How to help migrant children, families at US border

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While the immigration crisis has long been a focus of the Trump administration, last week’s heartbreaking photo that shows a drowned father and his baby attempting to cross the border has once again shed light on just how extreme the crisis has been. 

The photograph, shot by journalist Julia Le Duc for a Mexican newspaper, shows Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria face down in the bank of the Rio Grande, with the toddler’s arm still clinging to Ramirez’s neck. 

Valeria’s death, however heartbreaking, joins similar stories, each of which showcase the plight faced by the migrants fleeing the impoverished and violent conditions of their home countries. And it’s not just the dangerous journeys that kill these children: According to NBC, at least seven children have died in immigration custody since last year due to filthy conditions and lack of healthcare. 

Rosa Ramirez sobs as she shows journalists toys that belonged to her nearly 2-year-old granddaughter Valeria in her home in San Martin, El Salvador, Tuesday, June 25, 2019. The drowned bodies of Ramirez’s son, 25-year-old Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, and his daughter were located Monday morning on the banks of the Rio Grande, a day after the pair were swept away by the current when the young family tried to cross the river to Brownsville, Texas. Her daughter-in-law Tania Vanessa Avalos, 21, survived. (AP Photo/Antonio Valladares)

Rosa Ramirez cries when shown a photograph printed from social media of her son Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramírez, 25, granddaughter Valeria, nearly 2, and her daughter-in-law Tania Vanessa Avalos, 21, while speaking to journalists at her home in San Martin, El Salvador, Tuesday, June 25, 2019. The drowned bodies of her son and granddaughter were located Monday morning on the banks of the Rio Grande, a day after the pair were swept away by the current when the young family tried to cross the river to Brownsville, Texas. Her daughter-in-law survived. (AP Photo/Antonio Valladares)

Tania Vanessa Ávalos of El Salvador, center left, is assisted by Mexican authorities after her husband and nearly two-year-old daughter were swept away by the current while trying to cross the Rio Grande to Brownsville, Texas, in Matamoros, Mexico, Sunday, June 23, 2019. Their bodies, the toddler still tucked into her father’s shirt with her arm loosely draped around him, were discovered Monday morning several hundred yards from where they had tried to cross. (AP Photo/Julia Le Duc)

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The picture of Ramirez and his daughter has sparked fury around the world, with many of those looking for ways to assist these families and children fighting for a better life by seeking asylum. While volunteer support is not allowed at these detention centers, there are still many ways to show your support. 

Advocates can help by taking action and keeping these migrants’ stories alive, as the plight is far from over.

Donate money and goods

Organizations such as RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services in Texas, The Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center and United We Dream are working to provide legal services and monetary support for migrants. RAICES specifically provides legal services to underserved refugees and has grown to become the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas. Immigrant Families Together, too, is a unique organization established by a group of New York women that raises bonds for parents separated from their children at the border.

Those looking to help should not bring clothing and other donations to the centers themselves, as there is a good chance the volunteers will be turned away. Instead, it’s suggested that supporters call their local organizations and bring them there to have a more direct impact. 

The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights has provided an extensive list of organizations actively working to fight the crisis and provide better treatment for detainees. You can see the full list here

Pastor Jose Murcia, 47, preaches to migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America traveling to the U.S., outside a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 24, 2018.

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Nicolas Alonso Sanchez, 47, from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America traveling to the U.S., poses for a picture as he holds a cross at a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 24, 2018. “God helped me and gave me the strength, helped me to make my dreams come true. God gave me all the strength to get all the way here,” Sanchez said. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America traveling to the U.S., pray before food distribution outside a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico December 1, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Juan Francisco, 25, from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America traveling to the U.S., shows his tattoo of the 23rd Psalm of the Book of Psalms as he poses for a picture outside a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 26, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Victor Alfonso, 29, from Guatemala, part of a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America traveling to the U.S., poses for a picture as he wears charms depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe at a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 26, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

David Amador, 25, from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America traveling to the U.S., poses for a picture as he holds a cross at a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 28, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America traveling to the U.S., raise their hands while praying before moving by buses to a new shelter, in Tijuana, Mexico November 30, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

A migrant, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America traveling to the U.S., is wrapped with a banner depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe in front of a riot police cordon, as migrants try to reach the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Herso, 17, from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America traveling to the U.S., poses for a picture as he wears a t-shirt depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe outside a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 24, 2018.

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

A booklet of Psalm 119:105 is left on a self-made tent at a temporary shelter of a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America traveling to the U.S., in Tijuana, Mexico November 27, 2018.

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Migrants, part of a caravan from El Salvador traveling to the U.S., pray as they are blocked by the Mexican police during an operation to detain them for entering the country illegally, in Metapa, Mexico November 21, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America traveling to the U.S., raise their hands as they listen to the preaching of pastor Jose Murcia (not pictured) outside a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 24, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

A migrant, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America traveling to the U.S., sleeps with a book in Spanish “What does the Bible teach us?” in a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 24, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

A writing “Jesus Christ is the Lord” is seen on a car window outside a temporary shelter for a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America traveling to the U.S., in Tijuana, Mexico November 24, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Elmer, 29, from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America traveling to the U.S., poses for a picture as he holds an icon depicting Jesus Christ and the Virgin of Guadalupe while lining up for food distribution outside a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 24, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Juan Francisco, 25, from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America traveling to the U.S., shows his tattoo reading “I can do everything with Christ who strengthens me” as he poses for a picture outside a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 26, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

An image of the Virgin of Guadalupe is seen in a tent of migrants part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, on a street in Tijuana, Mexico, December 15, 2018.

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

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Offer Pro Bono Work

According to reports, only 14 percent of immigrants held in detention centers have access to legal support. 

Supporting one of the organizations listed above, like RAICES, offers legal aid to these families seeking asylum. However, if you would like to donate your time, there are a number of local organizations looking for pro bono lawyers and legal aides. The American Bar Association has provided a running list of organizations of pro bono opportunities for legal experts to help immigrant youth. Check out the list here

Those living near the border or who are willing to travel to the border and can speak Spanish, Mam, Q’eqchi’ or K’iche’, can provide monumental help for those separated by US Customs and Border Protection officials. The Texas Civil Rights Project is specifically looking for volunteers to lead intake efforts for a number of Texan towns and cities. Furthermore, the Immigration Justice Campaign offers opportunities for volunteers in Texas to provide mental health evaluations for trauma survivors. The organization is also looking for volunteers in Georgia, Denver, South Texas and New Jersey. 

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Take action in your community

Monetary and physical goods can provide invaluable support for these organizations, but there are also a number of outreach events that your local organizations probably have in the works, including protests, rallies, outreach programs and donation drives.

“One really important thing is for people to know what is in your community, know who is doing the work there, and plug in and ask them what you can do,” Zenén Jaimes Pérez, advocacy director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, told MTV News. In addition, The ACLU’s Know Your Rights campaign also offers training to help people practice “safe bystander intervention” and understand what to do if I.C.E knocks on their door.

Contact your elected officials in Congress 

Don’t let the bystander effect keep you from emailing and calling your elected officials. A number of organizations have released scripts of what volunteers can when contacting their government representatives. You can find the contact information for your local leaders here and one of RAICES’ scripts here

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