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How to Help the Thousands of Migrants in Border Patrol Custody Right Now

How to Help the Thousands of Migrants in Border Patrol Custody Right Now

A migrant family from Guatemala receives gifts for the holidays

Where to donate your dollars, time, and kind words this holiday season to help migrant families detained at the US-Mexican border.

A second migrant child died early Christmas morning while detained at the US-Mexico border after being separated from their family the New York Times reports. Their deaths were just weeks apart during the holidays; in this season of giving, their deaths also raise the question of how we can help those who are the most vulnerable.

Migrant adults and children alike are being held in detention centers at the border, prompting national concern about how and whether the youngest among this group are being treated and cared for. The 8-year-old child (who has not been publicly named) was taken to a hospital after falling ill with a critically high fever and later died. In early December, the 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin from Guatemala died of dehydration while in custody under similar circumstances. Now in lieu of systematically separating children from their parents and placing them in foster care, families are detained in facilities that have been described as overcrowded, under-resourced, and cold, according to the Times.

These centers were built decades ago for short-term, temporary hospice before migrants are transported to jail, but not intended for long-term use. As Kevin K. McAleenan, the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection explained earlier this year, these centers "were not built to handle families and children."

If you can't stand seeing yet another news alert on your phone about children dying at the border or being separated from their parents, we have some suggestions about how you can help.

1. Donate

Many organizations are helping immigrants stuck in detention, refugees seeking asylum from violence or oppression, and people trying to reunite with family members in the U.S. after they are released from these centers. While you're making your end-of-year donations, here are a few organizations doing some heavy lifting:

Immigrant Families Together

The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES)


Immigration Equality

Border Angels

Texas Civil Rights Project

Urban Justice Center's Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project

El Refugio

2. Volunteer Your Time

Many of the organizations above need attorneys willing to donate their time and legal expertise. Other ways to volunteer your time don't require a legal degree, though. Through El Refugio, volunteers can visit those who are detained or prepare meals for families staying in the organization's Hospitality House. Immigrant Families Together needs those who can help transporting released detainees to reunite with family members. Explore each page to find out how you can get involved.

3. Translate

One of the biggest roadblocks for immigrants coming to the U.S. is simply communicating. If you can, put your language skills to use. With RAICES, for example, volunteers can help translate documents remotely, or translate for attorneys and clients. Immigration Equality, which specifically helps LGBTQ+ immigrants, has clients around the world who need help with translating client interviews and putting together asylum applications.

4. Lobby Your Representatives

There's nothing wrong with good old-fashioned phone calls and letter-writing to your members of Congress. Not sure who they are? You can find your representative in 20 seconds by just entering your zip code here and your senators by state here.

5. Let Them Know They're Not Alone.

Write letters or send holiday cards to people in detention and let them know the world is still watching. Find further info at El Refugio, which will make sure your kind words go to a good place.

6. Recruit Others

If you feel safe doing so, share what you're doing on social media and encourage them to get in on the act. You might help others figure out the best way for them to contribute toward ending this crisis.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Michelle Garcia