in community activities, and pray in public. Remember, the law is on your side to protect you.
  • If you experience any acts of hatred, contact the police, a refugee resettlement organization, and/or a free legal services organization.

What should I do if I feel unsafe?

  • If someone threatens you or makes you feel your life is in danger, try to get away from them, and call 911 for the police.
  • Inform your resettlement agency for additional support.
  • If your child is bullied at school, inform your child’s school and your resettlement agency.

Where can I find more information?

  • Speak to someone at your resettlement agency
  • Call the Council on American Islamic Relations Houston (CAIR) at 713-838-2247
  • Visit the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative website at www.houstonimmigration.org

[1] For a list of organizations designated as terrorist by the U.S. government, see http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm

The Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative is a consortium of non-profit organizations that provide free and low-cost legal and related services to immigrants in the Houston area, including refugees. Collaborative stakeholders include community organizations, charitable foundations, private attorneys, law schools, social workers, faith leaders, and business leaders who are committed to providing a wide array of services for immigrants. The Collaborative seeks to be a source of timely and accurate information for its stakeholders and the greater Houston community, through non-biased, fact-based information. Here is some such information about the current Syrian refugee situation that you may wish to consider:

Refugees are fleeing persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or political opinion.
The United Nations estimates that nearly 60 million people are currently displaced as a result of wars, conflict and persecution around the world – an all-time high. Half of those displaced people are children. More than 11 million are Syrians, displaced by an ongoing civil war and violence. Of those, more than 4 million are officially registered refugees – mostly women and children –seeking safety and possibly permanent homes in the European Union, and the United States.

Less than 1% of displaced people worldwide are ever granted refugee status, and only a small portion of them in the United States. Congress sets limits on the numbers of refugees who may be admitted to the United States each year. In response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, the Obama Administration recently increased the number of refugees the United States will accept this year from 70,000 to 85,000. For Syrians in particular, the Obama Administration has proposed increasing the number of available refugee admissions to 10,000 (of the 85,000 total).

Obtaining refugee status and eventual resettlement is very challenging.
The way in which refugees are identified, processed, and eventually settled in the United States is known as USRAP, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. To enter the USRAP program, a refugee must submit a lengthy legal application while they are physically outside the United States. To become a refugee in the United States, the applying individual must prove that he or she is “unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin or nationality because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution,” based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Due to the complexity of the law, refugees face a significant challenge when seeking to prove persecution and/or “well-founded fear.” The process can take several years to complete.

Seventy-five percent of refugee applicants in the United States are referred by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). UNHCR refers only about 1% of all potential refugees for resettlement, and only Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States have formal resettlement programs to accept refugee applications referred by UNHCR. The UNHCR prioritizes the most vulnerable refugees when referring cases to the United States and the 28 or so other countries who have agreed to accept Syrians. Priority populations include female-headed households, victims of torture and violence, religious minorities, LGBT refugees, and people needing urgent medical care.

Refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any traveler to the U.S.
All refugees under consideration for resettlement in the United States are vetted by multiple security screenings and intensive background checks that take, on average, 18 to 24 months. These screenings are conducted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the State Department, and the FBI.  One of the most important components of the process is an in-person interview with trained DHS officers. Once refugees receive conditional approval for resettlement, they are guided through a process of medical screenings, cultural orientation, sponsorship assurances, and referral to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for transportation to the United States. The White House recently released a helpful infographic explaining the screening process.

The U.S. vetting process for refugees is more rigorous than the process in other countries.
Very few of the numerous processing requirements within the USRAP can be waived, including the in-person DHS interview, security checks, and a medical exam, including a TB test. According to a State Department Official speaking on September 11, 2015, “This is one way – one of the many ways in which our Refugee Resettlement Program differs from a lot of other countries’ resettlement programs. A lot of other countries can do things like waive an in-person interview. They can take a case based on dossier. They do very few security checks in some cases. Those are not options that are available to us.” For more details about the U. S.s’ screening process, we recommend this USCIS factsheet.

Most refugees become naturalized American citizens.
To remain in the United States after initial admission, refugees must apply for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status—also known as getting a green card—within one year of being admitted to the United States. As lawful permanent residents, refugees have the right to own property, attend public schools, join certain branches of the U.S. armed forces, and travel internationally without an entry visa After becoming a lawful permanent resident, refugees may apply for citizenship after five years in the United States. On the whole, refugees are more likely to naturalize than any other immigrant group. Between 2009 and 2013, 59% of the LPRs who entered the United States as refugees became naturalized citizens (compared to 44% of all other immigrants). Many of the organizations affiliated with the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative provide affordable legal assistance to refugees seeking this “adjustment of status.”

Refugees are an important part of the Houston community.
The Houston Chronicle recently dubbed Houston a “city of refugees,” a title well-deserved by the fact that nearly 40% of the refugees resettled in Texas land in Harris county. In fact, Houston welcomes more refugees than any other city in the United States, in large part because of the quality of the non-profit refugee resettlement agencies in Houston. That, combined with a relatively low cost of living, ample job opportunity and a diverse community – 1 in every 4 Houstonians is foreign-born and hundreds of languages are spoken here – makes Houston an ideal location for refugees trying to start over in the United States. In 2014, 4,818 immigrants were resettled in Harris County as refugees, parolees, special immigrant juveniles, asylees, and victims of human trafficking. Each of these categories represents a different mechanism for obtaining legal status in the United States and all are very difficult to obtain. In 2014 (the most current data available), 40% of refugee program arrivals were from Cuba, 27% from Iraq, 10% from Afghanistan, 7% from Burma (Myanmar), and the rest from a variety of war-torn countries.

Houston is home to five refugee resettlement agencies, which regularly work together to coordinate services and are all part of the Collaborative. The five agencies are Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Houston-Galveston, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, Refugee Services of Texas, YMCA International Services, and Alliance for Multicultural Community Services. All of these agencies welcome questions and volunteers.


About the Collaborative
Founded in 2013, the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative is a collective of non-profit organizations that provide free and low-cost legal services to immigrants in the Houston region. The Collaborative’s mission is to create a coordinated network of effective and efficient services to assist low-income immigrants access the information and legal representation that allows them to make choices in their own best interest. Follow us @HTXimmigration.