RAICES Texas — the San Antonio-based immigration legal services provider that has received tens of millions of dollars via a viral Facebook fundraising campaign launched amid the family separation crisis at the border — today announced a plan to distribute $20 million of their funds: give it over to the Department of Homeland Security to “post bonds” for mothers being held in detention.
“This was a donation to the moms and the families that were detained, and I want to confirm and promise that we’re doing everything in our power to act quickly with this donation to try to bring them together and make them free,” Jonathan Ryan, executive director of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), said at a Tuesday news conference at the Capitol.
RAICES, joined by Define American and Voto Latino, on Tuesday launched a 24-hour vigil, displaying the symbolic oversized check outside the White House, extending a call for the administration to reunite every child.
“Personally my opinion is [RAICES is] actually making a big test to the administration by kind of insinuating that it really is about money,” Cristela Alonzo, a comedian and actress who joined the vigil, told Sojourners. “… I love that RAICES decided to use that money to say, hey, we're being very transparent with the money; we're showing you what we're doing with it. We are offering it to the administration to bail out immigrant mothers and get them reunited with their children.”
Tuesday marked a deadline, set by Judge Dana M. Sabraw of the Federal District Court in San Diego, to reunify children under 5 — a total of 102 children of the nearly 3,000 separated — with their parents. Government lawyers said Monday that they had only been able to vet parents of 54 of those children. Officials have said that that they have no information for the parents of at least one child under 5. According to Sabraw’s ruling, the government has until July 26 to reunite all of the 3,000 children.
“We’ve asked the administration for numerous status reports and updates but have yet to hear anything definitive,” Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said at the news conference outside the Capitol Tuesday. Castro has introduced legislation, along with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), that would give Congress members immediate access to federal facilities to offer oversight and report findings.
“We will not and cannot rest until we know that these children will be safely reunited with their loved ones,” said Castro, who was joined at the news conference by Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Bernie Sanders (D.-Vt.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
While the issue of family separation set off massive outrage and more than 700 coordinated marches across the country just over a week ago, the headlines have shifted, especially in light of President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court seat left open by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement announcement.
“We live in such a reactive country now where every day the issue changes and everybody's frustration changes. It's a one assault after the other,” Jose Antonio Vargas, founder of Define American, told Sojourners. “How do we keep the pressure and sustain the pressure on this?... Democracy only works when the when the free press actually puts the pressure on the democracy. So that's the part we're doing.”
Jennifer Falcon, RAICES’ communications director, said the organization is still working through the massive influx of donations they’ve received, “but we wanted to definitely take the bulk of the money and put it right for what people are donating for.”